IT’S A SCAM! ALL OF IT!
I never thought that I would be writing words saying six years after its initial crowd-funding, and four years after it was promised to be released, that Star Citizen is still NOWHERE near completion. Not even close. Heck, when I wrote the rather extensive year five blog a year ago, I thought for sure that it would be my last blog as the “game” would have been released by now in some form or another.
I completely underestimated the penchant for people to knowingly give money to what they have to know has all the makings of a scam. Heck, even the FTC works overtime on this, and just scouring their website it’s completely unbelievable the types of scams which rake in millions of Dollars. Until they get busted. That this is happening in gaming, the digital enclave that is rife with the most hilarious and ridiculous outcries in all corners of the Internet, makes it even more astonishing. I mean, right now, we’re having fights over loot boxes, the latest money-grabbing fad that publishers and developers have come up with, and which are designed to extract even more money from gamers. And it’s actually legit to the point that governments are in the process of either investigating, regulating, or just outright banning them from games. Through all that, Star Citizen continues to charge its backers for game assets which are either not in the game or which have zero chances of ever being implemented.
“And it’s more than just the funding, it’s been six years of ground breaking open development, where all of you have been actively involved in what we are building.
You have watched us grow from a handful of people to a global staff of over 500, across 5 studios, 4 time zones and 3 countries. Some of the best talent in the industry is working on Star Citizen and Squadron 42, most of who are gamers that are inspired by your passion to push the boundaries of what is possible.” – Chris Roberts, Nov 17 2018 after crossing $200M
There are those who are quick to exclaim “How can it be a scam if they have offices around the world, with staff, and they are building the games!?“. We don’t even bother arguing with those guys now. We just laugh at them and move on. Seriously, it’s pointless. However, to consider how this evolved into a scam, let me break it down to the most important key points.
- In Nov 2012, having raised about $3M ($1M from their own site, and $2.1M on Kickstarter) the project was promised to be completed and delivered by Nov 2014. Even the original ToS gave them 12 (later changed to 18, then removed completely) months leeway to account for unforeseen delays.
- Chris gave several assurances to backers in order for them to give him money. These included claiming on the record that they already spent one year (ahead of the crowd-funding) on the project, and that it if took longer than two years, that it would begin to get stale. Also, the earlier versions of the ToS had additional assurances including refunds for failure to deliver within the promised period, as well as financial accountability for the project. Then there was The Pledge. We’re still laughing at that one.
- Once he raised the funds, instead of focusing on developing the two (Star Citizen multiplayer and Squadron 42 single-player) games promised, he then proceeded to increase the scope well beyond not only the original promises, but also the capabilities of both the team talent and the chosen CryEngine. He told GameSpot in July 2014 : “by the time the game is finished, we’ll be at the 80, 90, or 100 million dollar range of funding, and most of it will be all for the game.” He told PC Gamer the same thing, which they printed in their Christmas 2014 issue.
- Having later realized that he stood no chance of delivering on old promises, let alone the newly added ones, he started to walk back all the assurances previously given to backers. I caught wind of this mere months after my famous July Blog (which is how I got involved in this farce). At first, it was just a hunch because I had no idea that they were brazen enough to actually do it, let alone my foreseeing that backers were gullible enough to actually go for it. Once the pattern emerged, I created a dedicated section for tracking those ToS changes. Sure enough, by the time they were done with the revisions (as per the latest ToS), not only were they no longer giving refunds (as I had warned repeatedly, that ended completely with the release of 3.0 build in Dec 2017), let alone financial accountability for the project, but they don’t even have to deliver a game – of any kind. Ever.
- Claiming in Sept 2014 that they were operating on a month to month basis depending on backer funding, via a Ponzi-like scheme he continued to increase the scope of the project well beyond the $65M stretch goals. This included adding new ships to sell without even completing and implementing previous ones already sold. They even later started selling land claims before 3.0 was even stable enough for their newly implemented “planetary tech” to be finalized. This practice continues to this day.
- In August 2017, as I wrote here, over a year after he started claiming that the project would be released as an minimum viable product, Chris Roberts declared that Star Citizen was now akin to early access, and thus would never be “finished”. Yeah.
