Star Citizen Announces Surpassing $250,000,000 Milestone; Some Are Concerned

Star Citizen Announces Surpassing $250,000,000 Milestone; Some Are Concerned
Credit: Star Citizen via YouTube

It sounds unbelievable, frankly; the idea that a crowdfunded game could reach $5 million is pretty far-fetched on its own; $250,000,000 is beyond an absurd goal for crowdfunding, yet Star Citizen has somehow surpassed that mark.  There isn’t even additional stretch goals that reach into the hundreds of millions; the last stretch-goal was for $65,000,000 for enhanced ship modularity and was reached around the beginning of 2015.

Star Citizen has been in development since 2011.  With $65 million gained in three years, there may be a driving factor behind this success of a monetization drive using crowdfunding techniques that other studios would be wise to imitate.

Yet to presume that this goal was reached only out of the hopes, dreams, and generosity (as is typical of video-games being crowdfunded) of consumers is a bit of a stretch, even with the broadest definition of that terminology.  Instead, benefactors opt for various ‘pledges’ that give them specific ships, ranging from luxurious deep-space explorers with massive crew-quarters and self-defense capabilities for a measly $950 pledge (not including game access), to fighter ships that cost $725.

Cloud Imperium Games via

This part is where everything starts to get a bit dicey; the most expensive ships have already been sold out by individuals that have purchased the entirety of what Star Citizen developers have promised, with the majority still being sight unseen.  An Alpha build is currently playable (if you purchase a $45 starter pack), and it’s reportedly a bit of flying around at the moment.  Not much is to be found from the past 8 years of development other than highly detailed ships, a lot of bugs, and flight.  Even those that have proven to be backers of this project find that, in its current state, it’s more of a tech demo than anything.

This has led to critics stating that this is a bizarre type of microtransaction where the base game simply doesn’t exist yet; a new-age Ponzi-scheme that promises high-strength to players eventually, with investment now.  Additionally, anyone that wasn’t early enough to grab the reportedly limited amount of massive destroyer-like ships will start release at a tremendous disadvantage to those that have willingly passed hundreds of dollars to developer Cloud Imperium Games.  Poor tidings, indeed, for a game still in early alpha.

Cloud Imperium Games via

On top of this, the developers have stated in the past that there will be no unfair benefit for those that paid real currency for in-game ships.  How it would actually look upon release (if it’s released) is that either the colloquial whales will find themselves met pound-for-pound by people that just joined the fray (which would arguably turn off those with the readily available liquid funds from the game, resulting in lost fans and profits), or Cloud Imperium Games will find merit and/or methodology in continuing to milk the transaction system that is somehow already in place, sans game.

The baffling proportions of microtransactions massive monetary investments is astonishing at best, and arguably concerning at the least.  It’s difficult to have open conversations about this, however; those that have bought into the game already find themselves ever-eager to defend the choices they’ve made regarding the matter, while those that have opted not to participate are eager to mock and poke fun at the 2.5 million fans.

There’s also arguably little pushing Cloud Imperium Games closer towards release, which may shed light on how they’re still on a very early alpha build eight years into development.  It’s clear that fans are more than willing to continue offering the developers their cash for detailed in-game models, and if Star Citizen is actually not going to have a microtransaction system, they’re shooting themselves in the foot by releasing and closing that gigantic source of income.

The game is currently in an anniversary event (which is puzzling in regards to what, exactly, the anniversary marks) until December 5th, which allows non-backers to fly for free; this anniversary event has reportedly (from Cloud Imperium Games own website)netted Star Citizen an additional $6 million dollars in roughly a month, as many of the ships are on sale.

There’s a question in this current mess, however; what if Star Citizen simply never releases, as they opt to collect as much money as possible, slap a ‘Released’ title on it, and walk away with everybody’s money when the jig isn’t as profitable?  Beyond the expected arguments of honor, or integrity, it’s completely legal that they tell everyone to eat dust, and disband.  There are no governing bodies that limit what developers can promise, versus what they deliver.

One could argue that lawsuits could open, with accusations of false advertising, yet the term good enough would likely cover Cloud Imperium Games from most, as they could rapidly progress to release much as Ark: Survival Evolved did when their fans decried their option to release fully-developed DLC while it was still in Early Access.  As Star Citizen continues to report near-obscene profit with arguably very little coming of it, some are beginning to ask if there is a governing body that could step in and enforce the studio to take specific actions towards a release.

This wouldn’t be the first time that a government body has stepped in to ‘encourage’ the gaming industry to be less…capitalistic in nature.

It seems absurd to even entertain such a thought; a governing body to control video-games with the consumer in mind.  Yet with games being a source of exponential economic growth currently on an international scale, bringing with it various deeds of nefarious methods, is this something that is plausible in the next fifty years?  Notably, loot crates have been banned in many European countries after they’ve become a wide-spread tactic of developers and publishers to continue to eke value from players, once they’ve seen how effective the system could be.

Loot boxes are believed to have originally come about via MapleStory, a Japanese side-scrolling MMO, in mid-2004.  Since then, the majority of big-name games have found a method of incorporating them and their ‘lottery ticket’ methods.  From Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to Rocket League, loot boxes have (some argue) taken advantage of consumers for decades until Europe finally stepped in.

Upon pressure from Europe, some games have opted to begin removal of the system entirely; Rocket League comes to mind with their December 5th date of switching to an Item Shop instead of the boxes that could contain either low-tier items, mid-tier items, or the things that everyone actually wanted that were worth money.  Counter-Strike has items in their crates that are worth thousands of US dollars, for the low cost of roughly $2.50 a key.

Cloud Imperium Games via


Digression aside, loot boxes are one such way that developers (even well-loved ones such as Valve) are willing to capitalize where they readily can, as long as they won’t lose too much face in the process.  It would make sense then, based on empirical evidence, to presume that developer Cloud Imperium Games would follow suit, and attempt to maximize their cash flow.

Ultimately, however, this amounts to little more than hypotheticals; thought-experiments generated from bizarre phenomena that the modern era brings about.  Governments have historically been notoriously slow to figure out modern technology, and slower still to protect consumers.  Even if they were ‘plugged-in’ with technology, where does a governing body even begin with looking into common practices?

More to the point, what would such a governing body even say to Cloud Imperium Games?  Develop faster?  Make progress?  Sell fewer ships?

The esoteric nature of game development alone makes such a process and committee beyond daunting, to nigh-implausible in execution.  Add to the mix the almost unparalleled creativity that developers and publishers have to both attract players and monetize their games, and the committee would be hard-pressed to agree on anything of value, resulting in an inevitable degradation of both effective and unique practices that are readily found currently in the medium.

Thought experiments aside, as that’s all that the queries arising from fans will currently merit, there are a couple of takeaways from this.

First, there’s a new and peculiar transaction scheme that operates well, and Cloud Imperium Games is at the forefront of it.  It seems plausible enough that other developers will analyze their scheme, and attempt to create their own.  $250,000,000 is nothing to scoff at, and even more wildly impressive as the game doesn’t have a release date.

Secondly, some fans of the title that have been notoriously defensive (to the point of offensive, in some rare instances), are becoming concerned that the promises have been etched in little more than smoke.  Even with Cloud Imperium Games offering a sizeable community section where they discuss their current processes and projects within the title, an ultimate lack of playable progression with ever-climbing profits is bringing some gamers a nasty case of cold feet.

Third, backers of Star Citizen that are asking for some mysterious outside help to ensure that they are getting their money’s worth are arguably better off waiting for a shooting star.

Rumors abound of Star Citizen making the actual title release yet another stretch goal.