The kiosk pictured below offers a very peculiar service. According to reddit user Santinoramiro you can purchase likes and follows on instagram pictures from the comfort of your local shopping mall. If the signage wasn’t a give away, this mall is located in Russia, but how long will it take to see similarly blatant advertising for this type of service in other countries? It’s no closely held secret that there are more than one industry built on electrical popularity. Even two years ago the mainstream media knew that something as bizzare and trivial as a faked chemical plant spill had ties to some very influential, powerful people and an infrastructure of data manipulation.
Take our own little corner of the universe for example. The number of downloads your game gets and the number of positive reviews you get very heavily impact you in some profound ways. In case you weren’t aware, almost every developer whether a large corporate outfit, or an indie dev with a dream will run post-mortem analysis on their games, like Meganoid ($2.99) for instance. What we see time and time again is that virtual numbers like this have a huge impact. Something we saw with Warbits ($4.99) is that even catching a small break can really pay off.
So what does this all mean? I think that one thing we will have to face very soon is that data and metrics are a commodity that are going to continually be more easy to acquire and much less reliable as a measure of actual success or popularity. Whether you are judging the success of an app or the credence of a news story or how many people really liked that embarrassing pic your mom posted of you as a kid, seeing is not believing any more. You might even find that your own words are no longer trustworthy.
Eventually a game developer may not end up having to seek out and contract with a large consortium to gather data and drive traffic to their app. This is, in many ways, a very good thing. But lets just think about this, picture that kiosk from above, advertising instant online popularity. Instead of an instagram user, a game developer could be there picking up a few hundred reviews or a few thousand downloads. This is not a conspiracy theory, its a booth you can walk right up to and spend just a little bit of money on. If we get to a point where User Acquisition is not a semi-mandatory component of game development, we may all be a little better for it. In the meantime, we may just have to settle for it being something you pick up at a convenience store and can much more readily see it for the vending machine that it is.