Star Citizen: the $100 million crowdfunded game
Belief in yourself and your ideas is a powerful thing. In 2012 a Californian video game developer had an idea that he believed in, and turned to crowdfunding to support his idea. As of March 1, 2016, his idea, Star Citizen, had officially raised over US$109 million in funding.
Now by any standards, that is a serious amount of money. In fact, Star Citizen not only broke the video game industry’s records for crowdfunding in amount raised, but also the number of donors. So, what was the idea that has people throwing money at developer Chris Roberts? He wants to build a universe.
Star Citizen is not simply a game, but platform where gamers can play within an entire universe. Set in the 30th Century and centred on a fictional United Empire of Earth (UEE), the universe will be divided into two portions. A massive multiplayer universe where players will play first-person space combat, mining, exploring and trading with other players online. And a single player campaign revolving around Squadron 42.
The universe will revolve around citizenship in the UEE, which players have to earn. They earn this citizenship through their actions in the game like completing a period of military training. Becoming a citizen will have benefits with it, like a reduction in tax rates, but most of these benefits have yet to be determined. Players can choose to be a part of this system or fly off and explore the universe and become a pirate or a mercenary.
Star Citizen not only broke the video game industry’s records for crowdfunding in amount raised, but also the number of donors
Perhaps the most intriguing element of Star Citizen is that the universe in the game will be reactive. Things players do in the universe will affect it. Players will even have a chance to be a part of the universe. An example of how is if a player exploring space discovers a space anomaly, and manage to navigate a jump, that jump gets named after the player and becomes a part of the history of the universe. A team of people will also be there constantly adding content to the game on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. So if you start playing with only 50 star systems, two weeks in there could be 51 systems.
In order to create the game, Roberts founded Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) in 2011. In October 2012, CIG began running crowdfunding campaigns with a goal of raising between $2 and $4 million to produce the game. By November they had raised $6,238,563. This broke video game industry crowdfunding records both in funds received and number of donors. After the initial campaign funding continued through the game’s website. By mid-2013, they surpassed $15 million making it the “most-funded crowdfunding project anywhere”. And as of February 2016 the game’s website announced the funding has surpassed US$109 million.
Of course, all of this success and attention doesn’t come without its fair share of critics. And the focus isn’t just on the game, but on crowdfunding as well. Being the biggest beast also makes you the biggest target. And in the world of crowdfunding, there is no bigger target than Star Citizen. Scores of people have accused Star Citizen of being a scam. There have been massive delays, which Roberts has defended by pointing out every game faces, to which critics point out release dates are still too optimistic for a game of this scale. Stories of backers asking for their money back and more has plagued the game and have all shed their fair share of negative spotlight on the project. But it seems for every negative post an army of fans flood comment sections with positive support for the game leading to people referring to the game and fans as a cult.
As if all the features discussed earlier wasn’t enough, the game will also feature Oculus Rift support. The features of the game keep going on, as anything would when your budget balloons to nearly 20 times the amount you initially asked for. Star Citizen has grown to unimaginable levels. Very few games come close to the level of ambition this game has. With Cloud Imperium Games’ first game in development, they’ve already managed to outperform giants like Rockstar Games, and with every update post from the developers the game seems to raise our expectations higher. In the end, only time will tell if this game lives up to the hype.