Star Citizen fans debate monetization, journalism, and the state of the game

    
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Star Citizen fans debate monetization, journalism, and the state of the game

This past Sunday, I was invited to join the Sol Citizens community podcast to talk about what it’s like to cover Star Citizen. As MOP’s de facto “Star Citizen guy,” I gladly accepted the invitation.

In the livestreamed podcast, I talk with hosts GriffinGamingRPG and fastcart about my experience as a games writer both in general and in relation to the internet spaceship sandbox, and provided my thoughts on what CIG could do better, what it’s doing well, and some explanation on why I wrote pieces about expensive ships and voted to gave Star Citizen the dubious Worst Business Model Award among other topics.

The stream took nearly two hours, which was apparently a bit longer than the show’s usual runtime. If you happened to have missed it live, there’s a video of the whole thing embedded below. And I want to express my thanks once more to Griffin and FC for extending the invitation and for being gracious hosts and fun people to talk Star Citizen with.

source: YouTube as well as my own brain

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Aldristavan

I’m surprised that He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered hasn’t weighed in on this post.

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Rhime

Having spent a few hundred bucks many years ago to get in, watching the years go by and my hardware get old (I keep upgrading it!) has now made it clear to me that I need to step away from the game and move on until the game reaches a significant point in development (beta?). There are so many other games to play and enjoy with my friends and family members while waiting for SC to bake.
I think this will allow me to stay hopeful that the game will ever get released and that it will be exciting to finally log in and enjoy it as a fully released game and not try it out in bits and pieces.

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Sur Couf

I did back SC years ago and keep coming back regularly to play few hours per month. I never expected much more from an alpha.
About rigs, CIG do have a dedicated page listing backer’s configuration vs performance. This is called telemetry on their site.
Playing in 1080 with a gtx 1060 and SSD do allow to get everywhere without much trouble and more or less stable fps. Not perfect but I will upgrade later on.
I am on the same road than you: many others games to play while supporting a project I care about.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

The monetization doesn’t bother me as much as the integrity of the company not mattering much to them. Three years ago they had a video outlining how they were going to give us the hex code so we could dye our ships how we want, when we wanted, just like GW2.

During fleet week they decided they needed to monetize it first with larger ships costing more for a one time, specific dye job and that the free stuff would come later.

Not only is it hilarious that it took 3 years to get hex code which is like shit you learn in grade school how to do, but then they decided to go against their word and charge money for it with no discernible time announced for when it would be earnable in game.

It begs the question: Why would CIG have Star Citzen ever leave alpha and stop charging for ships and paint jobs?

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Joe Blobers

Quote: “Why would CIG have Star Citzen ever leave alpha and stop charging for ships and paint jobs?”
Because Alpha is a normal and mandatory development step as are Beta then release.
Beta means fundamental techs are mature and allow to throw contents. How mature techs and pipelines followed by more contents translate in real MMO life? more players = more revenues.
Just saying that picking alpha as being the best way for CIG to make more money is fundamentally wrong. Same apply to Beta toward release.

Second point, some are complaining about expensive ships sale, which is the base of this project funding by the way. Now CIG add cosmetic assets: clothes, weapons of different colors, ships paint… This is called micro-transactions for a reason in all MMO’s and answer the question of future CIG funding.

Damned if they sell ships damned if they sell paints!

Based on anon source, the +500 devs family are not paying bills with forum commenters…
Should we mention again, that none is forced to buy more than a 45$ (depending on taxes) starter package?

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traja

Selling ships for ridiculous prices under the umbrella of supporting development is how they have made hundreds of millions of dollars. It is going to be extremely difficult to compete with that using micro-transactions. It’s not impossible but it would require success comparable to GTA V.

By far the more responsible financial strategy is to never stop asking for backer money. That means never coming out of beta.

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Joe Blobers

That is a common misrepresentation to believe CIG did made hundred M$ selling very expensive ships. Idris, Javelin and such multi K$ account for few M$ in total. This is a tiny fraction of the current amount.

* What matter is the time factor with backers upgrading their initial ships over years, new backers (count increased from 40K end of kickstarter to roughly +1.2 million of individual backer accounts in 2020), micro-transactions, UEC Gift Certificates, subscribers…. new patch adding more gameplay, contents, bugs fixed… more new SC bakers.

