Five years since its planned 2014 release, space sim Star Citizen is still likely years away from a full release, despite raising hundreds of millions of dollars through crowdfunding. The controversial space sim from game designer Chris Roberts has raised more than $230 million since its Kickstarter campaign began in 2012.
Roberts, known for the 1990 game Wing Commander, left game development after the troubled development of his previous game, Freelancer, which was planned to release in 2001 but didn't hit stores until 2003, after he stepped down as director of the title. When Star Citizen's Kickstarter campaign launched in 2012, Roberts promised an "epic space adventure" in a "rich universe" as his return to game development with his new studio, Cloud Imperium Games. Along with Star Citizen, Roberts announced Squadron 42, a single-player game set in the same universe as Star Citizen. Cloud Imperium has said the Squadron 42 story campaign will give players an "open approach" to missions and that Star Citizen's A-list cast would include actors like Mark Hammill and Gillian Anderson. Both games were planned to release in 2014.
The Star Citizen Kickstarter had an initial goal of $500,000, which was quickly surpassed. Cloud Imperium established crowdfunding stretch goals up to $65 million dollars, but the game's funding continued to grow past that mark, eventually reaching more than $230 million following the recent release of Star Citizen's Alpha 3.6 update. According to Cloud Imperium, almost 2,400,000 people have "joined the universe" of Star Citizen by creating accounts.
Despite all of this, there is still no release date in sight for either of Roberts' games. While the Squadron 42 roadmap says a beta version will be released in Q2 2020, the Star Citizen roadmap extends only to Q1 2020, when it says Alpha 3.9 will be released. According to people who used to work for Cloud Imperium that spoke to Forbes earlier this year, Roberts' micromanagement and propensity for un-focused "feature creep" made the company's work environment chaotic. Forbes called Star Citizen's drawn-out, crowdfunded development "not fraud [...] but it is incompetence and mismanagement on a galactic scale."
Among the planned additions listed for each update in the Star Citizen roadmap, there are gameplay and AI improvements, but also individual weapons, quest givers, several new ships and even a single set of armor. Ships introduced in past updates can be bought for real-world money on Star Citizen's extensive pledge store, and many of the ship prices can run into the hundreds. This money goes toward funding the game, contributing to that current $230 million (and growing) total. Much of that money has already been spent, despite the game's current unfinished state. According to a 2017 financial report released by Cloud Imperium, the company had already spent almost $200 million as of 2017 on development, salaries, marketing and other expenses.
Taking all of this into account - not to mention the time Cloud Imperium was sued by Crytek - it's safe to say Star Citizen and Squadron 42 have had deeply troubled development cycles. This leaves many wondering: Will Star Citizen ever be released? Given the game's 30 day refund policy, backers of the game are left with few options but to either give up and move on or just wait and see how the rest of development shakes out. Even back in 2018, Cloud Imperium was already pushing the patience of its community with the release of the $27,000 Star Citizen Legatus Pack. It's possible that an update to the Star Citizen roadmap will see a more significant version announcement - a beta, perhaps - planned for after the Alpha 3.9 update, but it may be hard for some to trust any big release promises, given the game's previous delays. It's been nearly seven years since the world learned of Star Citizen's development, and it might be many more before the game is finally out in earnest.