Star Citizen raises $17 million, launches cosmetic store for hangar module
Sandbox space sim Star Citizen is raising money at such a steady rate that we'll soon be able to use its funding total as a replacement for calendars. Christmas will now be scheduled for $24.7 million, the new year for $24.9, and Half-Life 3's release date is projected somewhere in the billions. Today's date, for those who need to adjust to the new system, is $17 million. This, despite the fact that the only part of the game in players' hands is a hangar module, which acts as a museum for their purchased ships.
Millions of crowdfunded dollars aside, that museum now has an microtransaction store tied to it. Voyager Direct offers players in-game items for UEC - the game's currency, which is currently only available as a real-money purchase. It has prompted controversy among the game's community, with criticism over the pricing of items. For instance: a buggy that players can drive around the hangar costs 20,000 UEC - the equivalent of $20.
Community manager Ben Lesnick responded to the discussion, saying, "The VD store ended up coming across pretty much exactly the opposite way we wanted. We're working out a plan right now to make this right and I will have more for you as soon as possible." To which my main response is: you're going to call it The VD Store? Seriously?
Chris Roberts touched on the issue towards the end of the $17 million funding announcement, saying, "The intention of creating Voyager Direct right now was the very opposite of what a lot of people are upset about. It is not supposed to be a cash shop! It’s meant to be the very opposite!"
"I felt that it was important that we should make clear what are in-game items, earnable via game play," he writes. "This was the whole reason of segregating these new items into the Voyager Direct store rather than the pledge store. We intend for players to be earning UEC in a limited fashion as early as the dogfighting module (say for fighting so many test battles, or winning a team battle competition) and felt Voyager Direct would be the first step in getting the basic systems in place."
Ultimately, what's described is a fairly benign system, giving players the option to pay for in-game content that would otherwise be unlockable through playing the game. The issue seems to be more through timing. Releasing the store before the team had implemented a way for players to earn UEC makes the value of what is available impossible for the community to judge. It's hard to see it as the opposite of a cash-shop when it's made available before it can be anything else.
The developers are now working to address the community's feedback, and promising a free 5,000 UEC to every player.