Much like the universe itself, the development of Star Citizen feels vast and endless. That hasn’t stopped players from putting faith in it, though, as well as plenty of money. According to the official website, Roberts Space Industries, over $250 million has been raised for the game since its crowdfunding began in 2013.
In short, this is creeping up to be one of the most expensive games ever made. The current highest-known price is allegedly $265 million for all of Grand Theft Auto V‘s development and marketing costs; most high-end AAA titles are estimated between $100 million to $200 million.
At the time of writing, the all-time total is $251,583,473, with over 2,450,159 “citizens” contributing. Just as stunning are the most recent numbers for the fundraising. It appears in just the month of November alone, over $9.6 million was raised. This appears to be part of the hype for “CitizenCon 2949,” this year’s iteration of the official “convention” for Star Citizen fans.
In its estimated seven years of development, Star Citizen still promises much of what it did in its original campaign, and bits and pieces are coming to life slowly. However, its development and fundraising are a bit controversial, to say the least.
The original campaign promised to “put high-end PC gaming and Space Sims back on the map!” (With that exclamation point.) Roberts previously described the game as having been a year into production already. Between Kickstarter and other simultaneous crowdfunding sources, it raised over $6 million.
The game has garnered its own sort of reputation in its many years of development, namely around paid features. Alpha gameplay — which has been essentially the entirety of the lifespan of this game thus far — were originally accessed through different tiers of ships, which cost more if you’d like more features. (The campaign promised no “pay to win.”) There are massive content packs for the still-in-alpha game, which includes a $27,000 ship pack, which is great if you want, uh — *checks notes* — 117 ships and 163 items for your character and lifestyle?
Of course, the game’s long development structure is another point of contention. If the game had been in development for a year before the crowdfunding campaign, that means Star Citizen has been in development for a whopping seven years. For comparison, Red Dead Redemption 2, the late-2018 game which saw controversy for its crunch, began pre-production before the original game’s 2010 release. (Main production on RDR2 began in 2012, after scripts went out.)
Developers Cloud Imperium have faced a string of complaints and even refund requests as the project continued to barrel forward without even a beta test in sight. While first-person simulator Star Marine was promised repeatedly in 2015, it took until the year end of 2016 for it to see release — packaged inside Star Citizen itself. We still haven’t heard much about Squadron 42, a hotly-anticipated campaign game featuring stars such as Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman and Gillian Anderson, announced late last year. And in a feature for Forbes just this year, employees described a chaotic work environment under an unorganized, overly-ambitious boss. (In 2016, Kotaku highlighted many of the game’s controversies at the time in a feature series.)
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In pointing to the game’s scattered-brained development, many point to the game’s long history of literally not having any playable woman models. Finally, playable women were added in March this year in the Alpha 3.5 patch.
Many are clearly forgiving, though, especially as the game’s development team attempts some form of transparency. Of course, players maintain faith in Chris Roberts, who got his wings (ha) through the classic Wing Commander series. For those wondering about “transparency,” the website has its own “Development” tag where you can track updates and even developers’ posts on the forums. They do “Roadmap Roundups” to help players keep tabs on what’s going on.
Plus, it’s not that Star Citizen isn’t developing at all. It’s still sure as heck releasing an update every month or so. And it looks like the development and community hype drums aren’t going to stop beating. If $9.6 million in the last month speaks for itself, the players see some kind of light at the end of the universe.