If there’s one criticism you can’t level at Star Citizen, it is the ability to keep hitting outrageous crowdfunding milestones. After a particularly lucrative last few months, Cloud Imperium Games’ sci-fi MMO has careened past $300 million in crowdfunding.
According to a funding tracker on the Star Citizen website, 2,713,502 ‘star citizens’ have pooled their financial might into the princely sum of $300,747,530. That’s up $50 million from December 2019’s $250 million milestone.
If anything, pledges are pouring in at a faster pace than ever before. Cloud Imperium raised $15 million in May alone, presumably egged on by large swathes of the population flocking to video games to fend off pandemic boredom.
Long-in-development Star Citizen continues as the most successful crowdfunded video game ever, but there’s still no sign of a proper commercial release.
Initially slated for release in 2014, Cloud Imperium delayed Star Citizen to 2014. Then, to the next year, and the next. And so on.
Now, Cloud Imperium makes no mention of a prospective release date, instead proffering up similarly missed-and-pushed back launch windows for specific components of the game.
These are called modules and range from an overarching Persistent Universe mode to dog-fighting mode Arena Commander and FPS module Star Marine. Each has missed project deadlines, although most have eventually launched, sometimes years later than planned.
The next one in the pipeline is Squadron 42. It’s a standalone narrative single-player experience featuring a star-studded cast, including Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, and Gillian Anderson. True to form, Cloud Imperium has pushed back the mode’s release multiple times. The most recent estimate is a beta launch in Q3 2020.
Star Citizen is one of gaming’s most enduring enigmas. Fans continue to throw money at the project, lured by the nebulous promise a fully-fledged launch, which seven-years on seems as unlikely as ever.
Cloud Imperium rewards that financial pledge with in-game starter packs. These include ships, in-game currency, ship insurance, and other digital tidbits. As it stands, $45 grants access to a very much playable Alpha 3.9 iteration of the game spiking up to $27,000 in the case of Legatus Pack.
But, is it one that truly demonstrates a $300 million development budget? That’s debatable. And that $300 million may be off the mark as external investment props up Star Citizen’s already bursting coffers.
Star Citizen is nowhere near the game promised back when crowdfunding started back in 2013, compounded by a litany of performance issues and bugs.
As warning signs go, this is a pretty big one. Yet, Star Citizen unabashedly continues to solicit players for yet more money. And, it does so successfully.
Is the power of momentum at play here? Are new players simply dropping cash to get a glimpse of what all the fuss is about, by extension tempting even more to do the same? The cyclical lure of curiosity for what may be video game’s oblique take on The Emperor’s New Clothes.
It’s a confounding mystery, and one many people struggle to get their heads around. But, backers appear contented by the promise of potential, of an ambitious project that, if ever completed, will undoubtedly go down in history at a landmark release.
Star Citizen simply can’t fail. There’s too much a stake – financially and for Cloud Imperium’s reputation. Star Citizen needs to release, and both backers and the developer may be doubling down to stave off the looming shadow of failure until that happens.