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Sabotage App Rank Spike

06-02-2015, 02:01 AM
#1
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Singapore
Posts: 330
Sabotage App Rank Spike

My game 7 Pips, which has been out since 2014 and not updated for almost half a year. I am located in Singapore. this game's download count is practically flatlining, receiving no more than 2 digits downloads per day. On 25th May, and only on this single day, base on analytics, 7 Pips received 1.5k downloads from Singapore and got pushed into top 20 games on the charts of my country, of course, it swiftly fell into oblivion again.

I hereby declare that I DID NOT employ any rank manipulation tactics (paid downloads whatsoever), heck I don't even have the budget to do any paid marketing. Furthermore, earlier that week a major update to Run White Mouse Run (one of my newer games) went live, that is even less reason for me to push 7 Pips instead of RWMR.

NOW, Apple sent me an email.

"
We are writing to inform you that your company is not in compliance with the iOS Developer Program License Agreement (PLA) due to documented evidence of manipulation of the user reviews and/or chart rankings associated with your apps on the App Store.

Section 12.2 (Termination) states:

(f) if You engage, or encourage others to engage, in any misleading, fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act relating to this Agreement, including, but not limited to, misrepresenting the nature of Your submitted Application (e.g., hiding or trying to hide functionality from Apple’s review, falsifying consumer reviews for Your Application, etc.).

Be aware that employing services that manipulate App Store chart rankings or user reviews on your behalf may also result in the loss of your developer program membership.

Please address this issue promptly.

"

I feel like for godknows what reason I am being sabotaged here...
Does anyone ever experienced similar weird download spikes, or received the same warning mail from Apple before?
06-02-2015, 03:17 AM
#2
Joined: Jul 2013
Location: Europe, CET
Posts: 2,443
I am not a Dev, so I cannot comment from that side.
One thing that Apple can hold against you:
If you noticed that something strange was going on and suspected fraud, why did you not contact Apple yourself, proactively?

What analytics data do you have? E.g. can you see from which IP ranges the downloads were initiated?
If you don't have anything to work with, ask Apple what data they can provide you.

1.5k downloads isn't much, in the grand scheme of things. Did somebody (e.g. a Singapore game blogger) write about your game on or right before that day? Any other legitimate reason that could cause a download spike?

Did you get any reviews (especially overly positive ones) after the spike? If yes, ask Apple to investigate the accounts who wrote the reviews.
Were any other apps similarly affected on that day, maybe even in other countries, especially smaller ones? This is also something you can ask Apple about.
Is your game free or paid? If paid, ask Apple if there is anything odd e.g. about the payments: like, was the same creditcard used for multiple accounts? Stress that you understand data security in that regard, and that you do not expect them to share any details with you, e.g. names of creditcard holders.

If I remember right, other devs reported some odd stuff in the past, by writing about it on TA. Might be worth digging through at least the Developer forum for a bit.

In any case, reply as soon as possible, assure Apple of your full support to find out what happened. Include what steps you already took, and what information you have.

Last edited by Nullzone; 06-15-2015 at 02:39 AM.

06-02-2015, 04:05 AM
#3
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Singapore
Posts: 330
I tried searching for news regarding that game, but results turned up nothing, not for at least last 8-10 months. There are no new reviews for the game nor and new ratings from any of the 1.5k downloads. It's a free game that's ad supported with IAP to remove ads, of course, there were also zero IAP purchase made.

As you said, the number was relatively small, but it did manage to push the game up the chart into discoverable placing, but that was only in Singapore (where I reside), that's another reason why I didnt think much of it. "It must be a glitch in the system, I'll wait a couple days and see where it goes" was what i was thinking, and as expected the download counts just dropped back to near flatlining just after three days and I just brushed the matter off my mind as I was already in the midst of developing new games. i'd really just dismissed it as a glitch of some sort, never did it cross my mind that someone was manipulating the rank, especially it doesnt make sense some 3rd party is boosting the rank of MY game.

