A Star Citizen backer who went to small claims court seeking a refund of $ 4,496 he had put toward the long-delayed crowdfunded space sim has seen his case dismissed.
Ken Lord, a data scientist from Colorado, had been a massive Star Citizen backer since the game first launched on Kickstarter in 2012. But he’s since grown disillusioned with the title’s numerous delays, broken promises, and changes in scope, according to reports on Motherboard and Kotaku
Key among those changes was a new direction for spin-off shooter Squadron 42, which removed a planned multiplayer co-op mode and added required first-person portions to the game. Lord, who has multiple sclerosis, said this now means “my money’s stuck in a game I can’t possibly play.”
In reports, Lord said he felt his requests for a refund from Roberts Space Industries—including a five-page letter—weren’t getting due response. So he filed a lawsuit earlier this month, presenting evidence of dozens of development promises RSI hadn’t fulfilled in a timely fashion.
In court, though, RSI cited Lord’s access to a beta test of the game through the game’s “Evocati” program as evidence it was delivering a product in exchange for Lord’s money. RSI also cited its terms of service, which limit remedies to binding arbitration out of court, as reason to dismiss the case.
Lord presented evidence that this arbitration clause was not present in the initial version of the Terms of Service, when Lord made his first contribution to the RSI Kickstarter. But RSI tells Kotaku that the vast majority of Lord’s 61 pledges came after the arbitration clause was added and that Lord accepted the new terms of service when he added additional funds to his initial pledge. An LA county judge agreed with RSI, cutting off Lord’s hopes for a refund, though he tells Motherboard he’s “evaluating his options” as far as appeal.
“Our Terms of Service provides refunds for 14 days after each pledge is made, but company policy is to refund anyone who has second thoughts for up to 30 days after their pledge, no questions asked,” RSI said in a statement. “Outside of this window, we still consider refund requests for exceptional cases, but generally at that point the funds need to be considered available for development. This policy is actually very generous when compared to nearly any other gaming company—most publishers would not allow any refund at all after players have downloaded and played for several hours.”
Star Citizen is by far the biggest financial success story in the video game crowdfunding era, raising more than $ 190 million in funding from more than two million backers so far. But a growing number of those backers seem unsatisfied with the pace of development and an ever-increasing list of delayed or broken promises surrounding the game. Nearly six years after that initial Kickstarter, backers are still limited to an early alpha version with a handful of planets, ships, and missions. Whether or not backers’ expectations have been met, Lord’s court case shows that they’re likely stuck with the sunk cost of their investment into whatever Star Citizen will eventually become. The case provides yet more evidence that crowdfunding is not just a fancy pre-order system where you can take back your support before the product is delivered. Once you invest your money into the boundlessly optimistic promises of most crowdfunding efforts, you should consider that money gone for good.