Thanks to the purchase of pretend space ships for a video game that does not yet exist and has no release date, the funding for Star Citizen now sits at more than $100 million.
When Chris Roberts in 2012 returned to video games after almost a decade of producing Hollywood films, and turned to crowdfunding for a new space sim game, his success was practically guaranteed.
He was the developer of Wing Commander, the starfighter simulator released in 1990 that was an early pioneer of cinematic cutscenes, branching narrative, and dynamic soundtracks. Wing Commander III starred Mark Hamill and John Rhys-Davies, and was one of the first games to use full-motion video.
When Roberts began raising money for Star Citizen, the goal was to raise $2 million for a single-player space sim game called Squadron 42, coupled to a multiplayer, open-world game in which players could be traders, mercenaries, or pilots. The delivery date was November 2014.
As funding for the game increased, the scope of the project widened. Now Star Citizen is promised to smoothly combine first-person shooter gameplay with starfighter combat, a dynamic world with a player-run economy, and all presented in the best graphics that modern hardware can provide.
Today the release date for Squadron 42 is no more specific than 2016, and Cloud Imperium Games confirmed today to the Daily Dot that the multiplayer portion of Star Citizen does not have a release date. There is a cast list for Squadron 42, however, that includes Hamill, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, and Rhys-Davies.
Hamill recently talked about the technical challenge of shooting Squadron 42.
Here’s Gary Oldman performing one of his scenes.
Star Citizen is making its money off preorder packages, and the sales of virtual ships. Access to Squadron 42 will run you $45. Individual starfighters can run you as much as $155. A gunship can run you $255. A Javelin-class destroyer, a large capital ship, is being advertised at $2,500.
Hitting the $100-million mark is sure to give a shot in the arm to the Internet popcorn drama that’s been roiling around Star Citizen since July, when an independent game developer named Derek Small claimed on his blog that Star Citizen would never be finished, while promoting his own games.
This kicked off an epic he said, she said exchange between Small and Cloud Imperium Games that has included a harsh legal response from CIC, and an article from the Escapist that cited interviews with anonymous sources and seemed to corroborate some of Small’s charges of financial chicanery against CIC. (The Escapist had to ultimately defend how sources for the story were vetted.)
Small says that establishing legal protections for people that pledge crowdfunding campaigns is the issue. Meanwhile, Roberts and Hamill made an appearance at the 2015 Game Awards.
Roberts doesn’t seem too worried about any of this. If fans are concerned, the crowdfunding totals would probably stop rising so rapidly. Total funding in April 2014 was $43 million. Total funding in May 2015 was $83.2 million. And if people are asking for pledge refunds, they’re doing so quietly.
Illustration via Roberts Space Industries