2009 was a weird time for the App Store. Free to play games were building steam on other platforms, but the way Apple originally structured the in app purchase mechanic prevented it from being used on anything but paid games and apps. This policy was reversed in mid-October, and only a few hours later ngmoco announced that their (then) upcoming online first person shooter Eliminate would be free.

The game was released a few weeks later, and we posted an extensive guide on it. In a nutshell, Eliminate was a four person first person shooter with a free to play twist. In order to earn credits to buy armor and weapon upgrades, players needed to use their energy supplies. Energy depleted as you played, and, obviously, an in-game store sold all the energy that players could ever need if they didn't wait to wait to recharge.

Being among the first free to play games available, and actually being the first gamer-centric freemium game on the App Store, Eliminate seemed to spawn a massive community of players overnight. In fact, the Eliminate thread on our forums is still amongst the most popular TouchArcade threads of all time, running closely behind the Street Fighter IV Volt thread and the Pocket Frogs trading thread.

A TouchArcade reader sent a tip in over the weekend that not only had Eliminate been pulled from the App Store, but launching the game now results in the above popup. On May 25th, 2012, Eliminate is going offline. It's sad to see not only this game, but also ngmoco as a company coming full circle. We've been covering ngmoco since their inception, as it seemed to many (myself included) that they were the most promising contender to be the premiere iOS-exclusive game developer.

In early 2010 the company then picked up some additional financial steam and bought Freeverse, which was yet another incredibly promising iOS developer that has since vanished. Later that year, Japanese social gaming giant rolled ngmoco up into their proverbial katamari at the potential price of $400m… Then things started to take a slide.

The Epic Wars series of games were the first projects to be shut down by ngmoco, leaving faithful players (who potentially invested heavily into the game) in the cold. News of games releases, or really, any activity from the company dried up until earlier this year we heard the company was hit with layoffs. Inside Mobile Games even suggested that they missed the financial targets of the $400m buyout, putting the bulk of that purchase price in jeopardy.

If nothing else, the shut down of Eliminate is yet another reminder that the money you spend on these server-centric free to play title is buying you things that only persist as long as the developers keep the game online. If you've dumped cash into Eliminate, be sure to get your money's worth playing the game before it goes offline next month.

Thanks Payam!

  • Schnapple

    aaaaand this is why I will never spend money in a F2P game. 

    • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

      that depends, I much rather play a free-to-play-but-pay-to-unlock-full-features offline game than buying whatever game that becomes free the next week or so. but yes, freemiums like online fps'es or farm games, now this is worthless to spend $$ on

  • 11LBG11

    Good riddance.

  • http://twitter.com/sstaver Stephen Staver

    I stopped playing Eliminate ages ago. I can't remember if it's because they didn't support the iPhone 4, or if they didn't support iOS 5. One or the other.

  • Adams Immersive

    Too bad—but thinking out loud, this almost makes IAP sound MORE necessary, not less: something has to pay for severs forever... or they won’t last forever.

    Any game that needs sever-side expense to run is in danger of shutting down one day, no matter what one-time payment(s) you may have made. Eventually, that game may become a money pit that no longer brings in any profit—and if it still has “good will” value, that may not be enough to keep the company or project afloat. I can think of four less-than-ideal solutions:

    1. Use only server tech (Game Center) that is 100% run by Apple, who doesn’t expect to make profit on that specific piece. Of course, Apple’s system can’t do everything, so this doesn’t always solve the issue. (But it’s certainly true of some IAP.)

    2. The developer puts an unusually high amount of their profits aside (assuming the game managed to pay for its own development/support/marketing in the first place) and then used them to pay for future server costs; OR the developer donates those sever costs out of pocket at a loss, to keep their creation going. These are noble ideas, but not always possible.

    3. Make the game encourage (strongly enough to matter) my all-time least favorite kind of IAP... consumables! Coins, subscriptions, whatever. Maybe then the revenue stream will never get too low. Maybe.

    4. Use ad revenue (either third-party, or ads for the developers’ own future titles, or both). This doesn’t always bring in the needed income, and any users who have paid for the title once (or paid for some options IAP) will hate it, understandably, and down-rate the game into oblivion!

