Here's a question we don't consider enough: what happens when a studio pulls the plug on its micro-transaction fueled games? The answer is obvious and a bit unsettling. You don't get to play anymore, and all those ad impressions you handed out, all of those extra games you downloaded in exchange for precious in-game coin, and all the real money you spent just disappears into the ether.

Unfortunately, we bring up this subject as a result of a recent ngmoco decision. The studio has announced plans to "shut down" Epic Pet Wars [Free], Epic Chef Wars [Free], Epic Crime Wars [Free], and Titan Wars [Free] on Jan. 16, 2011. After this date, these games will "no longer be playable."

Epic Pet Wars was one of ngmoco's first major acquisitions as part of a larger acquisition of developer Miraphonic in 2009. At the time, ngmoco's Plus+ platform was a fledgling one and the studio presumably wanted to flesh out its offerings utilizing Miraphonic's comparatively massive player base. Now it has dozens of Plus+ games, most of which support in-game purchases, and many which enjoyed boosts on the top download charts thanks to in-game offers from Wars games.

Games with expiration dates are a new-ish concept, though we should realistically expect all our cloud-based, online-focused romps to come to an end at some point. Business is cold and hard and if the numbers don't line up? Well, this is what happens, though I can't imagine anyone, especially the fans of these latest casualties, can be happy about it.

UPDATE: ngmoco has issued the following response:

"Withdrawing support for our games is not something we do lightly. The Epic games made a lot of people happy and will always have a special place in our hearts. We work hard maintaining and growing communities on our other games and will continue to do so. But, when the flow of players becomes low for a prolonged period we have to take these decisions so we can dedicate time to making new experiences. The harsh reality on our Epic series of games is that towards the end they did not have the level of engagement required to continue competing for users' time in an App Store that's giving players new choices daily.

We are thrilled to confirm that the creative team at Miraphonic is currently working on a new, top secret project that they have been busy creating from the ground up and we look forward to releasing news on this exciting project very soon."

  • LBG

    ngmoco is evil.

    I'm glad I'm not dumb enough to waste any money on their games.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. If you need to pay actual money to be able to survive or progress in the game, it isn't actually a game.

  • LordOMFG

    i feel sorry for those who has paid cash for those games

    • Anonymous

      I don't. They never paid for anything tangible. Buying things in-game is not financially responsible, especially in this awful economy! I have NES games from 20 years ago; I only had to pay for them once, and they last forever. If I buy a game like Game Dev Story (off the top of my head), I can play it as long as my ipod still functions, and my ability to play it is not governed by how much money I have.

  • cjelly

    got excited when I saw 'ngmoco shutting down'...

  • Keithboyle5

    Wow, I was surprised to see that. Epic Pet Wars was my first app ever, when I got my iPod over a year ago. At least I got to level 200 before they shut down, but I guess I have to set the goal of trying for the remaining achievements before they're gone forever

  • Anonymous

    this is why you don't make games that have the word "Epic" in them. They will be "Epic" failures

  • Assh

    What gaming companies need to understand, is that the player-base of any MMO and games such as this, see themselves not as "paying for services" but as investors in the game. Players feel they need more than the time they play for, as they're investing their time as well. Their time in the game keeps others playing more than anything else. When a game that requires a host server decides to call it quits, they should at the very least release the host software to the public to keep it going.

    • Anonymous

      "Investing" in a game in such a manner is a dumb idea from the start, as games like this require popularity, a trait that will always disappear with time. They are trends and that's about it.

  • Anonymous

    Epic Pet Wars wasn't a failure was it? I got to level 200 but no way was I going to go through that again with a new pet. I wanted them to make more content but they dropped it like a bad habit quite a while ago.

  • Bobtheblack2

    Well i really hope ngmoco gets back to making actual GAMES after this. Im really sick of all their freemium crap, its basically the same exacpt game, just repackaged. I remember when ngmoco was a respected developer, now they are just a joke.

  • Marshall22

    Do we get partial credit back on our itunes account when games shut down???

