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Star Citizen – Is It Running Out of Money? Will It Ever Be Released?

Welcome to some more Star Citizen, today I wanted to talk about some commonly brought up points in opposition of Star Citizen, some of which the Forbes Article brought up as well as others I see banded around about is Star Citizen Running out of money, CI don’t give refunds, Breaking Promises, Feature Creep and more. This is not a video in defence of Star Citizen, more of a debunking and discussion of some of what I believe is unfair criticism / accusations to the project.

Let’s Start with The Money, is Star Citizen is running out of money!?

At the end of 2018 Star Citizen released a financial break down of their company, funding, headcounts and more.

The Finicials Show that by the end of 2017 CI had $14.2 million “in the bank”.

In comparison it had 19.3 million at the end of 2015 & 19.2 at the end of 2016.

So they spent $5 million more than they earned in 2017.

According to the funding Chart Star Citizen Made Total in 2018: $37.75 million plus Subscription & Other Revenue. This was their best year yet for sales. Combined with estimated Subs & Other Revenue it’s probably around $47 million that they earned in 2019 PLUS an additional $46 million of private investment.

Star Citizen is spending it’s funding BUT it seems within keeping with the funding they receive. Star Citizen has by my estimates $50 – $65 million in the bank currently.

Although the $46 million is at least lightly earmarked for advertising of Star Citizen and Squadron 42s potential 2020 release, tho I suspect some of that may be used for development.

Another common accusation is one of Nepotism that Chris Roberts & Sandi (VP of Marketing) his wife, and Erin Roberts his Brother (Studio Director of the UK office) are pocketing all the money.

You could certainly argue (successfully) that he has given them high paid good positions in the Company.

We don’t actually have the figures for how much Chris or specific employees get paid ONLY a break down of how many employees that CI had total (464) & how much they paid them (around $30 million). This puts the average earnings of employees at this time $64.6k a year.

Now expect a range of actually salaries for employees ranging from like $25k for maybe janitors to $150k for upper management and senior positions.

Chris Roberts says he is compensated like a typical C-suite game executive, this is certainly vague, but it appears that this is typically around $250 – $350k

You do hear of some CEO / CFOs of like EA making millions in a year, that is typically mostly bonuses on their wages to keep them in their positions.

It’s unlikely that Chris is paying himself and his family a huge amount especially as that would knock down the average of the rest of the employees working for them to peanuts.

Chris Bought a House with Backer Money – This is I suppose at least partly true, he earns a wage from his company and then may of bought a house with it.

From the Forbes Article “In September 2018, the Roberts Family Trust, with Gardiner as its trustee, purchased a house for $4.7 million in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades neighborhood. Prior to that, Roberts had been renting. Roberts says he sold his Hollywood house in 2007 because he wanted to experience living near the ocean. He then rented for ten years because he wasn’t sure if he would like it or stay in L.A. long-term.“

Chris says he was quite wealthy in his own right before he started with Star Citizen

he was a partner at Origin, which EA bought in 1992 for $37 million, and that he was paid as the majority owner of Digital Anvil when Microsoft acquired it.

It also looks like the rent on his previous property was around $18k a month and the new house he bought you could get a mortgage for $16k a month which for Chris and Sandi would actually save them money.

Star Citizen Refund Policy – Star Citizen don’t give refunds

Star Citizen’s refund TOS are that you can get a refund within 14 days for each individual pledge made, however their company policy actually seems to extend to 30 days refunds no questions asked (regardless of playtime) & outside of that window they have a case by case refunds policy. That policy IS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER than say Steams which gives refunds “within two weeks of purchase & with less than two hours of playtime”

Money Raised

I previously said I thought the Forbes Article was inaccurate with it’s estimate of SC raising $288 Million, I said it was lower than this, I have since looked into the numbers further.

The Star Citizen Funding chart currently shows just under $227 million however this does not take into account the $46 million private investment nor do I believe Subscriptions which is around $15 million, there are also other incomes from other sources like incentives, partnerships & deals which may be around another $28 million. That appears to be roughly $315 million though it’s estimated, that is probably pretty accurate as of the end of May 2019.

Let’s Move onto Questions of Scam / Mismanagement

Star Citizen is empirically & prove-ably not a scam. You’d really have to move the goalposts an redefine the term scam to fit your narrative. Has the project been mismanaged, yes BUT that is true of every company. To what extent and is this currently a problem I suppose are the more pressing questions.

Star Citizen has been in development since 2011 / 8 years!

This is true, Star Citizen has been at least conceived / planned by Chris since 2011.

