Who and how gets into the tops of the App Store

For a developer who made his first iOS app and uploaded it to the App Store on his own, a painful waiting period begins: he is intensely watching the tops in the hope that his brainchild will take one of the coveted top lines. Experienced publishers and developers at this time spend huge budgets on marketing and sometimes resort to not entirely honest methods.

In February of this year, Apple launched a large-scale campaign against anyone who either offered services for “dishonest” promotion of applications, or used these services to get into the tops. As a result, not only scammers suffered, but also small independent studios, which, according to their assurances, did not do anything like that. As practice shows, Apple at least explains to large companies what the reason for the ban is, while when banning applications of unknown commands, the “yablochniki” simply refer to a violation of paragraph 3.10 of the guideline.

On the one hand, it is difficult to accuse Apple of trying to fight fraudulent fraud. On the other hand, the fact that the real algorithm for getting into the top App Store is still kept secret only contributes to an increase in fraud. According to the company Xyologic, the number of downloads in the App Store from January to April decreased by 25% compared to January of this year. “This may be partly due to the bot hunt that Apple has staged,” commented Matthaus Krzykowski, director of Xyologic. Statistics from Fiksu, another marketing company, confirms the data on the drop in downloads, but, however, as its latest research shows, it was temporary.

“Given the decrease in the number of downloads, developers and publishers are forced to pursue a more aggressive marketing policy,” said Joe Bayen, director of FreeAppADay, which helps promote applications in accordance with Apple’s rules. “If earlier it was enough to use two or three promotion channels, now we need to use all 40.”

However, Apple’s actions were mainly directed against increasing app downloads either with the help of bots or with the help of an “army” of specially hired users. All this has long been a secret of the policy – officially such actions are prohibited, and, nevertheless, there were (and still exist) whole agencies that promise specific places in the tops for certain amounts.

This, of course, did not stop inventive publishers and developers. For example, in April 2012, there was a small scandal with the GameInsight company, which you may know about. Some users received an email with Apple as the sender. The letter offered to download a free Tribez HD game, while the link was not direct: the forward on the App Store occurred after traveling through several more sites.

Shortly after that, GameInsight sent an official explanation to a journalist of the iDownloads resource, who conducted an entire investigation. The company apologized for the spam and blamed a certain partner from Armenia, who allegedly used such a method of promotion without her knowledge. What is interesting, the resource iGuides.ru a comment was made that the reason for what happened was a “webmaster error”. No one writes about how many downloads were received as a result of spam mailing, however, as far as we know, Apple did not apply any sanctions against the publisher.

The game Three Kingdoms, released by Hoolai Games in September 2011, managed to rise to 3rd place in the UK Top Grossing in December and to 3rd place in the US Top Grossing in February 2012, when the version was available – attention! – only in Chinese. This became possible due to the fact that the money from the players’ credit cards was withdrawn illegally and counted as in-game purchases. The management of Hoolai Games denies its involvement, blaming the limitations of the App Store, in which you can buy something only with an iTunes Giftcard or credit card, which not everyone in China has. As a result, users were forced to buy items “on the cheap” at the TaoBao auction, where they got as a result of fraud.

However, the good old cheating of ratings by bots is still happening, only now the agencies offering it are forced to encrypt, so they simply promise to “significantly increase the visibility of the application.”

The reason that developers are forced to take a workaround and use bots may be that the App Store, firstly, makes a big secret of what is actually taken into account when calculating the ranking, and secondly, deprives developers of alternative ways of promotion. For example, more than a year ago Apple banned stimulating installations by rewarding users. This was how TapJoy worked, which had a hard time at that moment. However, now she is successfully implementing this scheme in Google Play.

The moral is this: until Apple changes its policy and provides more official channels for promotion, developers will not stop using fraudulent methods, and it is useless to fight this. Because at the current level of competition, a place in the top is often equivalent to the life or death of both the application itself and the company that made it.

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