* SQ42 Episode 1 will bring more cash in from PC gamers. Episodes 2 & 3 will bring again more overs years.

* New consoles generation hardware (2020) are totally compatible with SQ42 in terms of CPU and GPU performance. That is another opportunity to at least double the number of gamers.

* CIG have a big incentive to start SQ42 beta then release it. That is the ultimate proof resources have been used to built what have not been seen over years… and to inject it in SC.

* SC is going to get mandatory techs like Icache and Server meshing. Between development, release and optimization plus patch adding required features like docking of Physical Components needed for salvage and repair, any sort of so called, beta won’t happen before end of next year.

To be clear, I am not sure those joining the community care about how we call it. What matter is more stability, contents, gameplay. The sum of all contents will be monetized a way or another.
Backers which are also consumers will vote with their wallet, will validate some monetization model by adjusting their pledges based on what they like or approve. This is proven already by soon 8 years of development.

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traja

Do note that there is no ship on offer that is a “micro” transaction. They are all macro transactions that start with the price of a reasonably priced new game and end with the price of a cheap used car.

To match that later on they would need to keep these macro transactions flowing despite there being no more backers. It’s possible but to me it just seems like a financial risk that is not worth taking compared to the option of never stopping relying on backers.

Of course they will keep developing even if there is never an actual launch. It might even at some point become a genuinely good game. If an outrageously pay to win one. Which is another reason to never launch because that would mean removing the cover of development that is obfuscating how ugly the business model really is.

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traja

The main issue I have with the business model of Star Citizen is that it greatly disincentives ever coming out of alpha or beta. Hundreds of employees are earning their living from the constant flow of money from backers supporting the development, and presumably the owners are gaining wealth from the same. Once the game officially launches that flow of cash will quickly fade so my guess is that Star Citizen will never launch.

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FormlessOne

“Monetization?” How much more do they need?

Nine years. It’s been in development for nine years. They’ve done everything from piecemeal module “releases” to redefining the very term, “release,” each time they blow by a date or milestone.

The average human generation is 30 years. We’re at the point where this thing may not be an actual, complete, released game for a third to half of a generation, possibly longer. The only reason to continue paying attention to this mess is sheer bloody-mindedness.

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Arktouros

I think Star Citizen’s monetization model is fine, much in the way that I think Entropia Universe is fine. Have at it. You want a game built on the idea of selling it’s players multi thousand dollar in game assets? Go for it. Have fun with those internet space ships space cowboys and cowgirls. I mean if a company can make a business taking large sums of income from people and they’re getting what they want out of it great.

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styopa

I guess I’d be pegged as one of those more or less constantly harshing on SC, but I fully agree: it’s their business model, and if they’re successful enough at doing it, more power to them.

I don’t personally LIKE it, mainly because I’d like to someday play a space MMORPG, and even if I have that sort of $, I’m never going to have so much that I’d waste it on a game in that way, but my opinion doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

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Arktouros

I don’t personally LIKE it, mainly because I’d like to someday play a space MMORPG, and even if I have that sort of $, I’m never going to have so much that I’d waste it on a game in that way, but my opinion doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

Oh I’ll certainly never play it either hahaha. Could you imagine normal people ever actually playing a game where others can just buy their way through the game for thousands of dollars? Just yikes.

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styopa

Honestly, if it was pure pve and the world/story was good, I probably wouldn’t care.

So Bill has a full set of supercrap and a titanic fleet carrier that he credit-card-warrior’d his way to? As long as it doesn’t detract from my experience, I don’t really give a crap.
In 6 months, when I have half the stuff he got in week 1, and we’re both doing endgame content, he’s probably bored while it’s still interesting to me.

It’s the MMO equivalent of having cheat codes in a single player game. Sure, it’s fun for about 15 mins and then you’re like, ok, well, so what am I supposed to achieve now? Unless you’re about 6 years old, swaggering epeen isn’t satisfying for very long.

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Arktouros

I agree to an extent.

BDO for example it’s theoretically possible to swipe your way to success. However another person’s success has very little impact on other players typically and the cost of doing so is absurd (think 5-6 figures). If I was not a crafter/lifeskiller where you can’t buy your way to higher skill ranks I probably would have quit when they implemented such mechanics into the game.

