How do you measure success? How does someone judge that they are content with their circumstances? And what does one do with that success or circumstances? By the way, for everyone involved in Star Citizen, these are not rhetorical questions. In fact, it is not even a cliche “million-dollar” question(s); they are $140 million dollar questions. With that kind of crowdfunding success, these are questions that everyone from the most casual gamer all the way up to Chris Roberts himself must make some attempt to answer for themselves.
Interestingly, there is no right or wrong answer to these questions, yet everyone’s answer in some way helps to shape what Star Citizen and our experiences with it will be. For arguably the first in game development, what the final version of a game will become will be influenced by over a million voices giving feedback to CIG. I find that incredibly intimidating and almost magical at the same time. In an attempt to capture just a small bit of that magic I want to explore in this multi-part series the motivations and desires of the space men and women in the ‘Verse.
Is Success Big Numbers?
In business, a great many things just get reduced down to numbers and the human element is diminished or even disregarded. A businesses success in the world is often dependent on such numbers such as dollars, cents, items sold, etc so it is understandable. By that measurement, Star Citizen is already a success despite the final product being years away from completion. Here are just a few of the numbers for consideration:
- $143 million dollars crowdfunding revenue
- 1.7 million “Star Citizens” with an account for the game.
- A development team of over 350 people across international boundaries.
- 140,000+ likes and followers on Facebook
- Tens of thousands of hours of playtime in 2.6 patch alone.
- Untold twitch streamers making their living on streaming the game
Is Success Finishing The Marathon?
How many of us can actually run a full marathon? Whether you can or not, I’m quite sure that you can respect the effort it takes to do it. From a certain point of view, simply completing a project of this magnitude at all is a reasonable measure of success. In 2014 there was an article by Gamesindustry.biz that said that only one in four “early access” games would make it to a full release.
By contrast, Gamerant.com reported that approximately one in three crowdfunded games will release a “full product”. The full details can be found in the references section but I recommend that you examine these articles to fully grasp just how stacked the odds really are. If we assume that these articles are reflective of the situation at all, one could make a pretty good case that simply being a company that put out a product at all is a success. Having worked on Star Citizen for a little more than four years already, it is impressive that Chris and CIG continues to press on at all knowing that they still have years to go.
How about the Number of “Promises” Filled?
No matter what the content actually is upon the initial release of Squadron 42 or Star Citizen, there is definitely going to be someone who says “Yeah but you didn’t deliver on what you said over here”. If someone had a record of every statement ever made by CIG and made a list of every feature the game would or would not have upon release, how many of those are needed before the game is “done”? Does the studio fail to deliver the “promised” merchandise if they don’t deliver on just one bullet point? What about two? Where is the line by which you can say that we received bad merchandise or it is the normal development process?
A number of very large game developers often will cut out parts of a game that are incomplete or not working properly just so that they can make a deadline. You could argue that this was a small thing in most cases and since you did not have any financial stake in it, it was fine. However, crowdfunded games like Star Citizen are supported by people who may well have backed just to see that one thing you promised. To that semi-rare individual, the game could look like a failure even while the hoard was singing its praises.
Did You Enjoy Yourself?
The simplest measurement of them all, did you have a pleasant experience and come back for more? According to CIG’s leaderboards, there are a lot of space men and women who keep coming back for more and more Arena Commander. Some folks have even acquired more than a hundred hours in just one of those games, which doesn’t account for the time spent in the PU or other game features.
There must be something in there that they liked or they wouldn’t spend days worth of time doing it, right? I deeply appreciate the competitiveness of Arena Commander and have spent hours trying to push me and my org higher and higher on the leaderboards. I had fun and I think a lot of others have as well, and isn’t that the goal of a game?
Perhaps, the success of Star Citizen will not be in the technical achievements, the numbers, or even in the gameplay itself. Perhaps the success will come in the community itself and what we shared with each other. The game is still a long way from being finished but the community is much more than just an ordinary gamers community, it is more akin to family.
Sometimes it’s a little bit of dysfunctional family that likes to bicker a little too much, but it is easy, for anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see, to know that this doesn’t happen much. Life long relationships formed from thousands of miles away made “reality” at CitizenCon when hands grasped in friendship. Seeing Sandi break down in tears for being overwhelmed with the appreciation of the good people cheering her on the stage. Podcasts that give some entertainment to someone while on a long commute to work. BarCitizens that let us meet and drink with strangers who we share common ground with. Not since the anomaly that was World of Warcraft have so many from so far away been brought together, that is not to be ignored. WE are a success already, whatever follows is just icing on the cake.