    • Anonymous

      Of course not. :/

  • pepsy

    id like to see thus tested in ab court of law, how xan it even be legal.

    • Anonymous

      Ngmoco probably has some kind of legal division. At any rate, I can guarantee that there is fine print somewhere stating that they are not responsible for money lost through the games.

  • http://twitter.com/Sanuku Sanuku

    Sad but that`s how Business runs today. Marshall22 no you don`t get a Refund from Apple since you have asign to their Rules.

  • hanswoscht

    once was ngMoco cool, but all their crappy freemium crap looks the same and is pretty lame. so I am not really interested if they shut down. who is even stupid enuff to invest REAL money for a VITRUAL pet, hello?

  • EastsideStompers

    I hope Freemium games in general are a fad that will die as fast as they seemed to come into app store fashion.

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  • Anonymous

    I always hope whenever I'm playing a game that requires Internet Connectivity to run that should the developer decide not to continue supporting the game, that they at least release one final update to make the game playable indefinitely.

    Of course, that's a pipe dream, as Ngmoco have proved. How long before they shut down Eliminate, in favour of Eliminate HD or whatever sequel they want us to pour quarters into?

    Goes to show that they can't be making THAT much money from a lot of these crappy freemium titles otherwise they'd keep em going. The quarters into an arcade model died a long time ago for a reason.

  • http://twitter.com/stereoroid brian thomson

    Not the first time I've seen this. Playmesh shut down most of their games last year, including iMafia (which had rampant cheating).

  • YoureAMessy

    Who cares. I don't even play EPW anymore, those games suck by comparison of new releases.

  • Deviladv

    Some of the original iPhone MMO games were simply MMOs that weren't very M(assive) just quick ways to get people to see ads and to try to get suckers to part with money. A lot of them are shut down now because people have soured on them. They are pretty silly and designed to part fools from their money. And for serious gamers all they do is piss you off because some ass with $5000 a week in allowance blows it all on this game to entertain themselves while you work your ass off for scraps. Playmesh used to be infamous for these types of games, but they have since shut down their silly little game servers and moved on. I think the "live" games like "Ninja's live" and "Vampires live" etc are still going, but probably not for long.

    The only games like this left are Farmville and Smurfs. Good riddens to games like this.

    • Anonymous

      It's good riddANCE...but yes, I agree, good riddens.

  • Anonymous

    Stuff like this is why I don't buy anything that is online only, if the servers go down you lose everything. And I NEVER buy anything for a freemium game and usually just skip them all together.

  • http://felixli.myopenid.com/ Georges

    It's called "cloud computing" because at some point, everything just evaporates.

    • Jdc20

      This is the most apt and succinct critique of cloud computing I have ever seen...

  • Dumbpeopleusuallypoor

    I'm happy a lot of people are getting burned by this. Dumb people that buy "cloud-based" games that have no single-player aspect to them should be robbed. It probably explains why dumb people are usually poor.

    • lol

      explains why your poor doesnt it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Pope/100000602530531 Marshall Pope

    what happens when a studio pulls the plug on its micro-transaction fueled games?

    I would imagine that large portions of their target audience will feel burned and will be reluctant to spend money with them in the future with other titles. Looks like a great way to kill a good portion of your revenue stream.

  • Point

    I never liked NGmoco games, they're nothing but a bunch of greedy f**ks that put out garbage and drool over stealing people's pennies, but freemium is garbage, and anyone stupid enough to spend on a freemium game to keep playin is an idiot. Now NGmoco is showing them how much they really cared about 'the customer' all along.

    • Anonymous

      I wish I could double-like this. I'm right there with you, I have strong feelings against that kind of business.

  • Newtonapple20

    The sad thing is this very much like to happen again as Ngmoco is releasing freemium titles after freemium titles that are almost identical in graphics and gameplay. Instead of focusing in making a few titles stand out they rushing to get as many as possible.

  • bigfish

    geez, you people have no perspective at all. In the old days, people were probably upset they got paper money instead of an actual sheep or goat. WTF!? Any type of currency can evaporate if the economy chooses to. PC MMOs shut down when they don't become viable as well you know.

