May 1, 2012
Ngmoco, one of the App Store's OGs of freemium, has just closed the doors on one of its oldest, most supported hits. Yep, the developer has...what's the word I'm looking for?...let's see...eliminated Eliminate. Originally released in 2009 when Apple first relaxed its restrictive rules on in-app purchases, Eliminate was a stunning first-person shooter that had surprisingly fluid rendering and passable controls. We sang its praises in our in-depth review, and the game quickly climbed up the charts and settled in as one of the App Store's 100 highest grossing titles. In 2010, Eliminate CO-OP was released, adding refined matchmaking and a pair of new maps to the experience. Things were looking up, for franchise and creator both. By October 2010, Ngmoco had ridden its mounting success to a $400 million acquisition by Japanese gaming outfit DeNA. Cha-ching, right? Not so much. Since then, Ngmoco's been through a slew of Dilbertesque refocusing campaigns, replete with layoffs and project cancellations. (Their website seems to offer a contrasting view, but we don't think you should respond to their "We're Hiring" post. Nobody needs another dead-end job, after all.) We reported on the matter just a few months ago:
closing its doors shutting down its servers come May 25, and for anyone heavily invested in the game, it definitely stinks. I get it. But like I said, as an isolated event, I don't really care.
What does matter to me, however, is how the public is likely to react. They are, I fear, going to blame this on the freemium model itself. And that's wrong.
There's no question that Eliminate, as a free, IAP-supported title, is going to screw over a bunch of loyal customers. Loyal paying customers. You can't even download the app anymore -- It's gone. And that means that whatever cash you poured into the game is gone, too. Since there's not even a single player campaign in Eliminate, come the end of the month, the app -- even if you still have it fixed front and center on your iPhone Home screen -- will no longer work. You will have literally nothing to show for your investment but an old, faded icon. And, unless you downloaded Eliminate and bought your IAPs right before the game was pulled, you're not likely to convince Apple to pay you back. You'll probably need one of these.
That's not fair, is it?
No, it isn't.
In fact, this is probably the worst-case scenario for pro-IAP pundits like myself. Customers often complain about what they consider "bait-and-switch" tactics, where apps reel you in with the promise of "free" only to lay your pocketbook out on the chopping block later. Add that "problem" to this problem, and you've got the perfect storm for an angry mob.
Except, of course, that this has nothing to do with IAPs.
Any game can be cancelled at any time for any reason. It happens a lot with big-budget blockbusters, and it happens even more with tiny, dollar downloads. That's the reality of the digital age. With traditional console titles, a game that's no longer supported will at least still be playable. Even with Xbox Live Arcade and PSN downloads, you'll almost always have something to enjoy as long as it's loaded on your hard drive.
Fortunately, this outcome isn't limited to just freemium apps. Whether it's paid or free, if the entirety of any title is based solely on live multiplayer, once those servers are gone, so is the game and everything in it. That's a risk we all run, and there's no way around it. And frankly, there shouldn't be. There's no way any developer or publisher can promise perpetual support, because that would require perpetual success.
No player -- no matter the industry -- can guarantee that.
Even as we often choose our smartphones based on the perceived longevity of their various platforms, there's always the chance that Windows Phone could cease to be, that Android will pack it in, that iPhone will fall out of favor. Ask RIM about that. Ask Palm, too. And ask Nokia.
You just never know.
That said, at least one thing's for sure: We're going to have to find another top choice for our FPS AppGuide.
Good thing Archetype's still around.
[Via Touch Arcade]
Ngmoco CEO Neil Young attributed the layoffs to the elimination of duplicate positions during the merger [with DeNA], but according to Inside Mobile Apps, Ngmoco also missed its first earn out date, indicating that the company may have missed important performance deadlines.With yesterday's cancellation of Eliminate, things have gone from bad to worse. Indeed, it seems Ngmoco is in a death spiral. But that doesn't really concern me. Yes, Eliminate is