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Star Citizen had a ‘record-breaking’ year of crowdfunding

The beta of the single-player game is expected later this year

An orange ship comes in for a landing in an atmospheric hanger in Star Citizen concept art.
The ARGO Astronautics MPUV-1P, commonly referred to as the ‘Argo Personnel.’
Image: Roberts Space Industries
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Star Citizen shows no signs of slowing down, in terms of fundraising dollars from players. In fact, last year may have been the crowdfunded space game’s biggest year yet.

Data shared by the team behind Star Citizen appears to show that the multigame project earned around $47.7 million from crowdfunding in 2019. That’s an increase of more than 26% over the previous year. Combined with $46 million in private investment from 2018, creator Chris Roberts and his team at Roberts Space Industries (RSI) have pulled in an estimated $131.5 million over the last two years.

RSI keeps a running tally of its crowdfunding earnings on its own website. Daily changes in the total are collected by the community, and uploaded to a publicly available spreadsheet to track its progress. In the past, RSI has indicated that the total does not include any returns or refunds issued.

RSI declined to confirm last year’s $47.7 million crowdfunding haul for Polygon. A statement made in December did acknowledge the company had a “record-breaking year” of fundraising.

Launched as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, the Star Citizen project has two main products. The first, referred to as the Persistent Universe (PU), is an MMO-like experience that is currently playable, albeit in an incomplete, pre-alpha state. The second, a single-player game called Squadron 42, is expected to enter beta later this year and will include the acting talents of Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Henry Cavill, and others. Both products are available for sale at the RSI website, where you can get in on the action for as little as $45.

RSI sells much more than just games, however. It also offers a fleet of virtual starships, some of which cost several hundred dollars. It’s through the sales of these ships that the majority of RSI’s income is earned — a self-reported $267 million so far.

The Star Citizen project remains the highest-grossing crowdfunding project of any kind, for any thing. To put things into perspective, understand that there were 380 successful video game Kickstarters in 2019 that together raised a grand total of $16.3 million. Star Citizen earned nearly three times that amount last year.

New features coming to the PU in the future include actual persistence between sessions, allowing players to keep the goods that they buy — like clothing and weapons — after they log off. RSI also plans to add a 40-player multiplayer mode. The new combined arms mode, called Theaters of War, looks a bit like the classic Battlefield franchise, with two teams of players fighting against each other in progressively more competitive engagements over contested territory.

Update (Dec. 22): As of late December, the Star Citizen project appears to have had another record-breaking year. Self-reported funding data shows the company earned more than $77 million from backers in 2020. The single-player game has not yet entered beta, while development on the Persistent Universe continues.

Asked to comment, a representative told Polygon, “We do not have an official statement we can share on behalf of CIG at this time.”

In October, to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the project’s inception, founder Chris Roberts fielded questions from the community at length. Included in that conversation were promises of more transparency going forward.

“We can always improve,” Roberts wrote, “and if you follow CIG and Star Citizen close enough you will notice that we are always trying new things and tweaking existing processes both in our development approach and structure in how we communicate and share information with all of you.”