Roberts Space Industries has altered its Terms of Service to remove to a provision that allows Star Citizen backers to claim a refund if "relevant pledge items and/or the Game" haven't been shipped within 18 months of its estimated date.
The change, which was spotted by Kotaku, only applies to new backers, with those who have already made a contribution to Star Citizen's $116 million in crowd-sourced funds still able to claim a refund once RSI has failed to meet a delivery date within 18 months. The relevant part of the old clause was worded like this:
"Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of your Pledge 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."
The altered clause, in full, is below, with the changes highlighted:
"RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the pledge items and the Game on or before the estimated delivery date communicated to you on the Website. However, you acknowledge and agree that delivery as of such date is not a firm promise and may be extended by RSI since unforeseen events may extend the development and/or production time. Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of your Pledge shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has ceased development and failed to deliver the relevant pledge items and/or the Game to you."
Another clause, extant in both versions of RSI's ToS, erodes the possibility of a refund further. The clause states, "Any Pledge amounts applied against the Pledge Item Cost and the Game Cost shall be non-refundable regardless of whether or not RSI is able to complete and deliver the Game and/or the pledge items." In the event of such a failure to deliver, RSI would publish an "audited cost accounting" on its website illustrating its use of Pledge amounts, with the backer agreeing to "irrevocably waive" any rights to a refund based on how the Pledge had been used.
Kotaku's legal adviser has indicated that, "the likelihood of actually receiving a refund under either set of terms might be quite slim."
This is particularly relevant to Star Citizen due to both the modular nature of its design, with the game's four parts developed by individual teams, often in different locations, with alpha and beta versions of each released separately.
This makes the basic idea of a 'release date' more complicated, certainly when compared to games with more conventional modes of production. Nevertheless, the earliest release date offered for Star Citizen by RSI was 2014, so the potential for refunds for dissatisfied backers has been a hot topic for quite some time. As such, this kind of change to the ToS is relevant information for anyone contemplating backing the project.
At present, the point at which all of Star Citizen's components will be brought together for a full release is scheduled to happen later this year.