2,920 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Chris Roberts, the prominent games developer behind the Wing Commander and Starlancer franchises, is returning to the video games industry with a bang.
Roberts’ fans shelled out $6.22 million to help finance the upcoming Star Citizen title, making it the most successfully crowdfunded video game yet. Roberts and his team ran a dual campaign, with $2.13 million coming from Kickstarter, and $4.09 million from their own crowdfunding initiative. Star Citizen, like Wing Commander and Starlancer, is a space flight simulator. The game, which will come out on the PC, has been in development since 2011.
Roberts, who left the video games industry for a decade in favor of the silver screen, decided last year that the time was ripe for his return and founded Cloud Imperium Games Corporation.
“The last couple of years, I’ve felt like the technology had changed enough where I felt like I had something to say, again,” Roberts recently told Crowdsourcing.org. “I felt like the kinds of games that I like weren’t getting made. I wanted to come back and make the game I’ve always saw in my head but couldn’t quite deliver because of the limitations on the technology.”
Roberts said the prospect of connecting directly with the fans to help pay for the game also appealed to him. While the developer still plans on going to investors to fund part of the game, the hefty sum gained through crowdfunding will allow Roberts to keep more creative control and ownership of Star Citizen.
Roberts also indicated crowdfunding convinced him to develop Star Citizen as a stand-alone game. Initially, he was considering creating a Wing Commander-style “traditional, console retail game” and using the technology to roll out Star Citizen afterwards, with the hope of having fans pay to play the alpha version. Seeing that individuals had developed a comfort level with crowdfunding video games, however, Roberts decided to focus his time solely on Star Citizen. He launched his crowdfunding campaign on October 10th.
Initially, fans could only donate through the company’s own crowdfunding donation page, Roberts Space Industries, powered by the white label crowdfunding plug-in IgnitionDeck. Seeing the fan base Star Citizen had developed prior to the launch of the campaign, Roberts did not wish to turn to Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform.
“I wanted to make [donations] available to [fans] on my site,” Roberts said, citing simplicity and convenience in not linking out to an external crowdfunding campaign.
The developer, however, had underestimated the buzz his game generated, and the torrent of eager backers succeeded in taking the site off-line. To keep the cash flowing, Roberts created a Kickstarter campaign with a $500,000 goal, to add to the $2 million he was looking to collect through his own site.
Ultimately, the dual campaign proved effective for Star Citizen. Roberts said he liked the versatility IgnitionDeck offered in terms of payment methods, and its integration with the rest of his site. He also praised the stability and scalability that the well-established Kickstarter provided when his site went down. Roberts believes giving his fans the option of donating in the way that’s most comfortable to them was key.
“Crowdfunding should be about what the people want,” he affirmed. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response to the crowdfunding campaigns, what people want is to play Star Citizen.
Though the lowest amount an individual had to pledge to receive a copy of the game was $30 (for the early birds), the average pledge across the two campaigns was more than double that amount, at around $70. The success in getting backers to donate extra money likely came from add-ons and stretch goals. The add-ons, Roberts explained, were implemented after requests from the community, who wanted more freedom in buying the various ships that Star Citizen has revealed thus far.
“In the crowdfunding world, it’s the crowd that’s telling you what they want,” Roberts stated. “If [backers] are telling you how they want to spend their money, you should listen to them.”
Overall, Roberts believes his fame helped raise the initial awareness needed to make the campaigns successful, but he also praised his staff's hard work, writing daily updates and constantly interacting with the community.
Following the crowdfunding success, much work remains to be done. Roberts said consolidating the campaign perk and add-on data into a unified inventory will take some time, as will fulfilling backers’ orders. He also plans to keep the site open as an interactive community board, as well as an e-commerce platform, meaning Star Citizen will likely raise even more money in the months ahead. And then there is, of course, the matter of finishing the game by the November 2014 deadline.
Roberts plans to work on Star Citizen for quite some time and hopes to keep improving and evolving the game after its launch, meaning we’re unlikely to see a new game – or crowdfunding campaign – from him any time soon. If he does eventually decide to move on to a new project, however, Roberts indicated he would consider crowdfunding again.
"I find the process pretty invigorating," the developer confessed.
For more on this story, make sure to read our recent interview with IgnitionDeck’s Nathan Hangen.