200 Imaginary Spaceships Sold For a Real $250,000 in Star Citizen 24-hour Livestream Event
In a jaw-dropping nine minutes, fanatical fans of ambitious space-sim Star Citizen showed their uncompromising passion for the still unreleased PC game by throwing their money at the opportunity to own a limited edition Idris Corvette capital ship.
During a 24-hour livestream event, Cloud Imperium Games sold 150 of the vessels in the 9-minute time period—and then a further 50 in response to the apparent demand.
And why not? After all it's free money.
A publication on the slick new Roberts Space Industries website immediately prior to the event explained:
“As part of the livestream, we are making an additional 150 Idris corvettes available for sale starting now. This second set of corvettes is not the fully-equipped military assault model available during the earlier event, but a stripped down peacekeeper version aimed at having less of an impact on the initial game balance.”
The Idris corvette is described as “a small capital ship capable of storing smaller fighters and being run by a team of players working together.”
Taking full advantage of the crowd-funding process, Cloud Imperium Games had previously sold 100 similar vessels for a slightly lower price despite it being a more powerful item.
Judging by the RSI forum response, this is something that came as a surprise to one purchaser:
“So I picked up an Idris-P super impulsively, and then got the chance to read through the fine prints once I secured one. I noticed the UEE Idris has a Class 8 Hardpoint... but the -P does not.” - Operator
One player either saw the folly of his purchase or the opportunity for a profit:
“My financial situation has changed slightly plus looks like a lot of players missed out so anyone still looking for an Idris-P Corvette I might be selling the one I got depending on what offers I get...” - TRON
Although these items seem unreasonably expensive, one community member justifies his purchase like so:
“I bought one because I wanted to support RSI, which is all your doing in the end. There are now 300 people with LTI corvettes. 200 of which are dumbed down "civilian' versions of them which costed 25% more, which is fine by me.” - ChaosShadow00x
Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts justified the cost in an interview with Joystiq.com, explaining that development costs of each individual ship design can range from $35,000 to $150,000 if you factor in the labour required to model the object realistically with convincing hulls comprising hundreds of thousands of polygons, moving parts and detailed ship interiors.
International Nerd Rage
Thankfully, these significant real money investments are at least protected. Each purchase comes with LifeTime Insurance (LTI) which will ensure that the vessel will always be replaced if destroyed or stolen.
On the Star Citizen forums, the community response to the live sale was mixed. The surprise at the speed the ships were purchased was almost unanimous, with some voices of dissent at the timing. The limited edition ships were all sold late in the day US time, meaning that it was the early hours of the morning in Europe.
Concerns were raised that these capital ships, which will clearly be a powerful asset to competitive clans in-game, will largely remain in the hands of US-based players, potentially ostracising international communities.
“I am also a little disappointed with that "last minute" sale in the middle of the night for european players.” - The Judge
“At work now.. in norway. On mobile phone now. Hoping for a stab at an idriss before stream ends.. they really cant exclude us EUROs like this.. i'm hoping..:-)” - BaudolinoX
“It's what US based companies do all the time though. Regardless of wether or not their community is mostly European. Annoying as hell, but nothing new.” - Skurkanas
This regional disparity is something I've experienced from the other end in my tenure as an EVE Online player – with the Icelandic sci-fi MMO's infrastructure based in Europe, live events, which are invariably run during office hours, often draw ire from inconvenienced US citizens.
However, at time of writing, the Star Citizen livestream is still ongoing--after all, it is a 24-hour livestream event--so the decision to favour US residents is less explicable. Perhaps there will be further sales.
Reaching for the Stars
With a release date slated for late 2014, Star Citizen is still a long way from completion. however the production values and sheer swagger shown in every aspect of the development process so far suggests that they could be on course to deliver something special.
They have clearly already built a dedicated following, having crowd-sourced funding of over $11m. Whatever kind of crazy this particular sci-fi community is cultivating, no one can question their commitment.
Or their affluence.