However the rationality of that argument doesn’t negate my feeling that by them adding ways for others to pay to reach similar levels of success that it undermines the value of my accomplishments. We could try to assign additional value towards the work of the accomplishment but I tend to hold a view of objective value which cannot ignore the ability to simply purchase your way to the same result. It’s like saying the desert tastes sweeter because you had to save and work harder for it but the objective reality is it tastes the same regardless.

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Joe Blobers

Quote: “Could you imagine normal people ever actually playing a game where others… ”

According to last funding charts and 10.000 thousands new backers at every patch despite being in Alpha, the answer is that you are either in the minority or you are okay not to play ambitious game with more unique features packed than any single released triple-A.
Not every single Citizen of Earth will join, which is totally fine.

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Arktouros

You are talking about a game market of millions. Of which we’ve seen repeatedly across multiple games extreme opposition towards any kind of system where RL$ has any kind of significant influence or impact in game. You’re just being obtuse if you don’t think that will have any impact on a game where you can spend thousands on in game goods.

Like seriously I really am happy ya’ll good with it and love the game. No sarcasm, you guys do you. However only fooling yourselves if you think that’s going to work for majority of people no matter how good the game is.

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Joe Blobers

I do hardly fooling myself as a success of a project is not even based on a majority.

We could first define what success means:
– Is it selling the highest amount of copy to PC players over X years vs another title?
– Is it filling what looks like a niche market (space game) but adding enough features to attracted a much larger players base? FPS, ground/atmosphere/space fight (TOW), prison, mining, salvage, construction.. and so on… all in one interactive universe.

For a pure gaming stand point, answer is the later.
Success equal to large enough support to keep providing contents and make players satisfied… exactly what Publishers don’t care at all.

Strong monetization model opposition did not stopped Fortnite to make 3 Billions in one year. Whales have spend thousands while many did spend few $.
That’s the way things are working by today standard. Play, pledge more if you decide so… and if you don’t like it… enjoy your life elsewhere. No problem.

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Arktouros

I never argued that you need a majority of people to be successful. In fact I’ve argued the exact opposite that because they can attract paypigs willing to dump large sums of money on a product they seem quite well off all around and both sides are happy with that arrangement.

It is you who argued because you see thousands of new backers that, in a market of millions of people, that you somehow were in the majority of people. It is also you here who presented the argument that a large population represents success and then also decided to argue with yourself that numbers don’t represent success.

So I leave you to your internal discussion, as a Star Citizen player I know you are very familiar with playing by yourself :)

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Bruno Brito

So I leave you to your internal discussion, as a Star Citizen player I know you are very familiar with playing by yourself :)

Jesus Christ man, he has a family ( i assume ).

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Joe Blobers

Quote:” both sides are happy with that arrangement.”

You made a good point still whales buying xK$ don’t represent much of the total pledges, as long both CIG and players find it acceptable I am totally good with it.

Letting those with deeper pocket secure more cash for the game don’t bother me. That won’t change my entertainment budget. It could even allow me to decrease the % dedicated to SC :)

I added on purposes a sentence about what success means. Numbers are not everything… but they still mean something that will be interpreted differently depending on commenters point of view.
As a SC player you are familiar enough with coop to realize we played together :)

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Bruno Brito

In the end, i think that’s that.

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Joe Blobers

Not totally false. Why a company, any companies, especially a new one counting massively on pledges, would avoid on purpose the possibility to secure funding by making assets that whales would buy? Whales are part of all entertainment activities, this is an IRL fact.

Still SC is available in its full by spending less than any triple-A around.
Ships are available (the flyable ones) for in game credits.
Knowing none of those big ships can be competitive solo, that give incentive to both whales and others to work together, which is the very essence of an MMO.

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MrNastyButler

I tossed in enough to just get in the door and check it out. It’s pretty nice, hoping it will be out in the next 15 years.

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ichi sakari

so glad we made an impression on you Chris, thanks for mention how the fans treated you when you jumped in

Squadron 42 - Star Citizen Screenshot 2020.06.01 - 21.39.01.93.png
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G I G A B E A R

I’m a fairly recent backer so here is my perspective for what it’s worth.

Like most of the internet, I was convinced SC was a scam. To hear them tell it, there was no game and it was all concept art and hopes and dreams. The name of the company might as well be Clown Imperium Games.

