Star Citizen first found success through a WordPress crowdfunding plug-in. Then it found further success on Kickstarter. And then it sort of forgot to stop, slurping success through a straw from some bottomless pit of player goodwill. Today, Star Citizen is in the Guinness Book of World Records – not as the most-crowdfunded game of all time, though it is, but as the most-crowdfunded anything ever.
But the game hasn’t reached profitability yet, absurd as that sounds. The $55 million raised in its name to date will all be funnelled into development, says RSI fleet commander Chris Roberts.
“I sometimes get asked why we continue to raise money,” he wrote. “Haven’t you already raised enough to make the game? The answer is that Star Citizen isn’t a normal game. It’s not being developed like a normal game and it’s not being funded like a normal game.”
“I have a lot of industry friends pat me on the back and say, ‘Wow, it must be so great to be operating in profit even before you ship!’,” said Roberts in a letter to fans. “Their look usually turns to incredulity when I explain that my intention is for all the money we bring in before launch to be spent on development.”
The game’s budget still isn’t fixed, explained Roberts. RSI keep a “healthy” cash reserve to ensure that if funding dried up tomorrow, their 280-odd staffers would keep their jobs and the game would be finished. But Star Citizen’s scope continues to expand in line with new backer donations.
“Long ago I stopped looking at this game the way I did when I worked for a publisher who gave me a fixed budget to make a retail game,” he said. “I now look at our monthly fundraising and use that to set the amount of resources being used to develop this game.”
Roberts dismissed worries about feature creep as old-fashioned.
“I would say that this would be fair criticism if we were delivering this game at retail and on disc,” he wrote. “However, we are online and already pushing out builds. Just because we haven’t implemented a planned feature or built a certain asset yet doesn’t prevent us from sharing the game with everyone right now.”
What’s your thinking on RSI’s unprecedented approach to PC development?