    I see no good answer. For many years prior to iOS, some great online games (even simply multiplayer matchmaking servers) have shut down.

    For now, as someone who hopes to be a successful iOS developer one day, with great multiplayer ideas but a fear of the costs, I lean towards a dual approach:

    1. Put ads even in a paid game... but ONLY in the multiplayer or server-dependend portions, tastefully and non-obnoxiously; not full-screen or timed. For instance, maybe an ad on the screen where you edit your profile, and one on the current-games server browser. Just the screens that cost money to keep running. Maybe even have a setting that lets people turn them off for free, but asks them not to and explains why.

    2. Have an awkward but potentially workable backup system already in the game: something where you manually enter the IP or domain for a custom central server. Then, if the game needs to be “shut down” as a money pit one day, I could release the server-side software to the community and see if one (or more) replacement servers spring up run by fans. At least they’d have the option!

    Much better would be if Apple’s own services could completely cover my ideas (some asynch, some realtime, all with persistent profiles/inventories to store). You never know! The trend is at least in the right direction.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      What doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me behind these games shutting down is that if you build your projects right, they're essentially self-sustaining. Hell, in a previous life I was a web developer and web apps I worked on are -still- in use by a small number of people, generating a small amount of revenue, randomly losing and acquiring new users while requiring zero maintenance. It's not the same as a game, of course, but there are parallels. For these web apps, what used to require a full rack of servers now exists on SliceHost and last I heard costs in the neighborhood of $30/mo to keep online.

      You'd think that these free to play games would be very similar, in that while they may only have a fraction of the user base they once had in their glory days, the hosting costs are just going to fall through the floor. All of the payment processing stuff is handled by Apple, and barring any iOS updates that just flat out break the game, I'm not sure why they just couldn't be online forever. Maybe it's just an indication of how little money Eliminate was actually bringing in if migrating the server infrastructure to some cheap shared hosting provider and forgetting about it wasn't even financially viable.

      *shrug*

      Who knows. Ngmoco is such a weird company these days.

      • Adams Immersive

        Yes, I’m sure it depends on the game and how it was built and planned for. I like the idea of some being super-cheap to run forever! At the same time, I can imagine (as with any software) there’s the change of needing ongoing maintenance, updates, and some minimal level of staffing to manage the software you use—especially if you use some 3rd-party components (maybe with security updates, or updates for new server OS versions, or whatever). Or your own custom components may be dependent on a certain programmer or two who may not always be available... without sufficient pay to keep them! It sounds like it could be a can of worms.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yuna-Meal/100002474094189 Yuna Meal

        I still remember how into ngmoco you were!
        Every single useless game developed by them was then reviewed by you as the best game ever on this planet.

        You are one of the reason of their meaningless hype.
        The most overrated company of the history.

        Big goals = big fail.

        Where's Freeverse now? I want Freeverse back and I want to see ngmoco bankrupt.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        They were reviewed as great games because they were great games.

        There is no face palm big enough for the rest of what you have to say.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yuna-Meal/100002474094189 Yuna Meal

        Eheh... :)

        Eli, you know what I mean...
        Should I write it in public again?
        Last time I did, and I tried more than once, I've been banned from this site.

        If you allow me to say that again, then people will be free to judge whether what I say is worth a gigantic facepalm or not.

        It's all about your relationship with the ngmoco guys.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

         I wish that was the case, Eli. See my above comment. You can get a crappy web hosting account that serves web pages generally, but for games with tons of users you need managed servers with a shitload of bandwidth to handle traffic. It's not even about the download speeds, it's about max simultaneous users - you'd be surprised how few a basic account can handle. It certainly came as a surprise to me. :(

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        If I recall correctly, Eliminate is running on the underpinnings of the Quake 3 server architecture with net code dialed all the way back to support play over EDGE. Considering Quake 3 was entirely playable via a 56k modem, you're not talking a whole lot of bandwidth. I'd be surprised if cpu/memory usage was that high for a small community of players too, as again, back in the 56k days I was hosting a Q3 server on an old Celeron 533Mhz eMachine that held... I want to say, 16 players? Computers are exponentially faster now, especially in a server environment.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

         I have no idea tbh, never played the original. I was assuming this was more about access speeds - you couldn't get 10,000 players on any quake server, regardless of how small the data exchange is. For "management" tasks it takes no CPU time at all - our own servers aren't exactly blazing - it's the pipe they're attached to.

