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[UPDATE] Developer alleges bot-farming company controls the App Store top free charts

Rotten core

Product: App Store | Manufacturer: Apple
App Store iPhone, thumbnail 1
If rumours circling today are to be believed, there are a number of App Store developers who are buying their way to success in Apple's top 25 lists.

An anonymous poster on the Touch Arcade forums, simply known as 'walterkaman', has alleged that a company is offering developers a surefire way to get into the top 25 lists on the App Store - and it involves devious means.

For $5,000, said company will allegedly utilise bots that will download a developer's app over and over again until it has broken into the top 25 charts. At this point, the developer's app will have received sufficient customer exposure to attract downloads from real people.

An unnamed source confirmed to Pocket Gamer earlier that it had also been approached by a company which offered a similar guaranteed placement service to the one outlined above.


The Touch Arcade forum poster alleges that a number of big-name developers are already using the service, including Top Girl dev Crowdstar.

However, later in the forum thread, Crowdstar co-founder Suren Markosian jumped in to defend his company's position.

"We all spend hundreds of thousands if not millions promoting our games every month using legitimate advertising channels such as flurry, chartboost, iAds, etc," Markosian said.

"While I sympathize with the smaller developers who may not have as much funding as we do and feel that we are getting a free ride the fact is we are spending significant marketing dollars to achieve top ratings."


The anonymous poster even alleges that Apple is already aware of the issue, and has banned a developer called Dream Cortex for employing this bot-farming tactic.

Dream Cortex saw its games removed from the App Store last month, and it originally said that it was "not sure what is happening" when questioned by Gamezebo. Pocket Gamer has contacted Dream Cortex regarding the allegations.

Unfortunately, the poster removed the name of the company behind this bot-farming scheme before Pocket Gamer could get to it. However, a quick Google search pulls up a forum post which appears to closely resemble the information given.

Reviewer photo
Mike Rose 6 February 2012
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Feb 2014
Post count:
@FullColorGames | 12:07 - 9 February 2014
The GTekna email text below is accurately reproduced. It seems that they have created a "reverse method" of the "free app a day" methods that employs a hook to those that engage it. Complete an action (of downloading an app) and get something ELSE you wanted because of it. But then again, that's no different than any other incentivized app download method that exists in many ad SDKs like Tapjoy, SponsorPay, Supersonic and the rest slew of others. Do something you most likely don't want to do to get something else you do, resulting in the creation of a tsunami for the party you're doing it for. That's not a bot nor a farm, it's incentivized marketing, plain and simple.

I can assure you that Suren Markosian is speaking the truth on how much money they are spending to acquire the users through modern methods of marketing and promotion. They spent an insane amount of money there for awhile and were unavoidable in every app (including ours) and still market heavily to this day, albeit it more targeted now than ever.

What is missing in Suren's statement is how it is started, how it evolved and how it's currently being done and in what order it all occurred in applied methodology. What did they do first? The low hanging fruit method or the top of the tree method. Burst campaigns vs. cherry picking method over time, localized or non-localized targeting? Image or text campaigns. Banners or interstitials. Video or statics? Email or web? Mobile or computer. Facebook + Mobile apps? Cross promotion or pure non-organic. White hat, gray hat or black hat marketing? There are so many variables that go into the BIG picture of how one's success happens that even I could write a 300 page book on it.

You can spend all the money you want in the world by doing incentivized marketing or in traditional marketing, by bait and switch methods, incentivized, buying the downloads, marketing, promoting or doing good old fashioned PR.

It still all comes down to the quality of your app at the beginning and the end of your day that causes it to spread virally in an organic method to reach millions upon millions of "free downloads". The real measuring stick is time which creates revenue over time as much as to what degree you become a brand name. If no one clicks through and downloads you go no where on the charts but can spend a ton of money shooting blanks.

Flappy Birds may have employed nefarious methods to get there, but one thing is for certain, they most CERTAINLY didn't advertise in any traditional method from what anyone can see or tell. What we also know is that EVERYONE that has played it draws an IDENTICAL conclusion. Very frustrating. Very addicting because it is very frustrating. Mission accomplished regardless of how it got to become a house hold name to millions of people around the world.

Well if you want to do it without controversy, virtual device bots or any other method, it seems that no one will tell you how they did it in the traditional advertising non-organic download methods.

