fraud in the iOS top grossing rankings?

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by Gaming is Life, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. Gaming is Life

    Gaming is Life New Member

    Sep 12, 2012
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    i’m 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 you’re a gamer and want to play the best games out there, it’s 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 you’re 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, let’s assume the top grossing games generate between $1m and $1.5m a month (numbers i’ve heard). that means if my game is doing $400k a month on it’s own and i spend, in my own game, an additional $600k, i’m 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 I’m 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 don’t know if Apple has a policy about making purchases in your own game.
     
  2. cmo

    cmo Member

    Jul 30, 2012
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    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..
     
  3. David Phan

    David Phan Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2012
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    President & Producer
    Vancouver
    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
     
  4. M.O.

    M.O. Well-Known Member

    Apr 10, 2012
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    #4 M.O., Sep 13, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
    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.
     
  5. FMA

    FMA Active Member

    Jun 17, 2012
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    Let me just say there not using there own money. All I can say is blackhat:eek:
     
  6. TheBunny

    TheBunny Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2008
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    MMO Mac Lead ZeniMax Online
    Baltimore
    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...
     
  7. MrBlue

    MrBlue Well-Known Member

    Sep 3, 2008
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    iPhone Developer
    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.
     
  8. visionwebs

    visionwebs Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2012
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    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.
     
  9. Blackharon

    Blackharon Well-Known Member

    Mar 15, 2010
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    Game Designer for Ludia
    Canada
    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).
     
  10. visionwebs

    visionwebs Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2012
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    Yes I see your point, it's quite a good one actually.
     
  11. TheBunny

    TheBunny Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2008
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    MMO Mac Lead ZeniMax Online
    Baltimore
    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?
     
  12. psj3809

    psj3809 Moderator

    Jan 13, 2011
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    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 !
     
  13. TheBunny

    TheBunny Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2008
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    MMO Mac Lead ZeniMax Online
    Baltimore
    Thank you very much for sharing that.
    I tried something similar on the lower sub game lists using a pay per install service.

    What I saw was almost the same,,,, and that unless an app was say 2$ or payper install services got a lot cheaper there was no way to make $.

    I would be ok with a paid service that would sell my app based on installs for like 30% of the price, That would leave me 30% apple 30% Adfirm 30% etc.

    Anyhow some formula like that could be profitable all around but it is not what Im seeing anyone offer these days.
     
  14. ColeyWoley

    ColeyWoley Active Member

    Jul 3, 2012
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    Artist, Disparity Games
    I'm curious, do people pay much attention to ratings? Everyone chases them, but it seems like no-one trusts them anyway. And there are plenty of quite successful games with fairly low ratings.
     
  15. Gaming is Life

    Gaming is Life New Member

    Sep 12, 2012
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    i am definitely referring to the top grossing chart and NOT the top free chart as some companies trying to rank in the top free have already been banned due to using "bots".

    in terms of monthly top grossing numbers, i believe that there is a huge spread between the #1 top grossing and the #10 top grossing. so #1 could be doing $12m/month (csr racing) and #5 at $5m/month and #10 at any given time could be doing $1m/month or less.

    just look at the top grossing chart. there are some games that have been up there forever that don't show up much on the top free chart and in order to rank in the top grossing you need installs and therefore you should show up somewhere in the top free right? i've also seen games just pop into top grossing faster than they rank in the top free. not sure how that could be possible because installs will drive users, who drive revenue, which then drives top grossing rankings.
     
  16. Blackharon

    Blackharon Well-Known Member

    Mar 15, 2010
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    Game Designer for Ludia
    Canada
    All things being equal this is true. However, if an app has more 'whales' ('Big Spenders', 'Largely Monetized Users', 'Suckers'...) than average it will climb the top grossing faster than the top free.

    Also, you don't always need a huge influx of new blood to monetize a free app well. If your game retains players for longer than average you will stay higher in the top grossing, but see drops in the top free.

    There's lots of reasons why downloads =/= sales and why either chart can seem unbalanced. Not all is attributed to gaming the system.
     
  17. Chris Hooks

    Chris Hooks New Member

    Sep 13, 2012
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    #17 Chris Hooks, Sep 24, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2012
    I think what Gaming is Life is saying makes a lot of sense. You drive installs which will increase your ranking on Top Free and once you get those installs into the game, they spend, which will increase your ranking on Top Grossing. To see if this actually is the case, I pulled several top grossing games on the charts and using App Annie graphed out the first 20 days of Top Free with Top Grossing. I found that consistently Top Grossing trails Top Free with one exception and that is Tap Campus Life by Pocket Gems. Somehow that game was able to have their Top Grossing Rank outpace their Top Free Rank. Any ideas how that can happen using acceptable industry standards?
     

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  18. Chris Hooks

    Chris Hooks New Member

    Sep 13, 2012
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    #18 Chris Hooks, Sep 25, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2012
    Here is the Tap Campus Life Graph
     

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  19. cmo

    cmo Member

    Jul 30, 2012
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    Actually, from your graphs there are several other games that, within just a few days of launch, have their top grossing rank outpace top free.

    What it probably means is that most companies come out of the gate with a huge marketing push that drives their apps into top free ahead of getting any top grossing positioning. Knowing how Pocket Gems tends to launch, I'd guess that they simply spent less money during the first few days than their competitors and thus had a lower top free ranking.

    Aside from that, Pocket Gems has gotten really good at monetizing users so even with a relatively small audience they can hit top grossing. Also, keep in mind they have a big catalogue and probably strategically push their whales into new games (Zynga does this too).
     
  20. lolzappan

    lolzappan Well-Known Member

    Feb 7, 2012
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