        Or I could have it all wrong and we're being badly ripped off!  :s

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

         Now I think about it, as a hopelessly lost cause magic online player, their servers used to crash when they got over 4,000 players online at the same time for a tourney. And you can imagine what they're spending compared to us. This was the reason I packed it all up so we don't want to fall into the same trap.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        If ngmoco had 10,000 concurrent connected users in active game sessions I doubt they'd be shutting down Eliminate. :P

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

         lol, that's true enough.

      • AcneVulgaris

        Depends on what percentage of those users were using free credits to get on.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        That's not entirely true. People who are playing daily, viewing ads, and being force-fed referral offers are arguably more valuable than people who buy IAP currency once in a while.

      • AcneVulgaris

        Apparently not valuable enough to keep the game running, though.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        10,000 DAU was a made up number.

      • maniacfive

        I suspect 10k was not only entirely made up, but also very optimistic Eli. harking back to a day when Ngmoco were iOS darlings!

        I played Elminate back when it was fairly new and fresh, and enjoyed it. Admittedly i did only buy about £5 of credits throughout my playtime, and mainly gamed the system creating two +plus accounts (Side note: whatever happened to +plus?) and just owning my own iPod touch in games, but, most I ever saw online was 2k players. I had hopes they would've updated Eliminate to be retina when the star wars clone was released. but no, TBH the IAP was kidna fair, you could play for free waiting for your creeds to recharge, or buy to speed that up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

       I wish most were as enlightened as you about this.

      The sequel to Great Little War Game (sorry for the plug) is out soon and we're spending $1,200 a month on servers for the multiplayer that the original game didn't have.

      That will probably rise as more players come online and we need to pay that forever. And most importantly, we'll need to go on paying that after the balloon of release month sales trails away.

      We're putting the price up by a couple of dollars to cover this, but there'll be the usual outpouring of complaints about us profiteering and ripping people off, off that there is no doubt. c'est la vie...

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        That seems REALLY expensive. What kind of infrastructure are you guys using? Is there a reason you can't use the Game Center turn based multiplayer? Are you exchanging more data than Apple allows during the turn handshake?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

        All of the above, although I understand they have upped the size limit now. But the main thing is that it's cross platform between iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Blackberry, Vita, Linux and etc. That means a massive bunch of simultaneous games - well, we hope anyway!

        (One of those servers is for our "more games" images tbh but we had to move that out as a result of freeing up bandwidth on the other two, so it's valid to include it imo even though its more for our benefit than the players. Sort of.)

        The main cost is the word "managed" though. There are employees to pay at the host for sitting in a room preparing to press the reboot button whilst reading a book! :s

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Seems like you could explore OpenFeint as an option for turn-based stuff? Although, that'd only cover mobile. Hmm. Do you really require a highly managed environment? I mean I doubt anyone playing GLWG is expecting five nines of uptime out of it!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

        Probably not tbh, but we couldn't find someone with a good reputation who would offer all the bandwidth we need without the managed option. I strongly suspect that this is how hosting companies actually make their money.

        EDIT: We really want everyone playing together though. Now we can finally settle the iOS vs Android wars. By having a war! :)

      • Adams Immersive

        Interesting details—thanks for sharing.

        I’ve never looked into back-end providers for a game, but I often have to find them for web services, and it’s SO hard to find a reputation I can feel comfortable with! And I’ve been burned enough that I really demand that.

        Best of luck with GL War Game 2! I’m really looking forward to it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

         I agree - you can have all the promises in the world but when customers start writing in complaining about servers being down, you have to be able to do more than just dribble and say sorry.

        Glad you're looking forward to the new game - should be out sometime in June, so not long now. :)

    • bedros Demir

      yes the server run by players sounds very good to me and its the way to go or just charge for game play to cover the costs im shure customers are willing to pay to still play this game i know i am.

