This year's CitizenCon, the annual convention celebrating all things Star Citizen, was going to be a little different from previous events, because this year Cloud Imperium planned to charge $20 for a "digital ticket" that would grant access to all livestreamed events. Unsurprisingly, that plan, as you can see in this Star Citizen subreddit thread, went over like a lead balloon with a significant number of Star Citizen fans.
The complaints arose from two rather obvious points: First, that Star Citizen has pulled in more than $193 million in crowdfunding (so zipping people for 20 bucks to see what's going on seems pretty chintzy), and second, despite being in development since 2011, it's still not actually out yet. The uproar was such that Star Citizen head guy Chris Roberts posted a lengthy message explaining the reasons for the decision—which he said was his idea—and also walking it back.
"This year's CitizenCon is much bigger than last years, with two separate stages and tracks," Roberts wrote. "We did this because we felt the format we tested last year was a success and because of this we wanted to expand it to allow more people to attend and provide more opportunities to hear from and interact with the devs."
The original plan was to only stream the opening keynote, and not bother recording anything at all from the second stage. But Roberts decided that wasn't satisfactory—and since the panels were going to be recorded, they might as well be streamed too, right? "And since we constantly get criticized for our home-brew approach to videography and streaming, let's bring in a specialist company that can handle multiple simultaneous stages, cameras and streams," he wrote.
"I thought let's take a leaf out of Blizzard's book and have a digital pass to allow people to virtually be there for all the presentations and the money for these passes would help offset the not inconsiderable increase in costs that I was asking for because I wanted to do it better for all of you," Roberts explained. "It was a gamble because we're committing to the increased costs without knowing how many people would take us up on it but I decided we would take the gamble this year and if it doesn't pan out we'll write it up to experience and not be as ambitious in our video and live stream goals next year."
Thought was given to making the keynote and closing ceremony free for all, but the studio decided to keep everything behind the pass. Roberts said that restricting access to the whole show would also enable Cloud Imperium to deliver high-quality recordings to all game sites simultaneously, so "we don't have to worry about different sites all trying to preempt each other, some linking to our stream, some linking to someone's YouTube re-post."
"What we didn't anticipate is how dearly some of you value watching the main CitizenCon presentation live," Roberts said.
The initial plan, in the wake of the backlash, was to make the keynote and closing address available to everyone with a Star Citizen account, and require the digital pass only for livestreams of other events—again, very much in the tradition of BlizzCon. However, in an update, Roberts said Cloud Imperium will cut back on the crew and costs of livestreaming, and make all livestreams available for free to anyone with a Star Citizen account. Instead of a digital ticket, fans who want to help defray the costs of the extra streams can purchase a "Digital Goodies Pack," with an an in-game wearable duster jacket, CitizenCon 2948 trophy, CitizenCon 2948 Weapon, and access to purchase exclusive CitizenCon merchandise, for $10.
CitizenCon 2948, as it is apparently officially known, will take place on October 10 in Austin, Texas.