Star Citizen funding is over $5 million.

19 11 2012

I haven’t seen an official number really as this is all rather in-the-moment…but the amount seems to be somewhere between five and six million dollars (American) of crowd sourced funding for Star Citizen. The numbers I’ve seen all fall into that range.

Total Biscuit says nearly five as of yesterday, as well as mentioning they’ll be sourcing more funding from private investors. VG24/7 reports over 5 millionAnd Joystiq says six.

Even if it is ‘only’ the lower bound, this is huge. Not only does this mean we will see a finished product in two to three years, but it means that crowd sourcing can’t possibly be considered a niche thing anymore. This is real. It doesn’t (sadly) mean that EA’s in any kind of danger. (Let’s face it: they pull in a bajillion dollars everytime they barely reskin Modern Duty and throw it to the masses.) It may mean those games will drop in quality but that’s wild speculation on my part that I’ll spell out for you in a moment.

What does this mean?

Game publishers are, how you might say, a bit risk averse. Military-wrapped FPSs are predictable cash cows, so we can expect Call of Warfare 16 as it’s something they can be certain will make them money. If they pour 10-50 million or 100 million or whatever into development, they’ll still get incredible return on that money. (I Googled “Black Ops 2 gross” and saw the phrase ‘$1 billion’. This doesn’t qualify as a citation, but it’s further than my interest in FPSs goes these days. Here’s something I very quickly found on the first Black Ops to put it in perspective.) Investors will get behind developing a game like this because they can be very confident they’ll make money on their investment.

Well, when a game nets over four million in funding from prospective buyers who are willing to wait two to four years for a game they’re paying for now, that’s arguably a better predictor for how much money a game might make: because it’s already  made money. I can only imagine what it’d be like to roll into a meeting with prospective video game investors and say “Hey, look, we want six million to make this game, which doesn’t exist yet and has already generated us six million dollars for development.”

To be fair, in this (and virtually all of the extreme cases I cite from Kickstarter) is a case where the devs in question are basically legendary: people know Chris Roberts. They know he’s put out good products before and people want a similar – if updated – product from him again. That doesn’t rule out smaller fish in the pond though; small projects make enough money to pay two or three people for a year to crank out a small but entertaining game. (Remember FTL.) Still, my favorite bit is the part where there’s no publisher to tell them what model to follow or what kind of things they need to feature to support the swag and action figure lines. They are making the game they want to, because $6 million worth of fan dreams are stacked up on their design document.

My wild extrapolation.

EA will continue to make Medal of Warfare clones and I don’t see any Kickstarted FPSs really holding a candle to them in the near future…on one condition. EA may not take kickstarted game seriously because they throw more than twice the numbers generated by a crowd-sourced effort at one of their own games, but I do know people that will: the developers.

I wonder how many now-ex-Bioware team members are watching Chris Roberts count his crowd-sourced dollars today. How many of them grew up with Wing Commander and Privateer and games in that generation? How many of those now-ex-Bioware guys got into making video games because of some really awesome games they played in the 90s? They left EA for a lot of reasons, no doubt, but considering the wonky trends their IPs have fallen down, I can’t help but muse that “loss of creative control” weighs in to their decision.

Either they’ll wait for their non-compete clauses to wear out, or they’ll move to California, or maybe they’ll need to wait for the sting to fade…but I look forward to the day when we see a Kickstarter pop up with some guys saying “Hey, Daniel Erickson here. My friends and I made games like KOTOR, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect pre-multiplayer. Maybe you remember how those games were and you miss it. Well, we do too. Give us ten million and we’ll do it again.”

My wallet’s in my hand, guys. California is a nice state. A state that doesn’t back Non-compete clause bullshit.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, maybe they will or maybe they won’t. But they’re not the only devs watching this happen. They’re not the only devs maybe wondering if they need to deal with EA or other big publishers. We may see a lot of small studios coming out of the woodwork in the years to come, with the ability to pay talented developers, designers, and artists without a giant AAA corp behind them. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll start seeing the quality of these military FPSs go down…because the talent will want to work on something more interesting.

Yep. Wallet in hand. I check Kickstarter daily. Just sayin’.

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