After failing all previous deadlines, finnish cross-media startup Space Nation Oy (formerly Cohu Experience Oy) is set to launch its long-awaited app tomorrow, 7th April 2018. The best users are to take part in a reality-TV “astronaut boot camp” and, finally, one of them will go to space. At least, that’s the plan.
The company promised high profits from the beginning and predicted a landslide success for their app, comparing it to Supercell’s Hay Day and Clash of Clans. But there are striking problems, which remained largely unclear to the crowdfunding investors that made the story possible.
The User Base
Gaming apps have different target groups and user base than Space Nation’s “astronaut training” app. Not everybody wants to go to space, and certainly it’s not even worth a try for most. Why should I take part in a contest I can’t win?
Me going to space?
Space Nation promised several prizes and rewards to fix this. But is there a need for a “NASA-approved game app”?
No spaceflight, no TV rights
As I wrote before, there is no space flight in sight that would be available for Space Nation’s wannabe astronaut. Virgin Galactic has been “months away” from its first space tourist flight for more than a decade. SpaceX does not attempt manned flight in the near future, and BlueOrigin seems to be late still.
And what if there’d be really the possibility to send a reality-TV winner to space? That would mean, that space tourism is nothing special or interesting anymore. At a time when hundreds of fare-paying hobby astronauts did already go to space, a Space Nation candidate is just another civilian on a suborbital seat. The only difference is that he didn’t pay for the trip by himself.
Nothing won, nothing lost?
The probable course of events will be, that the app will generate some moderate income through in-app purchases. Micropayments will keep Space Nation Oy afloat for some time. The crowdfunders will not get their exorbitant returns, but if they are lucky, their losses may not be 100% of the investment.
The idea of financing a space trip through media rights is nothing new. The blueprint came from MarsOne, which is still existing (but failed). In the beginning, they managed to start a gigantic media hype – but they planned for something extreme, a mars mission. A several minutes suborbital flight, as promised by Space Nation, is not close to that in any way.
One thing seems clear already: Space Nation will hardly “democratize space flight“. That’s as if I’d promise to democratize wealth by means of a lottery. An illusion to keep users interested, as any lottery does by promising life-change through a jackpot win.