2012 has seen a number of big names in the gaming industry run incredibly successful crowdfunding campaigns. From Double Fine Productions to Obsidian Entertainment, millions of dollars have been raised to create games that traditional publishers shy away from, but the gaming community - the market itself - clearly love.
Star Citizen is the brainchild of Chris Roberts and his company, Cloud Imperium Games. Roberts is most famous as the creator of the well-known Wing Commander series. It is an ambitious project, aiming to include a persistent online universe with a mix of single-player and multiplayer content, delivered from a first-person perspective. Star Citizen is also unique in that it seeks to provide a full-fledged single player campaign, called Squadron 42, which will tell the story of a pilot in Earth's space-based military. Squadron 42 can be considered a Wing Commander successor, while the overall Star Citizen experience takes after Privateer - or EVE Online.
When we last reported on the project, Roberts had already raised $3.5 million USD over a $2-million-dollar goal and broke the record for the largest average donation to a crowdfunded game so far. While that record hasn’t shifted much, sitting at an average of $69.40 per contributor, Star Citizen closed its fundraising drive at an incredible $6.2 million USD. This blows away the previous record for total funds raised for a video game project, set by Obsidian with Project Eternity which almost reached four million USD in October. Star Citizen has amassed over eighty thousand individual backers, surpassing yet another record set by Project Eternity.
The massive amount of funds raised has lead to all major stretch goals being filled. Star Citizen’s already impressive feature set has ballooned, with a grand total of 100 star systems available at the game’s launch and fully-fledged first-person boarding actions for the space pirate in all of us. This means more detail on boarding equipment, plus the ability to fight in open space and choose your breach point, rather than always needing to dock with a target. Several additional playable ships are also in, with the largest at launch being a Carrier-class vessel aimed at large guilds or corporations. Also included in the stretch goals achieved by Chris Roberts is a fully orchestral score for the game.
Squadron 42 will have a massive single-player campaign, though Roberts has yet to comment on whether cockpit decorations (a stretch goal for Star Citizen, with fuzzy dice being the classic example) will be available in the single-player spinoff.
However, the most interesting thing about Star Citizen thus far is that in contrast to the other crowdfunding success stories this year, most of these funds were not raised through Kickstarter. At the close of fundraising, $4.1 million USD was raised directly through the game’s website, with the Kickstarter initiative raising approximately $2.1 million extra. Kickstarter charges a 5% fee, which means by offering this alternative Cloud Imperium Games has saved over $185,000.
Whether this truly signals the success of crowdfunding and directly marketing games to the public as a viable option for game developers remains to be seen. However, it's clear that the mainstream space sim isn’t dead yet. I look forward to starting my reign of terror as a notorious space pirate.
The projected release date for Star Citizen and Squadron 42 is November, 2014. Star Citizen will require an initial purchase, but not a monthly subscription fee.