Star Citizen Hits $18 Million, RSI Aims For Much More Than Money

P 52 Merlin Star CitizenWhat if I told you the biggest, most ambitious rewards-based crowdfunding campaign in history wasn’t a Kickstarter project or an Indiegogo project?

The Pebble watch is somewhat widely recognized as the largest campaign of its type. I’m guilty of making the assertion myself. Some will say the Ubuntu Edge is the biggest campaign ever, but it really isn’t.

The largest rewards-based crowdfunding campaign ever is the campaign for Star Citizen, which crossed $18 million in funding today according to the Roberts Space Industries homepage.

The campaign has been active since September 1, 2012. The current total of $18 million was raised from almost a quarter of a million backers. The average pledge? Right around $73.

What is perhaps most remarkable about the campaign is how RSI did it: on their own and without the help of a major crowdfunding platform.

We still have a ways to go before we have achieved the goal of being completely community funded but based on our current trajectory we’re going to make it – maybe even by the end of this year! Which will be another amazing milestone that will have been set by this community. The enthusiasm and support the development team and I have felt is amazing and makes us even more determined to make the best damn space sim ever!RSI Backer Update

OK, that isn’t entirely true. Star Citizen did add just over $2 million to the war chest thanks to a big Kickstarter campaign, but that sum is downright paltry compared to the total amount raised since the campaign’s inception.

There is more to appreciate here than just a funding total.

star-citizen-logoFor one, this campaign had a few things working against it. Star Citizen isn’t a console game. It is a PC game, and PC games are supposed to be dying. I think Chris Roberts and his team may have something to say about that now. They eschewed the tablet/smartphone gaming craze and went straight for big graphics and big gameplay and they got a big win in spite of it.

Consider the possibility that Star Citizen attains Blizzard-level market penetration. (Remember World of Warcraft?) We’re discussing Star Citizen as a project for now, but there are some underpinnings of this game that could make it very sticky. The game is slated to include an entire economy representing millions of entities. RSI has already been able to monetize it. A lot of the pledge levels include ships in the game. If that scales, look out.

Note that RSI would be quick to point out that all items in the game can be earned and that Star Citizen isn’t a pure MMO like World of Warcraft was. It aspires to be a bit more.

The second thing we need to appreciate with this campaign is the polish RSI has on their operations, web site, and PR approach. I dare you to show me another crowdfunding project that has had better execution of a campaign strategy. Has it worked? Watch this and tell me it hasn’t.

Their web site looks like the Death Star’s dashboard and it is loaded with information about the game. The forums are active and full of suggestions about the game. It’s a treasure trove of market research for RSI, and it’s awesome eye candy for people like you and I.

The truth is that no crowdfunding platform in the world could provide a better online funding experience for this game than RSI has been able to provide by itself. That in and of itself is a lesson for future crowdfunders. Perhaps it cost them some money to set up, but do you think it was money well spent? I have 18 million reasons to say yes.

This campaign carries enormous risk just because of how ambitious it is. Under the surface, this campaign hopes to create the new standard by which PC games will be judged. Don’t accuse RSI of not aiming high enough.

If RSI can reach that goal, this campaign will become something transcendent, far more important than the largest rewards-based crowdfunding campaign. For now, we should all take a moment to stop and appreciate just how big of a deal this campaign is.

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  • Uncle_Fred

    They just announced first person combat on far away planets. This really is hugely ambitious, not only do they need to build settings, props an maps for aliens worlds – a task that could very well be whole games worth of content in its own right – but how landing and taking off will work, Can you fly around an atmosphere? Perfect and balance FPS combat? Leave the atmosphere?

    This really pushes the envelope on what’s possible, and if done right, will make everything that came before look very limited indeed. This task is superhuman.

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  • Lars Anderson

    Seems like money is all they’re aiming for.

    • SteinarB

      And if you took even a little time to do some research you would know this is not true, but as always on the internet it’s easier to make snide comments than make sure you know what you’re talking about.

