A subtle post or two on a forum can really help a developer’s image if he knows how to put himself across, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The same cannot be said for fake reviews used to bolster a game’s score on iTunes, which can be disastrous. One such developer allegedly guilty of using this tactic is Molinker.
According to a story on IntoMobile, Apple VP Phil Schiller received an email complaint regarding Moniker’s NightCam Pro app. The email describes how 42 of the 43 reviews are similar in terms of language and the same five star ratings.
The same users have only reviewed other Molinker apps, further suggesting that they’re bogus. As a result, Molinker has been banned from developing for Apple and its 1,000+ apps have been taken down.
In a separate development, it seems Molinker may not be the only developer guilty of shill reviewing. According to a Touch Arcade forum post, a lot of reviews for Gameloft’s Modern Combat: Sandstorm app seem to be all very similar in their writing style, and all give the app five stars.
In the words of forumite Slayher:
“Hundreds of 5 star reviews popped up all in a row overnight, some even copy and paste and all very generic. This after days of 1 and 2 star reviews by angry users experiencing the upnp and crashing bugs. What they’re doing is very obvious, just go through the Dec 7th reviews and see for yourself.”
Other forum members echo Slayher’s criticisms of Gameloft, while a few speculate that the apparently bogus reviews may have been submitted by a rival to make Gameloft appear guilty of shill reviewing – a convoluted but no less worrying suggestion.
Whoever the culprit turns out to be – if anybody at all – the vulnerability of Apple’s ratings system is troubling. As Slayher laments, “The review system is the only way we have to communicate our concerns and they’ve found a way to take that away.”
No wonder, then, that Apple has come down so heavily on Molinker. This will be a worrying move for any other developers who have been tempted to influence App Store user ratings or who have been the victim of a stitch up: it may just have cost them a place on the App Store.
We’ve contacted Gameloft for comment.