The only possible legitimate reason I can think of is that out of the blue some local newspaper decided to publish an article about my game, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to find that article then

I had already replied to Apple, will have to wait and see how things will turn out. It's going to be pure shit if my account got terminated....

Last edited by unexpect3rd; 06-02-2015 at 04:09 AM.
06-02-2015, 04:13 AM
#4
Joined: Jul 2013
Location: Europe, CET
Posts: 2,443
Guessing here, but if that was really fraudulent it sounds a bit like a testrun for doing the same on a larger scale later.
To e.g. validate if login and creditcard data of a stolen account are correct, you don't need to actually download any app afaik. Just logging in to the Appstore should be enough for that.

The only other possibility I can think of is that the goal was to push another app out of the charts. But I find that a bit farfetched, especially as it was only for one day.

Best of luck! Keep us updated, if you feel like sharing what's happening. Personally, I am quite curious what's going on here.
06-02-2015, 05:38 AM
#5
Joined: Mar 2014
Location: UK
Posts: 168
@Nullzone, contacting Apple is not as simple as you imply. When my app was sabotaged (by internal staff) and I contacted iTunes Connect, they emailed me saying it was an "iTunes" matter. When I contacted iTunes they bounced me right back to iTC. After almost a week of waiting I still didn't get connected with anyone in Apple. It is not as simple as "tell Apple".
06-02-2015, 05:50 AM
#6
Joined: Jul 2013
Location: Europe, CET
Posts: 2,443
@Xammond: Like I wrote, I am not a Dev, so I don't know about things on that side of the pond, so to speak.
Interesting, I expected that Apple has a way - especially for Developers - to report bugs etc. , including "odd stuff happens with my App downloads, just to let you know, I'm looking into it." . Even more so when they have a clause that allows them to terminate your Dev account over something like this.

I tried to see it from Apple's perspective:
"You knew that shenanigans were going on, why didn't you tell us right away? Maybe you commissioned the fraud, hhmm?"
Especially for someone as big as Apple it's pretty easy to throw the ball into your half of the field and just say "Gotcha! Terminating your account, byebye." , without giving you any chance to clear things up.
06-02-2015, 06:23 PM
#7
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Berlin, Germany
Posts: 1,674
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xammond View Post
@Nullzone, contacting Apple is not as simple as you imply. When my app was sabotaged (by internal staff) and I contacted iTunes Connect, they emailed me saying it was an "iTunes" matter. When I contacted iTunes they bounced me right back to iTC. After almost a week of waiting I still didn't get connected with anyone in Apple. It is not as simple as "tell Apple".
really? now you start spreading your 2011 incident into other threads? seriously?

@unexpect3rd:

well since they contacted you, you can easily reply with what you stated here. That you did not do anything to push the numbers and that you are as surprised and they are about this sudden spike. You did not employing services that manipulate App Store chart rankings or user reviews and don't know why this spike happened.

If they have further information where this spike came from i would ask them to give you thoose informations
for your own investigation.
06-02-2015, 09:18 PM
#8
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Singapore
Posts: 330
Well, its been 24 hours since I got the first email from there, almost 12 since I last replied to them, haven't gotten any new updates from them. Think I'll prod them a little.
06-03-2015, 08:34 AM
#9
Joined: Mar 2014
Location: UK
Posts: 168
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.Ugly View Post
really? now you start spreading your 2011 incident into other threads? seriously?
Being econimical with the truth also doesn't go down well here (re 1stSPIN's app description). I simply emphasised context that Apple are unobtainable. Ok let's do it a different way: "it is impossible to communicate with Apple regarding a serious matter" <--- hence citation required.
06-03-2015, 02:24 PM
#10
Joined: Oct 2014
Posts: 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xammond View Post
Being econimical with the truth also doesn't go down well here (re 1stSPIN's app description). I simply emphasised context that Apple are unobtainable. Ok let's do it a different way: "it is impossible to communicate with Apple regarding a serious matter" <--- hence citation required.
Does your experience in 2011 comprise your entire experience with this subject or have you had any with the current incarnation of the app store?