Today marks the end of an era or sorts, as ngmoco co-founders Neil Young and Bob Stevenson have stepped down according to parent company DeNA and reported by MCV. Head of studios and former EA veteran Clive Downie will take on the role as new CEO while Young will remain on the DeNA board of directors.
It seems like only yesterday that developer ngmoco was ushering in a new era of smartphone gaming with releases like Rolando [$0.99] and Star Defense [$0.99 / Free]. Even their less ambitious titles like MazeFinger [Free] and Topple [Free] were incredibly fun and displayed the kind of high production values that were missing from many games in the first year or so of the App Store’s existence. Heck, Dropship [Free / Free] practically invented dual-stick controls on iOS. It almost seemed like ngmoco couldn’t release a bad game.
Then, almost 3 years ago to the day, Eliminate Pro was released. It was a first-person shooter with some impressive – at least at the time – online multiplayer options and great touchscreen controls. I spent hours upon hours upon hours playing Eliminate when it came out, and it was some of the most fun I’d had gaming on iOS.
Aside from being the first online FPS to really “arrive” on iOS, Eliminate broke ground in another way too. It was a freemium game, and utilized an in-game energy system that affected how quickly you could earn experience. Pretty standard stuff by today’s terms, but at that time this was both a controversial and brilliant tactic by ngmoco. It proved popular and profitable too, as ngmoco quickly decided to switch gears and go all-in on freemium titles, even at the expense of canceling the in-development Rolando 3.
Starting in early 2010, ngmoco churned out one freemium title after the next, each typically very similar to each other just with different themes. Despite being scoffed at by the more “hardcore” gaming crowd, these games continued to draw huge numbers of users and bring in a lot of money for ngmoco, as well as continue to grow their online social gaming platform Plus+ which was included in each of their games.
Eventually, ngmoco’s success in the mobile space and huge pool of users drew interest from Japanese social gaming giant DeNA, who eventually acquired the company for $400 million back in late 2010. Since then, ngmoco hasn’t had much of a presence on iOS, though they did pull the plug on Eliminate’s servers earlier this year.
Similar to when the founders of Freeverse left the company that they created earlier this year, the duo of ngmoco co-founders moving on signals the end of a time in iOS gaming that helped define the fledgling platform as a major player in gaming, and then eventually helped kick off the freemium craze that we’re currently experiencing – all in the span of just a few short years.
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