According to Its Budget, Star Citizen Must Release Within Two and a Half Years

Star Citizen's $130 million funding may seem like a tremendous amount of money. But even that kind of money will run out eventually when developing a game.

Christ Roberts' latest and highly controversial title, Star Citizen, has made a record-breaking $130 million through crowdfunding since 2012. With the game still in an alpha stage of development, the question that remains is: how much longer will the funding last? Let's do some calculations and come up with an estimate of how long the developer has before all that funding runs out.

The average cost of designers and programmers

According to the Star Citizen forums, since 2012 the development team for the game has increased from 40 people to approximately 400 across multiple offices. Generally, designers and programmers take up at least half of the entire team on projects of such a scale because they play the biggest role in a game's development. 

At present, the average US salary of a video game designer is $85,240. For video game programmers the average salary stands at $95,300. With that, let's take half of the employees each year, and work out the salaries based on that for both designers and programmers.

  • 2012 - 2013: 40 employees (10 designers and 10 programmers) ($852,400 designers) ($953,000 programmers) = $1,805,400
  • 2013 - 2014: 100 employees. (25 designers and 25 programmers) ($2,131,000 designers) ($2,382,500 programmers) = $4,513,500
  • 2014 - 2015: 200 employees. (50 designers and 50 programmers) ($4,262,000 designers) ($4,765,000 programmers) = $9,027,000
  • 2015 - 2016: 400 employees: (100 designers and 100 programmers) ($8,524,000 designers) ($9.530,000 programmers) = $18,054,00

That brings the total cost for designers and programmers from 2012-2016 to $33,399,900. That is based on average salaries and assuming half the employees consist of those roles. If the developer continues to employ this many developers and programmers, it will continue to cost over $18 million per year.

Of course, these figures are not including the salaries of other roles in the company such as artists, sound designers, writers and PR. Let's take a look at those next.

The average cost of the rest of the employees

The average salaries for the above-mentioned roles are as follows:

  • Artists: $51,612
  • Sound designers: $74,000
  • PR: $33,000
  • Writers: $102,000

These are the average salaries for each of the roles. The average of those put together comes to a total of $65,153. Next, we need to use the same method we used for the programmers and designers to make an estimate of their cost.

  • 2012 - 2013: 40 employees (20 PR, Writers, Sound Designers and Artists) = $1,303,060
  • 2013 - 2014: 100 employees (50 PR, Writers, Sound Designers and Artists) = $3,257,650
  • 2014 - 2015: 200 employees (100 PR, Writers, Sound Designers and Artists) = $6,515,300
  • 2015 - 2016: 400 employees (200 PR, Writers, Sound Designers and Artists) = $13,030,600

This brings the total cost of all those roles to $24,106,610. If you add the total of the two estimations of all the employees, you get $57,506,510 spent so far on the project. Of course, this is not including marketing and hiring voice actors (Mark Hamill) and the likes. So the total cost from 2012-2016 is probably not far off or a bit higher than estimated here.

At this rate of employment, it would cost $31,084,600 per year for the game's development. This would mean that Star Citizen would need to release within two and half years before the funding runs dry.

If the estimates are in any way near correct, can it be done?

Star Citizen is currently in an alpha stage of development. Two and a half years to get from an alpha stage of development to a full release with such a big team is very possible. The obstacle is ambition. As long as no more features are promised for the game and development continues as normal, it should be a straight road.

At this point, the core mechanics and gameplay to the game should be fully implemented, and all that is left is a few tweaks and a bit of polish before beta. If so, that would give enough time, to get the game into beta, out of it and finally polished off. I feel it may be tight, but it can be done.


Playing video games for over 23 years, love to write and love everything video game related.

Published Nov. 14th 2016

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