  • R Skse

    ngmoco messed up. We would be on Rolando 5 by now if it wasnt for Godfinger and greed machines like that.

  • darwiniandude

    Death to Freemium!

    Rolando 2 was the last NGMOCO title I bought; it was great. I used to buy every NGMOCO game, just like I still buy every Crescent Moon Games title.

  • famousringo

    I downloaded Eliminate once. Then I deleted it with extreme prejudice when it woke me up at 1 AM with a pointless notification.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edison-Carter/100001065170005 Edison Carter

       LOL Oh yea, that's why I deleted it too.

  • http://twitter.com/oooooomonkey Oooooomonkey

    Don't really care, never played it as fps just don't work on a touch screen IMO

    • tomandyourmom

      Why are you commenting then?  

  • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

    Until freemium, ngmoco:) was my favorite company. Then it went to the shadows...
    Rolando, we will never forget!

    • Martin von Randow

      Absolutely I came here to post about Rolando too ... :(.

      Great to have this as an example of freemium's head on a pike.

  • http://twitter.com/SiDCrAzY S.I.D. CrAzY

    I feel bad for all the people at Arsenal Megacorp losing their jobs....I guess the economy is hitting everybody pretty bad. :(

    :)

  • unfrozenjon

    Rolando 1 & 2 were so much fun. Really wish they had stuck with a good thing. While there are better games that came along I would like to see the IP get bought by a company that would use it. Doubtful it will ever happen though.

    I do admit though that I did have a lot of fun with Eliminate too. Made a token IAP because I must have played 30-40hrs with my wife and friends while I was away on work. It was cool to be able to play a FPS online against people I knew over 3G and even edge. Tweaking your build was pretty cool but then after a while I felt at a disadvantage for not buying IAP gear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yuna-Meal/100002474094189 Yuna Meal

    I'd like to remind everyone that Rolando is a Hand Circus game.
    ngmoco was a publisher. Very good publisher, I'd say, but that game was simply great.

    So far ngmoco has developed ZERO good titles for iPhone.
    With ZERO I mean ZERO. They're a big failure and I'm happy for this.

    I won't forget what they did to Freeverse.
    Remember Freeverse? I do.

    • http://twitter.com/jakewastaken jakewastaken

      Try again when you know what you're talking about.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yuna-Meal/100002474094189 Yuna Meal

        Ok, so let me be very straight: the hype for ngmoco here on Touch Arcade was amazingly huge. While on other sites journalists where questioning "who are them and why so much attention for this stupid title?" ngmoco was "buying" Touch Arcade's reviewers in order to let us read what they wanted us to read.
        HYPE, HYPE, HYPE! For what??
        Three reviews in a day for Maze Finger...

        One word: OATS.
        How can you write a negative review when a company pays you thousand of dollars for an ad?

  • http://www.facebook.com/graalbomber Stefan Knorr

    GraalOnline servers will stay up :)

  • maniacfive

    The greatest victims here, is Freeverse.

    Bought, and never heard from again. And for all Warpgates hype at the time, Fishlabs just destroyed it with Galaxy on Fire 2.

    Gotta think that, Fishlabs have the right idea, forget Freemium.  Chuck out a couple of fairly well received ad apps (in fishlabs case, for Barclays Bank and Volkswagon) use that to support paid for apps you can charge a lot for because they are genuinely good. Step 4. Profit?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EPHV5NH4TKWMACLAQEAXAH5KVA Isaac

    Oh well, back when Eliminate first came out, I was incredibly addicted to it. Played so many games and got rather good at it. Then I eventually stopped for some reason... don't remember.

  • nomster

    Dropship was the only one of their games I tried. Was very good for its time - still like the look and feel of controls.

    RIP ngmoco - cause of death: freemium

  • Dave

    Used to play Eliminate heaps when ti came out, basically unlocked everything that was free or earned by game play, did pay now and again for more energy. I got pretty good at it and it was one of the best FPS experiences on the iPhone. However they never updated it to Retina Display, or added any new weapons or upgrades after a long while so I eventually dropped off. Twas a great game though, sad to see it go.