Would You Spend $15K On A Game Before It Comes Out?
Chris Roberts’ return to space combat simulations, Star Citizen, is a still long way off from release. While features like Arena Commander (the dogfighting module) are scheduled to come online earlier, some groups of players are already planning and plotting their future amongst the stars. With the rise of early access and pre-alpha business models, guilds and organizations are forming long before the games even hit the market. Organizations like Cosmic Ventures, with significant buy-in, can begin forming long-term goals and objectives before the title is close to complete.
Cosmic Ventures is a Star Citizen “guild” or organization about 70 strong. They got started around the time Roberts announced the Kickstarter campaign and came out of an implosion of another group, Blue Horizon. Star Citizen is an insanely ambitious project that encompasses almost all aspects of any space sim ever created, placing thousands upon thousands of ships, captains, and other various star-travellers in the same space to fight, live, and take up in-game careers. With over $42 million raised so far and not much for players to dig into, it can be difficult to understand backers that have placed tens of thousands of dollars into the game prior to alpha. A lot of that may be pent up demand for a genre that was once as popular as first-person shooters, but faded out of the spotlight as gamers transitioned to consoles.
“There’s a void in the genre,” says David Harris, a student who joined Cosmic Ventures. “EVE is out there but you’re not really flying. It’s just amazing that all these things have come together and it’s just bloomed. Since Star Citizen got going there’s been a lot more activity in the space genre. Right now it’s pretty much literally just EVE, but now there are a lot of space games coming. I think it’s going to be a good competitor for EVE, which is what I used to play.”
While players have only minimal access to ships and other features at this time, Cosmic Ventures has big plans for the future. Though Cloud Imperium Games is still figuring out the Star Citizen economy, several groups of fans have already started thinking about how they could gain a strong foothold in the galaxy once the persistent universe goes live some time in late 2015.
“Just like every other organization, we’re just going to have fun in the game, but we’re also looking at the factories and stuff, to make money that way – become a symbiotic conglomeration,” says Bruce Wooten, a retired military man who is heavily invested in the group. “If one person has a factory that creates one commodity, someone else will have one that uses that commodity. We’re working together as an organization. Using factories to create things, turning them into credits, turning credits into money. But we don’t know what’s exactly going to be allowed at this stage.”
The plans for the conglomeration run the gamut of options available to players in Star Citizen. "We plan on mining, providing security, trading commodities, selling information, salvaging, re-fueling, tourism, movie production, racing, ship rentals, property leasing, bounty hunting, transportation, ship/system/weapon overclocking, and factory managing to maximize members profits all while maintaining a symbiotic relationship,” says Kyle Werner, another student who joined the ranks of Cosmic Ventures. “Basically we give our members freedom to do what they wish so long as they help each other out in times of need.”
To get the head start, many of them have invested significant amounts of cash to build up fleets. Wooten in particular has gone all in. “I’m at over $15,000 into it,” he says. “I used to have over 80 something ships, but I’ve liquidated some of them. I don’t sell at a profit; I know there’s a lot of gray market things going on out there. Everything was handled with in-game trades.” Harris has around $2,000 invested in the game already, as well.
Though Cosmic Ventures has thrown in so much money to get its virtual conglomeration off the ground as soon as possible, it will still be on the same footing as less invested players when the game launches. “Just because I have these amazing ships when the game start doesn’t mean everything, because I’m going to need a crew and currency,” Wooten admits.
While Star Citizen seems to be coming along nicely based on what we’ve seen from the PAX East demo and more, it would be amiss to not take into consideration that these big backers may have invested in a product that may never live up to expectations. Wooten doesn’t appear concerned about this, and has a great deal of faith in Chris Roberts and his team that the greatest space game ever is on the horizon.