The first shock was the crappy Flappy Bird game. Unimaginative, repetitive, with “borrowed” graphic concepts and not fun at all. Some people were driven to insanity just by playing. And nobody really liked it.
But it reached #1 in the US App Store almost overnight. “What? How?” I hear you ask, crying a little inside for all the countless nights you spent perfecting you awesome mobile game, and never reaching 100 downloads in the process. And to add insult to injury, the guy announced that he is making $50K. A day. From ad revenue. I mean, wtf.
And then there was another, this time even worse. As reported in Pocket Gamer, a game called Red Bouncing Ball Spikes practically leaped to #1 overnight. And what’s worse is that the “developer” didn’t even make the game, the game is just a template for GaleSalad, which you get for $10. Sounds like a good deal right?
But the fun doesn’t seem to stop. Following the story, I see other crappy little games (Ironpants, Super Ball Juglling [yes, "juglling" or so it says on the screenshot and it's from the same developer that launched flappy bird], , jumping to #1, all of them overnight. What gives?
Doing a little research quickly resulted in the method they used. Quite simple really. It seems that there are a couple of shady companies that do the following: As a developer, you cough up an amount (let’s say $5000) which they partly(they do keep a share of course) use to buy your game in mass using fake bot accounts. 70% of that goes back to you, so you end up paying something like $2K-$3K to get to #1 in the App Store. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such cheap promotion before.
Haven’t found the name of the companies, but I really hope Apple finds a way to stop this and deny payment to these developers, because this is as big a scam as they come. Many many people are trying to make a living through this, juggling with design, development, marketing, networking day in-day out (myself included) only to see their rankings and downloads rise oh-so-slowly and this really makes me angry.
There are more! Apart from Flappy Bird and Super Ball Juggling, developer nguyen has Shuriken Block. Now, take a look at these ranking changes and tell me if you think they are legit. All of then. AT THE SAME TIME. Remember, the games have been in the App Store for 6 months, and the developer has admitted that he has done zero promotion work for them. Now do the math.