JULY 6, 2010 • NASA has branched out to become a free-to-play game publisher. Moonbase Alpha, available via the Steam service, puts users in a space suit and tasks them with rebuilding a lunar base crippled by a meteor strike. Single and multiplayer modes are supported. NASA’s second title, Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, is under development by the agency’s Learning Technologies project.
Impact: NASA getting into the F2P game reminds us a bit of the U.S. Army’s successful America’s Army. The space agency desperately needs new recruits as well. Not bodies for enlistment, but mindshare recruits to help promote NASA in the years ahead as uncertain mission objectives, and imperiled budgets, threaten future manned space flight. A series of good social F2P titles could help a great deal. Even more so if some smart administrator figures they might be able to sell lots of moon buggies as a $1 micro-transaction.