      In order to be fully funded with no venture capital investors they need approximately 22 million dollars. Why try to avoid venture capital? Because investors inevitably try to influence a game’s development in a negative way due to their only interest being a return on their investment. That means they might want CIG to dumb down the game to make it easier or compromise on features in order to bring it to weaker but more popular platforms than PCs (in other words, consoles like XBox and Playstation) or even make demands that CIG sell the game if a publisher comes knocking and offers money. Without these investors having any influence CIG are free to make the game _they_ as gamers themselves would want to play. They are free to make a truly ambitious gaming experience without interference from corporate executives and beancounters who wouldn’t know a good game if it bit them on the arse, but instead believe focus groups and “market research” are the way to go.

      18 million dollars raised so far speaks loudly about how big a segment of the gaming community feels ignored and overlooked by the big publishers and their focus groups, and the fact that more and more developers are considering crowdfunding rather than the publisher model speaks equally loudly to how stifling and stressful that model are to people who just want to make a good game. Some will succeed and some will fail, that’s only natural, but a project with as solid a foundation laid before it was presented to the public as the one Star Citizen boasts are the ones most likely to succeed, in my opinion.

  • guy

    “Star Citizen isn’t a pure MMO like World of Warcraft was. It aspires to be a bit more.”

    Actually, it will be a bit more but also a bit less:
    – more, because it will have single-player mode and moddable unofficial fan-hosted servers
    – less, because it won’t have a big seamless, explorable world like WoW. It will be heavily instance-based, like Guild Wars 1 which was never called an MMO by its devs.

    • Schwarz

      It will be a seamless explorable world, the instancing only means that when to many people are in the same system there will be multiple instances of the system so it doesn’t become to crowded. SW TOR has the same feature. These are not instances in the WOW or Guild Wars sense of the word.

      • settite

        WOW is now instanced…

  • Andy Goodstar

    “The campaign has been active since September 1, 2012.”
    The truth is that the real campaign was active since October 10th, 2012, because
    before of that no one knew what will be offered and there was no option
    to send money to the project. (Just a detail).


  • Nova

    Truly remarkable isn’t it.

    One thing…Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) is the company behind Star Citizen. RSI is a fictional company created by CIG within the SC universe.

    • hmbsquigles

      Actually, RSI is both a fictional and real world legal entity. There are 3 entities under CIGC (Cloud Imperium Games Corporation). Cloud Imperium Services, LLC (Austin), Cloud Imperium Services, LLC (Los Angeles), and Roberts Space Industries. Roberts Space Industries serves as the branding entity for Star Citizen.

  • Robert

    We just hit 18 Million Funded this morning 😀 Shooting for a fully crowd funded game, with no investors…at 21 Million. each backer has averaged about $73.00 in pledges.. (some less, some more… much more) 😀 Currently have 26,000 plus Alpha slots left…

    Goldwing Squadron

  • tekniq

    yeah for sure! I hope that will teach those big Publishers a lesson.. Marketing can only do so much – their crappy console ports speak for themsleves. So long, and Thanks for all the Fish!

  • Tommy Boy

    This truly is awesome! Power to the PC…it is most definitely not dead 🙂

  • SteinarB

    Excellent article. And in the hour and a half since they hit 18 million they’ve already raked in $15000 more. Those of us who followed this campaign from the start had a hard time believing we’d make the original 2 million goal. Now they’ve made 2 million in less than two weeks. It really is impressive and shows what doing your homework and laying down some proper groundwork before you present your project to the crowdfunding public can do for you. Roberts and his team did a year of prepwork before starting the campaign, including making a rather impressive concept demo.

    • hscsadmin

      I totally agree. I was here since SC was first announced in GDC. And MAN this project grew since then. I thought 4-5 mil will be the max they’ll ever be able to raise, but I don’t believe that there is any stopping now haha!

      Considering that game will pushed out in a modular fashion with Hangar being module #1 that is already out and just the hangar itself triggered 2 million raise in funding in just little over 2 weeks the future module releases (dogfighting end of 2013, social planetary interaction – early 2014 etc) I think by the time we are in closed beta in the end of 2014 the overall funding will be close to 40 mil. Aim for the stars, right? 😉