Perhaps we can change that, because I am willing to publish the details for those that want to know how it's done.

We have just begun to actively acquire users on a global basis. We have downloads now in 150+ countries and have hit #1 in the card and board category in 39 of those countries as well as #1 in the overall app store of 2 of them along the way in the first 90 days of our official commercial release on November 21, 2013 across our 4 identical apps each with different targets. We believe we have something extra that should have a huge global effect in card gaming, but we also know we have to create awareness to generate downloads just like everyone else does. We aren't doing anything illegal or nefarious that may subject us to losing our developer license despite being seduced by many others to engage in such practices.

We make Full Color
Apr 2013
Post count:
Attila Beke | 11:39 - 1 April 2013
For organic reviews and downloads use https://promodispenser.com
Your first campaign is even free!
Users write honest reviews, so if you don't want bad reviews, don't add your crappy app :-P
Jun 2011
Post count:
jitterhitter | 18:07 - 12 February 2012
is it just me or does this sound like its comming from China. that country has the biggest hold on the pirate, illegal, and infriging of games. the Tool battery for the psp, flash carts for the DS and there already extreamly close to finishing a flash cart for the 3 DS as well. im not blamming the country as a whole but seriously theres a problem comming from that direction and because of international laws it just continues.
Feb 2012
Post count:
bantingo | 02:26 - 7 February 2012
Look at all the companies using Gtekna http://freeappparty.com/index.jsp these are some pretty major app companies I see there including Glu, SGN, Disney, Crowdstar, Gameloft, Beeline. It's more like who is not using them?

Feb 2012
Post count:
BouncingCow | 16:54 - 6 February 2012
super jump world used the same for his free version like many other ppl before him, they just didnt got caught :P
Feb 2012
Post count:
honkj | 16:07 - 6 February 2012
uhh, this isn't news... this is how all the top 25 lists are formed from day one, not by bots per say, but by bought advertising, and banner ads... (to cover the fact that the banners are on sites that use people to download those apps) a network of employees and hurds of people paid to download the particular free app....

this has been true from day one... (well in second place after the incentivized apps that advertise other apps to download for points... this used to control the top 25 until apple finally stopped that)

and this will continue to happen until Apple gets the hint that they should have about 100 different categories and list the good apps in that 100 categories at top rather than the most downloaded, it should be the best reviewed by Apple staffers and groups of downloaders that can be trusted alike to weed out fake reviews too...

this would be easy to quash if Apple didn't have a overall "top 25", (why do they think they need that? people should search for a category first, then see a top 25 of that sub sub sub category) and they should use downloads as a measure at all...

they'll figure it out, they always take forever to figure these things out though...
Feb 2012
Post count:
paultag | 15:47 - 6 February 2012
The only thing I'm surprised at here is how long this has taken to become public knowledge. These things have been going on since day one of the App Store. Apple will close the loop and someone will find another way to exploit it and it all starts again.

Puts all us small indie studios at a major disadvantage - especially the ones that can't even afford the $5000
Feb 2012
Post count:
modogo | 14:35 - 6 February 2012
I was approached by GTekna... You be the judge whether this is botting or not. And for the record I have not even responded to that mail!

############# Begin Mail ###############

I came across your website and thought that you may be interested in a promotion service for your app.

Our service promotes a lite/free (including ones with in-app purchase) version of your application and get it into the Top Free 25 within the US app store within three days. Your app can go from unknown to Top 25 in three days with our reliable and economic service. We have worked with many companies and indie developers who can attest to the success they have experienced.

We have a no-gimmick full money back guarantee, so if your app doesn't make to the promised rank, your money is refunded right away.

Your app is promoted through our various ad partners who put banner images on their web sites to promote the application. Most of the downloads are made by regular visitors and some of the larger community web sites give away freebies via a drawing of people who click on the ad banners. Obviously, not all downloads from our promotion are organic, and depending on the app being promoted, the percentage of organic users varies. However, all downloads are made by real people that have valid iTunes accounts.

If this is a service that sounds interesting to you please check out gtekna.com and freeappparty.com for more information and feel free to contact me for any questions.

We can also promote a paid app through our new service, AppTouchPoint.com. Contact us for more detailed information.

Thank you,

Chang-Min Pak

CEO, GTekna Corporation

############# End Mail ###############