Oh boy did my opinion change when I, gasp, actually looked into the game. First from videos from people who actually have backer packs and some playtime. Then, I got a starter pack of my own for some hands on.

Fast forward 5 months and I’m the proud owner of a $3000 javelin from the latest sale and could not be more pleased with this purchase.

Oh sure, the servers ran terribly over the event. And are generally not perfect even under the best of conditions. There are bugs and glitches galore. Many systems are NYI.

But I didn’t back an alpha. I backed the potential final product. Like all crowdfunding I placed a bet. Some you win, some you lose(that MMORPG that thought it was a BR comes to mind) and I’m confident Star Citizen will EVENTUALLY hit the mark.

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Bruno Brito

I’m sure Star Citizen is not a scam.

I’m just highly sure it won’t ever launch either.

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G I G A B E A R

I get this perspective. It’s been a long process already. Going way over deadlines and has no end in sight. Easy to see the whole thing failing before they hit the mark.

But in some good news, they’re making more money than ever. So at least for the foreseeable future, development can continue.

If they can get Squadron 42 into a playable state, this will also help out a lot and bring more people to the game.

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Bruno Brito

I have absolutely no problem with SC being successful. It would be a huge mark for crowdfunded games. I do have a problem with an alpha game having a fully functional cashshop, and being known for feature creep.

Now, i wish you the best and that you have a lot of fun with the game, because 3k bucks is not pocket money and you deserve to enjoy your experience.

But i’m not about to support Chris using a crowdfunded game as his personal playground while he breaks every single roadmap with delays.

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G I G A B E A R

Agreed on the feature creep, not so much on the cash shop. My interest in SC stems largely from it not having a publisher to get between devs and their game.

Monetizing an alpha this much isn’t ideal, but the other means of securing funding are even worse.

I’m also not trying to sell anyone on this thing. If they have doubts, by all means wait for more progress.

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squid

But I didn’t back an alpha. I backed the potential final product. Like all crowdfunding I placed a bet. Some you win, some you lose(that MMORPG that thought it was a BR comes to mind) and I’m confident Star Citizen will EVENTUALLY hit the mark.

That’s what everyone said about EQ3 when they backed it. A successful company with veteran developers and a popular IP couldn’t possibly fail to deliver…

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G I G A B E A R

I’m uncertain how your response follows the quoted text. I freely admitted the risk and potential for failure.

I opted to back in spite of the risk, because I want to see it made. That’s all crowdfunding ever. There are no sure things.

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Ken from Chicago

Did they make progress on EQ3? Did they show progress? Were people able to play EQ3 during development?

The answer is “Yes” to all 3 for SC. Moreover one of their better weeks for funding was during last week’s Fly Free event.

Yes, the launch has been delayed for years and SQ42 was supposed to have a beta release in 2016. In the years since, we have seen big increases in gameplay, graphics and stability.

Are the delays worth it? How many times have mmos been rushed out the door and players complain they should have released it when it was ready? Have many games have officially launched and crashed during the 8 years since the SC kickstarter?

That’s something only each person can decide for themselves. Many have loudly said No and many have said Yes–so far.

As for feature creep, that’s a tricky one, because SC did have a ton of features in the original kickstarter–and the stretch goals. For example, a separate alien language for the Vanduul species? Yep, in fact several alien languages. Also, the way things were worded wasn’t as detailed as the development has progressed over the years so even though a specific element scheduled for release was not explicitly stated before, one might argue its presense was implied indirectly.

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Bruno Brito

To be fair, i kinda expected EQ3 to go bust from the get go. It didn’t take much to realize both EQ games were languishing in limbo at that time.

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Joe Blobers

@Squid you can pick any failed past crowdfunded and add “what if SC…”

Back in 2014 when project evolved to two separate game (SQ42 + SC with bigger scope), it was genuinely reasonable to question whether the funding, resources and talent would be enough for the time needed to reach Beta.

In 2020, the question of funding SQ42 is a pretty old one. CIG do have enough cash from just backers to finish it. I don’t even take into account Calders investment and others M$ we have no clue about from the original board directors.

SCQ42 at release will have all assets injected in SC (representing at least half of the project resources used over years), while SC will keep receiving quarterly patch adding more SC specific contents and gameplay.

Now fill free to share EQ3 trend chart over years, since start to the last month. We are eager to see the funding, resources devoted and overall game development progress compared to the SQ42 beta milestone (TBD).

