Star Citizen received a shot across the bow recently after a dissatisfied backer complained to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority about a lack of transparency in marketing emails from developer Cloud Imperium Games. Redditor Mazty, who says they are "fed up" with CIG, reported the company when it failed to mention that a Gatac Railen ship on sale "does not exist and might never exist" in the actual game. The promo email also didn't mention the ship's price.
Mazty confirmed on Reddit (opens in new tab) that a few weeks after their report, the ASA determined that Cloud Imperium's promo email violated the Advertising Code of Practice.
"Don't miss your chance to pledge for the Gatac Manufacture Railen," the email read. "This alien concept ship will be leaving the pledge store on Monday, July 19... You only have 48 hours to grab this Xi'an alien ship before it leaves the pledge store Monday, July 19 at 23:59 UTC, so act fast before it departs!"
Star Citizen offers players the opportunity to buy pledge ships, which are work-in-progress vessels sold to fund development. They do not exist in-game at the time they're sold, which the promotional email doesn't mention. The ASA told CIG that it must be made clear that players are not buying a ship they can use right away. However, the ships do exist in some form of development as they are often announced alongside promotional images and trailers.
CIG has responded to the complaint with a disclaimer at the bottom of its promo emails. This disclaimer says that the featured ships—the Crusader Ares, A2 Hercules, and Genesis Starliner—are "in development" but aren't "ready to display in your Hangar or fly in Star Citizen" and that they will be available "in a later patch."
This disclaimer clears things up, though as you can see in this email (opens in new tab), the text is small and easy to miss. Mazty also believes it's still misleading that the text claims "the ships WILL be playable," as they have doubts about Star Citizen's future. Whether or not this meets the ASA's standards is unclear. By now you'd expect dedicated Star Citizen players to know the nature of these ship preorders, but those unfamiliar with how the game's pledge store works may fail to realize what exactly they're buying.
Star Citizen and its funding have been the subject of controversy for many years now. It's been in development since 2012 when it launched its Kickstarter and since then, it's continued crowdfunding. So far, it's earned over $350 million with 2020 being its most successful year yet. Despite that continued success, Cloud Imperium Games has not committed to a release date for Star Citizen or its singleplayer component, Squadron 42.