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fraud in the iOS top grossing rankings?

09-12-2012, 04:48 PM
#1
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 2
fraud in the iOS top grossing rankings?

iím hearing rumors about companies doing this on the iOS top grossing chart. the idea is that companies would purchase their own items from their games to push their games up in the top grossing chart.

i had to ask myself why anybody would want to do this and came to the conclusion that having your game highly ranked in the top grossing chart can do two things. first, the top grossing chart should be where the good games are so if youíre a gamer and want to play the best games out there, itís the first place where you look. this would drive installs. second, if you want to have a reputation of building great mobile games, ranking there should say something about the quality of the games youíre building in terms of generating $$$.

ok, assuming my reason for doing this is sound, how would this work and what would it take? in terms of numbers, letís assume the top grossing games generate between $1m and $1.5m a month (numbers iíve heard). that means if my game is doing $400k a month on itís own and i spend, in my own game, an additional $600k, iím basically there at $1m/month. so if i have 30 people spend $5,000, 4 times a month, in my game, and Apple takes their 30% then Iím actually only spending $180k to have my game within the top 10 in top grossing. i wouldn't be able to get top ranking in the top free based on a $180k marketing budget. not only am I listed in the top grossing ranks to drive installs but also this tactic would do wonders to inflate my revenues.

for small game developers this proposition makes no sense but for larger game developers sitting atop the charts, this would be a great way to market your game and company.

has anyone else heard about this and what thoughts do you have as I may be way out in left field. i donít know if Apple has a policy about making purchases in your own game.
09-12-2012, 05:10 PM
#2
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 15
Rumors about rankings fraud are months old. Several companies were accused of using bot networks to drive up their rank, and Apple cracked down. I haven't heard much about it since. Are you getting something more recent?

Yes, of course the purpose of being higher in the rankings is to drive more installs. Once you break into the top 25, your downloads typically skyrocket. So if you can get there with some sort of cheap marketing tactic, you're essentially driving your new user acquisition cost into dirt-cheap territory. Free money, assuming Apple doesn't catch you.

But that has really only been a valid tactic for free apps and I've never heard of it being done for a paid app.. is that what you're looking at? I'm sure someone has tried it with stolen credit cards but Apple would likely nail you on chargeback / complaint rates..

09-12-2012, 05:25 PM
#3
I would <3 to hear the source of your rumors on the conspiracy idea that Top Grossing apps are spending their own money to maintain their rankings.

It's definitely technically feasible, but it would require a MASSIVE war chest to start and maintain considering you're losing 30 cents on each dollar that you spend on your own IAPs. Plus your figure of 1-1.5 million a month for the top rankings is very low if you're thinking the US app store.

DP
09-12-2012, 07:23 PM
#4
Joined: Apr 2012
Posts: 68
A while back I remember seeing someone offering a "service" for around 6k they said they would get your free app into the US top twenty five. One way or another there is going to be someone trying to make a buck working the system.

Last edited by M.O.; 09-12-2012 at 09:58 PM.
09-12-2012, 08:19 PM
#5
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 40
Let me just say there not using there own money. All I can say is blackhat
09-13-2012, 03:34 PM
#6
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Baltimore
Posts: 205
I can't see doing this for the top earners chart.

I can see it being done for the top sales chart tho.

Example last say it takes 200 sales a day to get on the top 200 games...

200 * .30 * 30 days = $1800 a month spent on getting high visibility in the US is really pretty damn cheap for a lot of companies.

even at 400 installs a way that could be $3600

This would be the cheapest form of advertising that actually works on the app store...
09-13-2012, 05:00 PM
#7
Top 200 does nothing. No one scrolls that far down. I managed to spend enough money to get a couple of my apps up to top 200 and organic downloads resulting from that additional visibility was very low and I ended up losing a lot of money. It doesn't work period. Advertising companies may pitch that crap to you to make money, but it hasn't worked for at least 2 years. Top 25, I dunno, but top 200, no.

As far as top grossing, spending 180k/month means they have to gain at least 100-150k new users to make it worth it. I could see that happening in the top 25 grossing list, but just pure speculation on my part. People will find the cheapest way to acquire players whether it's by marketing or "buying" a slot in the top grossing list.
09-14-2012, 10:55 AM
#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by visionwebs View Post
Zynga did this with Dream Heights, the ripoff game of Tiny Tower.

They 100% cheated their way up the app store with a glowing 5 star rating the day after the game was completely berated.

They launched an update and filled up the points with their company employees who had iPhones and iPads.

The proof is out there for this.

Shame they were never taken to court.

This company has no ethics and people STILL buy.

Logically this is an incredibly easy thing to pull off, unfortunately.
While this may be true, there's a difference between gaming the top grossing and the ratings.

Ratings is free to do if you have the accounts to accomplish it.

Top grossing requires cash, and lots of it.

I'd be surprised if all but the top 5 app store publishers could accomplish that feat, and I doubt they think it's worth it. I've never once seen anyone go into the top grossing charts (besides other devs doing research to see if an idea has had success).

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09-14-2012, 10:58 AM
#9
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Baltimore
Posts: 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by visionwebs View Post
Zynga did this with Dream Heights, the ripoff game of Tiny Tower.

They 100% cheated their way up the app store with a glowing 5 star rating the day after the game was completely berated.

They launched an update and filled up the points with their company employees who had iPhones and iPads.
The proof is out there for this.
Shame they were never taken to court.
This company has no ethics and people STILL buy.
Logically this is an incredibly easy thing to pull off, unfortunately.
Umm theres nothing illegal etc with what you just said they did.
In fact I would say it pretty normal on places like metacritic to have all your employees post positive reviews for your game.

Im not sure what you think they could be taken to court for?
09-14-2012, 11:00 AM
#10
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: England
Posts: 10,656
Quote:
Originally Posted by visionwebs View Post
They 100% cheated their way up the app store with a glowing 5 star rating the day after the game was completely berated.
I never take most iTunes ratings seriously, specially ones with just a couple of words like 'best game ever' ! Any long reviews seem 'real' to me. I mean theres companies here who get friends/family to rate their games on the app store or stupidly post in forums 'best game ever' with their 1st post here ! Laughable and does more harm than good.

Plus look at some of the contests, they get idiots to post 5/5 star reviews on the app store for the chance to win an itunes voucher.

Funny seeing some of the 'tell us what you think of our latest app...

'Yoga for people over 7 foot tall' - and one by one theyre all submitting reviews to the app store saying 'great app, love it' just to win money !