    And if WOW shuts down, the money spent on their characters will be gone too. If you don't think freemium games is a viable business model and that ngmoco makes bank, then you obviously don't know the game industry very well. The secret with freemium titles is that they actually make a LOT more money than regular titles. Don't let the top grossing fool you. They stay up the charts longer usually and have multiple revenue streams.

    There's nothing wrong with spending money on a virtual pet. I understand the concept seems outlandish to people but its really no different than spending money on other things. I spent $25 on a cab the other day. Why can't I ride for free forever as if I bought a car?

    As with anything, freemium evolves too. So the older titles need to be shutdown because they don't make as much anymore. The resources are used for newer titles.

    Pickup a Business Week once in a while and get some perspective!

    • Newtonapple20

      I don't give a damn if Ngmoco makes millions doing this freemium model.On a gamer's perspective do you think it matters that the company making crappy games is making millions ripping kids off their parent's money? You Ngmoco interns make it sound like ' hey kids we are doing this crappy cookie cutter freemium games and will no longer support some of them. oh don't worry we make millions making them so it's ok don't cry.' Will the knowledge that ngmoco is making money enchanced their games? You guys make it sound like it does.

      • bigfish

        I mentioned the revenue because some people don't believe ngmoco is making money. The fact remains that you may not like the game just like you may not like sports games. But others do and it's not crappy to them. Again, many people seem to lack forward thinking.

        If you played WOW, I bet there are tons of people who think you're nuts for paying subscription for an online game. And running around killing monsters for gold and buying items is ripping stupid people off.
        And then there's people who will also think you're insane for playing cell phone games in the first place.

    • Anonymous

      I agree 100 percent. I had a lot of fun with Epic Pet Wars. I did spend money on respect points even though I could have gotten those points for nothing if I chose to steal. I don't choose to steal ever though. And I have all the game consoles so its not like I am some dumb n00b who stupidly spent his money. I spend tons of money all the time on entertainment. I don't expect money returned to me or for whatever app I buy to last forever especially cell phone games from an environment like the app store. To each his own though, if you just bought these games in the last few months then I can definitely understand being pissed off.

    • Gouldsc

      You're mixing up products and services. If I buy a car, I expect that even if they stop making new cars with my make/model because it's no longer profitable, it won't get permanently remotely disabled--I should still be able to drive it around because I bought it.

      The content was marketed and sold as a product, and therefore ought to take a loss to maintain consumer confidence in their brand since they're making millions as a company. What Ngmoco has done amounts to fraud since they're selling a product that they are then disabling without previously disclosing that the purchase was really a lease for a limited time.

  • Adams Immersive

    This is appalling news.

    And yet, also kind of awesome... :p

    

    (I have nothing against Ngmoco or Freemium done right, but I won't be too sorry to see fewer of these "no world" RPGs come along in future. Or whatever you'd call them!)

  • bomber

    Our GraalOnline servers already run for more than 12 years :)
    It seems it's more about big studios who decide to shutdown things because they don't even play the games themself.

  • Pablo

    Omg if i could fricken swear i would, ive spent like 30 fricken dollars on epic pet wars, some people have spent like 100 dollars, their are lots of players, why do they have to shut it down

  • Devin Andrew White

    I don't care what people think of the the games I love epic pet wars you are
    Loseing a costumer for getting rid of the game a shutting down be
    Beside u are maken
    Me mad be side who ever made papaya farm made me mad cause I wanna to put on my iPod touch & they got red of it as soon I could even put it on my iPod touch thanks guys I hope u make ppl happy getting rid of this app you make me so suck to my stomach ughh u hate f**king american & ppl in the world nice planet to screw ppl isn't Now I'm pi**t thank

    • EastsideStompers

      and........breathe.

  • death machine

    y wont titan wars load on my ipod

  • annoymous

    Hint for anybody dumb enough to pay for freemium games.

    Download lite version, or freemium version. Turn on airplane mode. Start game. If you can't play, delete.