I have long weathered the turmoil that is the development of the space sim MMO Star Citizen and its associated single player game Squadron 42. Nearly six years after the original crowdfunding campaign began, development is still going, often not at the speed most desired by those of us who backed early. The next Star Citizen update, alpha 3.0, will be the first since February of this year. While it will bring a host of new gameplay and technology to the forefront, it has also seen delay after delay. Somewhere in the background also stands Squadron 42, the single player game we have heard little about since last year. So, why all of the delays with alpha 3.0 and why no news about Squadron 42? We can only guess, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Recently, the typical weekly update show from the Star Citizen developer, Cloud Imperium Games (CIG), has transitioned from a status update by each of their studios to a “burndown” of the bugs that need to be squashed before alpha 3.0 can make it to the first round of public testers known as the Evocati. This release to the Evocati was expected to take place months ago now, but CIG continues to want to refine and polish the alpha release. Strange that the developers should want to have polish on an alpha release first meant to go to a select and NDA’d (non-disclosure agreement) group of around 1,000 dedicated testers. It is clear that CIG wants alpha 3.0 to be as perfect as it can, but why the scrutiny for an alpha build?
In addition, we have heard nothing about Squadron 42 for quite some time. CIG had said they would release a Squadron 42 schedule in the spring 2017 time frame, but this never happened and there has been little to no mention of it. Once the release window of Squadron 42 is known, I would fully expect CIG to begin their marketing blitz in order to garner even more sales. Since this has not started, one can only assume that Squadron 42 is still some time away with no known release date. Fans are hoping for some news during the October 27th CitizenCon hosted by CIG, but so far there is no indication of such content.
After listening to a number of fan podcasts and paying attention to the studio updates, I have developed my own opinion on the subject of both the alpha 3.0 polish and Squadron 42 silence. I think that CIG is going to announce a release window for Squadron 42 at CitizenCon and begin the marketing blitz. Why do I think this? Well, it’s the type of surprise that the backers and dedicated fans of the project would love, especially those that shelled out major dollars to attend CitizenCon in Germany this year. It would be great for the morale of the community after such a long period of time in the dark with information on the single player effort. Further, the announcement, marketing campaign, and associated spotlight it would bring certainly will also illuminate the Star Citizen MMO side of the house as well. Making sure that the ambitious alpha 3.0 release is as polished as possible is necessary given the number of media outlets and potential buyers that would be stopping by the website to see what the noise is all about. After all, we are likely to only get a trailer for Squadron 42, but the Star Citizen alpha is a fully playable game that shows the ability and direction of the full project. Screw up the Star Citizen alpha and visitors will think that Squadron 42 is equally as bad. Cannot have that type of showing for a potential $45 to $60 minimum from each new buyer.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. I certainly am adding a bit of optimism to my conjecture as I would like nothing more than to have Squadron 42 in my hands. However, I think there is some merit to this thought process and look forward to the CitizenCon presentation October 27.