Relmharver
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Relmharver

I’ve got to ask, what do you expect to get for your $3,000? The most ardent defenders of SC tend to claim that players who spend big money on ships not only will not receive any significant advantage over players who earn the ships in-game, but that they don’t want or expect one. Is this true for you? Did you donate $3,000 just to assist the development of the game? Or did you do it hoping to receive a major advantage in return?

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Sarblade

I have a long and a short answer.

Long:
He gained the enjoyment of owning a capital ship. Which – for many – can be related to the same enjoyment of collectors (car collectors, statues etc..).
Thanks to the fact that you have to manage your ship and that you can walk in it (and a 40 meter ship in reality is damn incredibly huge man), there is a strong feeling of possession.

In his case he needs a guild or a large group of at least 8-12 friends to actually be able to use it, but he’s gonna have fun in case that ever happens. Ironically, if the javelin (3000$) was his only ship, he could not access 90% of the content due to it being a 400 meter monster.

Having more ships just mean you can do more specialist jobs, like fighter, bounty hunter/security, smuggler, medic, engineer, refueling, repairing, scrapper or miner.

Yes, you can sped 140$ to buy a 14 meter medical ship or 275$ for a 40 meter medical ship, but what’s the difference? Second one has more beds, but also require more people and has higher overall costs.

People who pays can essentially start doing what they enjoy since day one, without having to pass through the smaller “starting ships” (which are still pretty useful, since they’re all-rounded, can access all content and – most of all – don’t require more than one person to play.

Short:
Ships in Star Citizen follow an horizontal progression: the more you have, the more stuff you can try.
Each “class” has then some vertical tiers, but due to the scaling of size/costs/crew the lower tiers still have their use.

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G I G A B E A R

Oh I fully acknowledge this is a form of P2W. Javelins will be available in the final game, but I don’t believe for a second it’ll be easy for even an entire org to acquire one of these.

But I didn’t do it for advantage. I did it because it’s the biggest ownable ship in the game. That’s kind of my thing, and World of Warcraft just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

As for crewing it, well, it’s intended to be safeguarding my mining operation. But as I have an org of 1 member, and don’t have those mining ships yet, it remains very much a work in progress.

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Bruno Brito

The name G I G A B E A R kinda makes sense now.

Why the biggest ship is called a JAVELIN, i’ll never know.

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G I G A B E A R

I’m low key hoping a bigger ship is never offered, cause then I’d have to buy it.

Relmharver
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Relmharver

Well, to each their own. I hope you and the other big spenders can afford to spend thousands on pixels without sweating it. I just think of the Shroud of the Avatar stories I’ve heard of people going into debt to buy digital castles and the like. To me, it seems like an incredible waste of money, as I like to get something tangible for a substantial output of dollars. But again, to each their own.

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Kickstarter Donor
fastcart

Just like what twitch chat said, some people pay $400 dollars for golf shoes. I don’t know enough about the game to know what golf clubs and other equipment adds up to, but I can imagine it’s a pretty penny.

Instead, we put together a PC powerful enough to fly the ships we choose to get.

Also, no one is forcing anyone to buy anything. People can back for as little as $45 USD and be perfectly content. There are many more of those backers than “whales.”

The ships available may not seem substantial to you or others. But to many people like me, it’s a great experience.

Some people love going to theme parks to ride roller coasters. Other people get nauseous on them. Doesn’t mean going to a theme park is a waste of money. :)

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Bruno Brito

I feel your pain. But if the name is Javelin, i’m sure you’ll get one called Goliath any day.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

You would have gotten be better odds putting $3K all on Black.

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agemyth 😩

When I got to the part of your post that mentioned you bought the javelin my body had a visceral sympathetic reaction to similar to what I feel when I see someone get physically hurt.

Of course I see you don’t seem to be in financial pain or feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, so my real response is just a “good luck with that.” But man I had to share my gut reaction.

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Joe Blobers

Quote:”what I feel when I see someone get physically hurt”

My answer to both reaction is just that money don’t have the same value for everyone nor individual do have the same entertainment budget depending on different countries, center of interest or even period of our life.

Funny is that we know many supporter do pay thousands for a Final Football League match lasting at best 3 hours.
To each its own.
Except I won’t add “good luck”, but: “Enjoy your journey, all of you”