Star Citizen Backer Gets $2500 Refund After Complaining to Attorney General
"There was nothing special about this situation," Cloud Imperium says.
We'll begin emailing you updates about %gameName%.
After having his request for a refund initially turned down, a Star Citizen backer has received more than $2,500 back from developer Cloud Imperium Games after he complained to California's Attorney General.
The road to securing that refund is documented in a post by the backer, who goes by the name Streetroller, on the Something Awful forums (which were subsequently shared on Imgur). In his initial request, he stated, "Because of various changes of policy by Cloud Imperium Games or Roberts Space Industries, the product remains unfulfilled and no longer constitutes the product(s) I originally purchased. To bring this to a resolution, I am requesting a full refund."
Star Citizen remains unreleased almost four years after its crowdfunding campaign first began, though modular components of it have been offered to the public. Cloud Imperium initially turned Streetroller down, citing the 14-day window where it offers refunds following a pledge. It also cited its terms of service, which it said make it clear he was not entitled to a refund.
The two sides then exchanged another round of emails in which Streetroller insisted he is eligible for a refund and Cloud Imperium insisted it couldn't do anything. Streetroller then shared his plan to contact various groups, such as the Federal Trade Commission and Internet Crime Complaint Center, as well as California's Attorney General and PayPal.
"I thought you guys were a great company, misguided maybe, but least not brutal," he wrote. "I know my rights, and I won't let any company--even one I may have liked--to take $3000 from me."
This resulted in a $900 refund through Amazon Payments and a reply from a representative for the Attorney General's office. It noted that the complaint was forwarded to Cloud Imperium, which in turn responded to the Attorney General's office.
Cloud Imperium's reply said that Streetroller agreed to terms of service that explained his money would be non-refundable.
"Contrary to complainant's statements, terms to this effect have been in the ToS and/or Commercial Terms ever since Star Citizen's crowdfunding began," it stated. "None of the revisions to our ToS have affected complainant's position in this regard which is also in line with typical crowdfunding terms as they can be found for example on Kickstarter, the world's most preeminent crowdfunding site. In accordance with the above, complainant's pledge has been used for the game development, and therefore has been earned and is no longer returnable to the complainant at this point."
It also said that the release dates it provided "were estimates, as is customary in the context of crowdfunding." It then explained that the huge amount of money raised by the game expanded its scope and that Streetroller made "several additional pledges after this expansion became well known." It also pointed to the long development cycle of other large-scale games that can take four to five years.
"We understand that some individuals may not want to wait for the completion of the project and ask for refunds," it continues. "Even though these are very few exceptions, put simply, 'takebacks' are not compatible with the whole concept of crowdfunding since it is simply not fair to the fundraising backers who join our community every month."
Despite all of this, it then said that it would grant Streetroller his desired refund.
"Nonetheless, having reviewed complainant's interactions with our customer service agents, we have determined that it is also in our interest to terminate his participation in our fundraising community," it stated. "We are therefore agreeing to close complainant's account permanently and we will issue a refund of his pledge promptly."
Streetroller reports that, about two weeks later, he received two additional refunds for "the additional balance of what [he] was unable to recover." One of these was for $1,650, while the other was for $10. Combined with the $900 he earlier reported he got back, that brings the total to $2,560. He claims to have gotten back $3,000 in all.
GameSpot contacted Cloud Imperium for comment regarding its decision to offer a refund and was told nothing has changed regarding its policies.
"Any refunds with respect to Star Citizen are made on a discretionary basis," a representative said. "There was nothing special about this situation. The fact that this particular party used a complaint form that is online and openly available, doesn’t make this any different."
The subject of Star Citizen refunds gained some attention in June due to a change to the company's terms of service. As reported by Kotaku, a clause that had previous said "unearned portion[s]" of pledges "shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has failed to deliver the relevant pledge items and/or the game to you within eighteen (18) months after the estimated delivery date." This language was then adjusted to say these portions aren't refundable "until and unless RSI has ceased development and failed to deliver the relevant pledge items and/or the game to you."
Essentially, it made it more difficult to secure any kind of refund based on the long wait for anyone who backs the game after the change was made in June. (The original terms still apply to anyone who backed the game prior to this change.) Whether the shift in language will impact another situation like this from arising, though, remains to be seen.
Star Citizen's crowdfunding is now over a whopping $117 million from more than 1.4 million people. A major update for the playable alpha was released last month. Just prior, the studio said it expected the "pace of production [to] continue to pick up as it already has since late 2015."