Gaming the App Store: Real life examples

I find this astonishing:

This is RedCross Rescue, or at least that was its title when MobileX Labs released it in November of 2012. But after a few months of poor sales, its name was changed to “Bike Race HD” in January 2013. It gained some traction, breaking the top 250 in the Adventure category, but it began to slip once more.

Then, just last month, its fortunes miraculously shifted, climbing almost 750 spots from its 1,000+ ranking in Adventure to the top 300. But this amazing change of fortune wasn’t due to a new update, cool level pack, or added functionality. No, it was achieved with nothing more than a simple name change. Overnight, Bike Race HD became “Bike Race Ninja Clumsy Run HD.”

Capitalizing on the absolutely scorching hot search term “Clumsy Ninja,” the app did quite well, but its transformation wasn’t complete. On February 14, a simple new app called “Le Pupppy” took the App Store by storm, becoming a top 10 game shortly after launch. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Le Pupppy began its climb to the top, the app formerly known as RedCross Rescue evolved once again, this time to “Le Puppy Clumsy Biker Pupppy Race Ninja 2 HD.”

The article goes on to follow this app through another renaming scheme. Not sure how to police this, but this just hurts everyone.

  • IMHO – and I mean that sincerely – this says so much more about users than it does about Apple.

    Consumers have had to fine-tune their bullshit detectors each time a new directory* becomes an established resource. It’s up to we users to filter out the noise.

    Bike Race Ninja Clumsy Run HD is just that: insolent noise.

    Once established, I think there’s a solid argument to be made that Apple will have done its part, and so will external forces such as copyright, trademarks and patents. These will bolster consumers’ BS detectors to formally protect both consumers and business alike. It’s a messy process but it happens.

    *Yellow Pages (call AAA Name Gaming Services) *Internet Search Engines (leverage SEO to get noticed)

  • ConfuzedShopper

    Isn’t the policing simple: disallow name changes. What legitimate reasons are there for a published app to change its name? The name should be the brand, the identity of an app. You don’t see Coke calling itself something different each month to try to cash in on trends and “buzz”. Apple should make apps use the same name on the home screen as in the app store and stop or severely limit the ability to change app names. Maybe then they can start to tackle the SEO-type bullshit that is making the app store search so useless. Most times I buy an app these days I follow a direct link from the producer’s website or a review. Even typing the name perfectly is no guarantee that the app you’re looking for will come up in the top 10 search results.

    • gjgustav

      There are often trademark issues that cause app names to be changed. A better solution, is require name changes to be vetted by Apple.

      • ConfuzedShopper

        I wonder how often that really happens for legitimate reasons. Shouldn’t trademark issues be sorted out before app submission. I know Apple can’t police trademark infringement but I shouldn’t be allowed to submit an app that uses someone else’s trademark (hello, PaperByFiftyThree)

        • Sigivald

          Someone else’s IP is not always so trivially easy to detect – even for someone acting in good faith.

          Especially if there’s some question as to who really started using it first, or if there are multi-market issues and acquisitions…

          Name changes like adding HD (when you really did go to Retina support!) seem valid; and if it’s a paid app there’s no way I know of to give existing customers the upgrade if it’s a “new app” because you couldn’t rename.

          “Review all name changes” (or tweaked versions of it that let the common “good” cases through and didn’t let hijackers work*) sounds workable.

          (* Imagine a system where changing your app name to include anything from the names of any top-100 app [apart from ‘the’ and the like] flags automatic review, say.

          This would not even generate much traffic once the word got out that you wouldn’t get away with doing it, I bet.)

  • lucascott

    There was something a while back about apps no longer being allowed to change their screenshots unless a binary was being submitted. I suspect Apple will extend this to descriptions and titles in the near future. They should at least. Or set up some kind of system where all metadata gets reviewed for such fraud tactics. Heck they could do with some better testing of apps in general, especially new ones. I know it would be expensive and time consuming but with all the crap that keeps popping up it might be time. Perhaps they could also certify outside groups to pre test apps and those go higher up the queue for approval.

  • Sigivald

    I want to kick these people in the shins and/or testicles. In the shinticles.

    (I am with matthew, if only that the fact that this tactic works says customers might click anything once if it’s free.

    I’d love to see, if the data was available, how those games’ revenue curves look around those inflection points.)