Big news in the world of Star Citizen: the developers have said they're targeting a mid-2020 beta for Squadron 42, the single-player campaign portion of the space sim, and 10 per cent of Cloud Imperium Games has been sold to investors.
Let's get Squadron 42 out of the way first. This big story-driven first-person shooter adventure, which stars Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson and Gary Oldman among other Hollywood stars, goes into beta at some point during the second quarter of 2020, CIG said. The news came as part of the publication of Squadron 42's development roadmap, which details when new features are expected to hit the game.
"Of course, also like its Star Citizen counterpart, the Squadron 42 roadmap is not necessarily exhaustive and may be changed or updated as development continues," CIG warned. "Make sure you read the caveats, and enjoy this insight into the process."
Meanwhile, CIG boss Chris Roberts announced 10 per cent of the company has been sold to investors, with a total of $46m invested. This values the company, which is actually two companies: Cloud Imperium US, LLC and Cloud Imperium UK Limited, at around $460m.
The investors are Clive Calder (founder of music company Zomba) and his son Keith (film producer behind Blindspotting and Anomalisa). Related, CIG has taken on two outside board members: lawyer Dan Offner (the Calders' pick) and CIG advisor Eli Klein. Roberts said he remains in control of the company and the board as chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of CIG.
Star Citizen began life back in 2012 as a crowdfunded game and, six years later, continues to describe its customers as people who "pledge" to the project. Perhaps with this in mind, Roberts stressed the $46m investment is dedicated to marketing Squadron 42, not developing it. Additionally, CIG has taken the unusual step of publishing its historical financials from 2012 to 2017. This reveals how much money has been raised from customers as well as how it's spent globally.
Roberts said CIG needed the money to help compete with the likes of EA and Activision's massive marketing budgets.
"All of our marketing is community focused and viral; events we host for all of you, in-fiction lore, commercials that help flesh out the world, and PR outreach," Roberts said.
"The fact that we have raised over $211m via word of mouth and viral marketing is staggering and a testament to how amazing a community all of you are. Everyone at Cloud Imperium is humbled to have your trust and support on this journey together.
"As a result, we are building two of the most ambitious games ever embarked on in gaming, with budgets that are unmatched by all but the very biggest projects.
"Having a great game is only half the battle. As we look towards the release of Squadron 42, we have been acutely aware that having a AAA game that matches the biggest single player games out there only goes so far if no one knows about it. The games we will be competing with for attention have tens and, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising behind them.
"Other companies in a similar situation have normally tackled this problem by partnering with a publisher for the marketing and sales of their game. As you all know I am not in favour of putting my destiny in the hands of a third-party. On the other hand, I don't feel it would be right to go back to all of you to raise funds to market the game to other people; most of you already have a copy earmarked for you and I still strongly feel that the money brought in from our crowdfunding should continue to go to the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42.
"Because of this, we started to investigate ways to raise money to fund the upcoming marketing and release needs of Squadron 42. We turned away some approaches from Private Equity and Venture Capital because we were concerned about them fully understanding what makes our company tick and pushing us towards short term decisions.
"This investment helps secure our independence. We may not have the resources that an Activision or EA have to launch one of their tentpole games, but we now control our own destiny in marketing Squadron 42, especially as we have a secret weapon: all of you! Between the power of the best community in gaming to help get the message out and these additional funds we will be well positioned to enable Squadron 42 to enjoy the success that it deserves.
"Beyond this, this investment gives Cloud Imperium the ability to take the long view when needed and allows us to grow as a company. I couldn't be happier."
Star Citizen began life in 2012 as a Kickstarter campaign that pitched an ambitious spiritual successor to Chris Roberts' much-loved Wing Commander series. Then, Star Citizen was due out in 2014. But as the money rolled in the scope of the project grew and this release window was pushed back. It's currently at the alpha 3.4 stage of development.