Cloud Imperium Games, developer of the long-in-development space simulation video game Star Citizen, has introduced its most expensive bundle of spaceships yet – the Legatus Ship Pack priced at $48,000 USD. The eye-watering price tag has sparked renewed criticism and debate surrounding Star Citizen’s controversial funding model.
Star Citizen’s Funding Controversy
Originally Kickstarted in 2012 with an initial target of $500,000, Star Citizen has gone on to become the most-crowdfunded project in history – raking in over $500 million USD from its 2.8 million backers to date.
This incredible funding total has been driven in large part by the sale of spaceships – with some virtual ships selling for thousands of dollars per unit despite the game still being in alpha after 10 years of development.
Many have questioned whether selling high-priced digital ships essentially constitutes a “pay to win” model as critics argue those who spend more money will gain an advantage.
Cloud Imperium Games counters this by positioning these expensive ships as supporting the ongoing development rather than conferring an in-game edge, stating:
“Star Citizen is, at its heart, a sophisticated first-person universe simulator that places ultimate control into the hands of the Player.”
Nonetheless, segments of the gaming community have long accused Star Citizen of egregious monetization and predatory marketing tactics in exploiting its most dedicated fans. The new $48,000 Legatus Pack seems poised to further stoke this debate.
Introducing the Legatus ‘2953 All Ships Pack’
Unveiled on January 5th, 2024, the Legatus Pack includes one of every single flyable ship available in Star Citizen – tallying up an incredible fleet of over 175 individual ships spanning fighters, freighters, ground vehicles, and capital ships.
In an accompanying press release, Cloud Imperium calls it a “disciplined collection aimed at Citizens who are ready to push the envelope of what it means to truly live the life of a Completionist.”
The full list of ships contained in the Legatus 2953 All Ships Pack includes:
- 63 customizable starter ships
- 28 single-seat fighters
- 5 multi-crew ships ranging from light fighter to bomber
- 12 medium freighters and dropships
- 8 large freighters
- 7 huge capital ships
- 16 ground vehicles including tanks, hover bikes and more
- 36 limited edition and special event ships
With a non-discounted total value of over $700,000 according to Cloud Imperium’s own figures, the studio emphasized the discounted Legatus Pack represents “over 85% off” the standard cumulative prices.
In an unprecedented move, purchasing the Legatus Pack has steep minimum requirements – buyers must have:
- Previously spent at least $1,000 on any amount of other Star Citizen ships
- Been a backer for at least 10 years
- Reached “Praetor” Lifetime membership rank
This limits eligibility to purchase the Legatus Pack to only the top echelon of Star Citizen’s highest paying backers – aptly referred to as ‘whales’ in gaming circles.
Ongoing Issues Hamper Delivery Timeline
The sheer scope promised by Star Citizen is unprecedented – with Cloud Imperium aiming to simulate almost every aspect of living in space across hundreds of detailed star systems.
However the game’s development continues to be plagued by extensive delays, missing release windows and still lacking core features. Currently no firm timeline exists for Star Citizen to reach the promised vision outlined to backers:
“There are significant chunks that just seem so far away,” said lead vehicle developer John Crewe in a recent roadmap update. “I don’t even have an estimate for when they’ll be done.”
With US financial records revealing Cloud Imperium spends nearly $500,000 a day on overhead, many wonder if Star Citizen will ever exit its current alpha phase.
Introducing expensive new spaceships like the Legatus Pack before resolving these ongoing roadblocks has renewed criticism the studio prioritizes aggressively marketing over transparently communicating about delays.
Future of Crowdfunding in Flux
Love it or hate it, Star Citizen demonstrates an entirely new paradigm in funding AAA video games – for better or worse.
Following major industry shakeups like the collapse of British publisher Codemasters and French giant Ubisoft ending its AAA slate, traditional publishing routes face an uncertain future. Star Citizen’s crowdfunded budget eclipses even the most expensive traditionally-funded games like GTA V or Call of Duty.
And with indie crowdfunding also declining 65% last year, all eyes look towards Star Citizen’s success or failure as a bellwether for the viability of crowdfunding to rival established funding models.
Other studios are already following their lead in offering in-game items at premium prices during early access periods to fund development. With regulation still lagging behind, it remains to be seen if intervention reins in these exploitative excesses before they become an established norm.
For Star Citizen itself, the coming year promises major developments one way or another. Supporters eagerly await two hotly-anticipated patches bringing improved server meshing and the first implementation of server-wide persistence. Skeptics call for greater transparency and question if the game has reached the limits of its vast but niche appeal.
So whether Star Citizen ultimately succeeds at its grand vision or comes crashing down under its own weight, the gaming world watches this grand experiment with bated breath through 2024.
Love it or hate it, Star Citizen shows no signs of compromising or curtailing its shockingly-successful formula anytime soon. And with money continuing to pour in at an astonishing pace, Cloud Imperium seems set to push the boundaries even further into uncharted territory.
Table Comparing Funding & Timelines for Major Crowdfunded Games
|Original Release Target
|Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
|Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
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