However after a successful Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaign they started to plan out the game in earnest from 2013. The game then had a massive rework and rescope in 2015 due to a massive amount of money coming in from crowdfunding and the selling of ships for the PU. The game massively changed in plans for both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen effectively having them starting again with a lot of the games.

Star Citizen & Squadron 42 in their current forms have really only started in 2015 imo.

I’ll put this in a little more perspective because a large portion of what CI had done is built a game studio, community and proof of concept for their game.

In 2012 CI had 13 employees, 2013 58, 2014 179, 2015 263, 2016 369, 2017 464, today there are over 550 employees and there are currently 112 jobs available on their website, so we can conclude plans to have over 650 staff. This shows a gearing up of the company and they didn’t have 500 employees in 2012.

Feature Creep – Is something often talked about in regard to Star Citizen. In 2015 we did see procedural planets get added to the mix which is something they wanted BUT not originally expected that early in development, more something they would of added in the future. However they saw a lot of potential in this procedural tech. 2015 saw a huge amount of what can be considered feature creep as the game scaled up.

Since 2015 there arguably hasn’t been any massive forms of feature creep only some additions, evolutions & iterations of gameplay mechanics & their tech.

You could certainly look at mechanics like outpost building, caves and say they are adding features ….. However this is partly fulfillment of features they have planned, filling out the game and the way their roadmap is displayed tends to show a lot of ever changing items.

So feature creep is certainly something that is more visible in the way Star Citizen develops it’s games BUT sometimes it’s more that ANY changes and additions are going to be seen as feature creep.

The game Might Never Be Finished / Never be Released is a common headline or buzz phrase. It’s an interesting one, as this can literally be a statement made for any game that is in development. However it’s an odd thing to say about Star Citizen at this Stage which has a playable Alpha NOW and releases major updates to that Alpha every quarter.

Also Squadron 42 Episode 1 is planned to be in Beta for 2020 (and potentially release that year too).

Star Citizen’s PU is likely to be a good few years away from anything near a released product though.

Star Citizen & Breaking Promises – I read a lot of comments about Star Citizen Breaking promises, where are the 100 star systems promised, the game was supposed to be released years ago. I also see people defending or trolling that with the phase you don’t understand game development.

For me it’s more of that there is a lack of understanding of Star Citizen’s way of developing their game which is pretty unique.

And is iterative, evolving and therefore changing.

They produce roadmaps and give their community a large portion of the most up to date plans and thoughts on the game and how mechanics will work.

These do change though as do priorities and scheduling, items are often pushed back in favor of others or delayed to the next quarter.

If you take everything that CI say that plan to do OR have in a patch as a promise then they have broken 100s of them and will continue to do so.

They have stated for many years that things in their games development are going to be in flux.

This might be annoying and occasionally heart-breaking but that is one part of the double edged sword of the way CI have done their Open Development.

In regard to that open development CI are incredibly transparent with the project weekly shows, news, presentations, more recently good community interaction from devs answering questions & even now exposing their financials. This does not mean open doors to everything in the project though, they keep things back for surprizes, marketing, most Squadron 42 stuff & have historically been poor at communicating certain things.

Trying to sell digital tickets to CitizenCon, the Referral Competition, selling Land Claims.

I would very much like to see information on current plans for Science, Medical, Farming, Exploring and all other gameplay loops, we know that the development of these will evolve but I want to know what their current thoughts for these will be.

Sometimes CIs approach is a bit erratic it seems with, look at this cool hype thing and then sometimes “we don’t want to share our thoughts on this otherwise people will get disappointed when it’s not like that”. Whatever your thoughts I think Star Citizen is probably the most open development AAA game ever, though I am willing to look at others if people have differing opinions on that.

When it comes to Star Citizen and pre-2016 I do believe there was a lot of gearing up with their company, Chris Roberts was reportedly a micromanager of people which would of been fine when they had 13 or even 58 people in 2013 but not appropriate when they have 100s.

Problems with Star Citizen have largely been solved or at least they have a much more developed studio and plans for the game as well as much better practices than previously.

When I read about the hell that some studios are currently going through now and regularly in the news and compare that to the problems that star citizen had in it’s first few years it’s interesting, what star citizen has today is mostly manageable issues, Star Citizen’s Alpha 3.5 LIVE was not the best update that CI have put out BUT there is at least from me trust that they will have that the game in a better state by the end of June. There is still a huge amount to do with their game and development is going to take a while longer BUT being part of that game, process, community and having my say on how features evolve is why I love it soo much and probably why it continues to bring in more backers and money each year.

I will also be doing a video talking about the perils of Star Citizen’s Development things that do need to be watched or at least discussed to keep CI honest, like continued funding, pay2win, the potential restrictions of server meshing, aspects of gameplay loops in the future too.