THE 1992 PLEDGE TO BACKERS WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN ON TOILET PAPER
One thing that seems to be underscored in all of this is that right off the bat Chris Roberts and his gang of scammers were already working on how to monetize scope creep. As I look back now, it occurs to me that we should have seen it coming because the signs were right there in the update 48 (the victory dance) which was sent out via email and posted on Kickstarter.
“One issue which concerns us is what to do with the funding tracker. So we’re going to throw the issue up to you: in two weeks, when the wall goes up, what do you want to see done with the tracker? Without the ‘push’ of the campaign it probably won’t update very dramatically. but it’s always possible it will go up enough to reach future stretch goals anyway. Should we keep it, remove it or put it somewhere else? We’ll let the community decide.“
Guess what they did right after the Kickstarter campaign period ended. That’s right – after maxing out and reaching the stretch goals on Kickstarter, they went back in and added even more stretch goals. To the tune of $65M, which they hit in Nov 2014 – the same month that they were supposed to have completed and delivered the two games promised in 2012. And as of this writing, the amount (no independent verification) raised stands at $206.7M. Which means that right now the project is four years late and $141M over budget.
Through all this, there are those who – knowing it’s patently false – keep claiming that “Backers voted to increase the scope of the game“. For one thing, those people are referring to two specific polls which CIG posted in Nov 3rd, 2012 and Sept 17, 2013 respectively. One backer said it best:
“That’s the third time you’ve posted the same link to the same poll, disregarding points raised that the poll data doesn’t show any consensus or agreement in any of the options, since not even a simple majority agrees on any one option despite each participant being allowed to select 3 options. Members of the active SC community were given 3 votes each and still failed to put any of the options above 40% support, which suggests that there is no majority support from the community for any of the expansion options.
If anything, giving people 3 choices each instead of 1 should have made it easier for any one option to hit 50%, but that still didn’t happen. All this shows is that CIG polled the community and then promptly disregarded the results, opting to proceed with their own plan instead, and certainly doesn’t support your assertion that the changes were voted and agreed upon by the community.”
And they’re still doing this. They are currently running the yearly anniversary fund-raising drive; and they once again introduced a new incomplete half-baked, ship (Arrow) to the game, as well as a JPEG concept of another ship (Aopoa). As an aside, the Idris-P, which they sold for $1,000-$1,500 (based on config) several years back, and which still isn’t in the game, got out-classed by a new $1,650 JPEG concept ship (Kraken) which they introduced during CitizenCon in October. So what do they do? They recently introduced $725 upgrade kits to the Idris. I wish I was kidding.
And through all this they have switched engines, lost a lot of key talented people, taken out loans in both the US and the UK, lied about pretty much everything related to the project, demonstrated that they are in over their heads and stand zero chance of ever delivering the massive game promised etc. And to top it off, they got sued by Crytek, their engine provider and previous partner who built the proof-of-concept demo which was used during the 2012 campaign, and who they later decided to screw out of millions of Dollars after they made it big. That very devastating lawsuit, which is about to enter discovery, is currently making its way through the court system.
THE MAKINGS OF A LUCRATIVE SCAM
All things considered, when you look at the current state of the game, what they have in there right now etc, it’s easy to see that even after raising over $200M, they still have not delivered even the base game for which they raised over $3M back in Nov 2012. Nor the over-scoped game for which they raised over $65M in Nov 2014. So it stands to reason that had they not continued to monetize scope creep, for all intent and purposes the project would have failed since 2015 – right around the time when sources told myself and The Escapist magazine that they were running out of money, had barely enough funds for 90 days of operations etc.
The project, not even in alpha yet, is an absolute mess that’s FUBAR. There is simply no saving it because they CANNOT pull it off. Heck, as I wrote here, they haven’t even built a single one of the 100+ star systems they promised and raised $65M for. And going by the recent CitizenCon charade (which I covered here and here) even their most devout backers should see the signs by now. But as along as they have about 200 or so whales willing to keep funding their monthly burn (of which the UK studio burns over 70% of the yearly funds), they will probably keep limping along while shedding staff to match their income.
In Jan 2019, we’ll be entering year 7.