Eliminate-ing Payment Norms – Eliminate Pro and the Hardcore Quandary

Eliminate Pro – Free – released 11/2/09 – developed by Ngmoco (Rolando)

  • Currently the second best selling app in the Free section of App Store (was the first yesterday).
  • Currently the 11th on the Top Grossing section of the App Store (was the third yesterday).
  • The ONLY free app in the Top Grossing section.

Eliminate Pro is free-to-download and is, in a sense, a free-to-play first-person shooter, ala Doom or Call of Duty. However, unlike f2p MMORPGs, users don’t pay for in-game content, but rather to recharge their ‘credits.’ Without credits, you’re limited to playing offline against bots, and cannot earn experience or gain rewards.


It’s essentially like popping another quarter into an arcade machine, but in this case, your credits regenerate over time. When you download the game, you’re given 12 to start with, which works out to three rounds of play. After a few hours, you’ll be granted another round – and it takes half a day for the full twelve credits to regenerate.

The real money-maker for Ngmoco, though, is that you can buy credits at a rate of 20 for 99 cents, 280 for $9.99, or 975 for $29.99.

The game itself is a fairly typical FPS, controlled with virtual onscreen joysticks – fun, yet far less interesting than its monetization method. These non-essential microtransactions are a bold new form of in-game payment. As DLC becomes increasingly commonplace and piracy runs rampant, publishers and developers are trying their hardest to move away from the classic front-loaded sales model.

In fact, Eliminate Pro’s growth reveals a great deal about the nature of iPhone gaming:

  • The game itself is built to play in short bursts.
  • It’s cheap, with a low barrier to entry – it’s free to start, 3 rounds is enough to get you addicted, and extra rounds are cheap, falling into impulse-buy territory.
  • The industry is rapidly expanding – such is its growth that they’re constantly re-writing and building new payment models.

The DS and PSP appeal to self-described gamers – people who most likely have a current-gen system at home. The iPhone, on the other hand, is in its relative infancy, and those who pick it up and start playing most likely didn’t buy it for the games.

This, however, makes Eliminate Pro an enigma. Many iPhone titles err on the side of simple controls, including Ngmoco’s own Rolando, while this game features twitch-gameplay and requires quick reactions. In fact, it’s somewhat console-ish in its skillset – awkwardness of the on-screen analog sticks aside. Its success is built upon the casual models – easy-to-pick-up, cheap and addictive, yet it is, at its heart, a deeply competitive and aggressive title.

Has Eliminate Pro converted casual players into new potential core gamers? Have the hardcore crowds flocked to the iPhone unexpectedly? Or does the game crack some bizarre middle-ground code for making iPhone users buy into micro-transactions?

Ultimately, it could be a combination of all of the above. Who knew that a cell-phone could cause such a hullabaloo?

[Eliminate Pro app store link]