Advertising watchdog tells Star Citizen to clarify that the concept ships it sells aren’t available yet

Technology

It’s been 11 years since Star Citizen went into pre-production, but the ambitious space sim still has no final version release date, and some supporters are losing their patience. One of them went so far as to complain to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over its practice of selling virtual concept ships to keep on funding development, but the agency has handed out little more than a warning.

As reported by Eurogamer, Reddit user Mazty filed a complaint with the ASA in July over the sale of virtual concept ships, which aren’t actually in the game but are scheduled to appear at some point, though even that could change.

The complaint came after a marketing email was sent out to subscribers that stated, “Last Chance to Grab the Gatac Railen!” and “Don’t miss your chance to pledge for the Gatac Manufacture Railen. This alien concept ship will be leaving the pledge store on Monday…” The email failed to clarify that the Railen is not in the game yet, and there’s no estimated date for when it will appear.

The ASA assessed the complaint and concluded that “the fact the ship was a concept product could have been made clearer.”

“On that basis, we issued an Advice Notice advising the advertiser, in future, to ensure that its ads include any material information and significant limitations.”

An Advice Notice doesn’t involve any financial penalties. They are issued when the ASA considers there to be problems, but they aren’t significant enough to warrant a full investigation. Despite amounting to little more than a slap on the wrist, the notice has prompted Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games to make it clear what buying the concept ships entails.

“The Crusader Ares (Inferno and Ion), A2 Hercules, Genesis Starliner, are being offered here as a limited vehicle concept pledge,” reads the latest email.

“This means that the vehicle is in development but is not yet ready to display in your Hangar or fly in Star Citizen. It will be available as playable content in a later patch. In the future, the vehicle price may increase and Lifetime Insurance or any extras may not be available.”

Additionally, players who buy the concept ship will now receive a loaner vehicle for the game that offers similar size and functionality as the Railen.

Mazty isn’t satisfied with the outcome. They say that “the wording is still extremely misleading as they claim the ships WILL be playable.”

Despite all the controversy, the total amount of money crowdfunded by Star Citizen passed $350 million from over 3 million backers in March. Those waiting for the Squadron 42 single-player element, which features Hollywood stars such as Henry Cavill, Gillian Anderson, Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, and John Rhys Davies, were disappointed in December when all mention of the beta was removed from its roadmap. A couple of months earlier, studio boss Chris Roberts ominously warned that it would be “done when it’s done.”

A damning report in 2019 shone a light on Star Citizen’s troubled development and Roberts. Former Cloud Imperium employees painted him as a poor micromanager while describing the work environment as being chaotic. There have also been plenty of stories about those who pledged money getting it retuned but only after arduous fight through the courts, while other haven’t been so lucky. But it doesn’t seem to have dissuaded people from handing over their cash.