The microalgae in the game is based on a real species which has been widely studied because its accumulation of long-chain hydrocarbon and lipids, which are similar to crude oil. At the time Metal Gear 2 was being developed, programs looking into Botryococcus braunii‘s effectiveness as a fuel source were taking place, including one from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fuels Development.
In 2012, the companies Propel Fuel and Solazyme, Inc. even sold algae-based fuel to the public, making the world seen in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake seem that much more real and attainable. The first retail sales took place as a 30-day pilot program in the San Francisco area in California. Numerous startups have followed, ushering in awareness by governments that have started regulating the use of such fuels. There’s now even the Best Microalgae Awards, given for innovation in the field.
In 2017, Zion Market Research estimated the algae biofuel market to be worth $4.7 billion, and said the industry was expected to generate 9.88 billion by the end of 2024. Zion noted that the high manufacturing cost of algae-based biofuels might hinder the market, but that future research and development could reduce that cost.