作为一名独立开发支持者以及营销专业人士，没有什么比开发者通过卑鄙手段花钱进入App Store榜单前列更让我气愤的了。不要误会我的意思，我并不是反对付费营销策略。我反对的是那些模拟或以物质激励真正用户行为（例如下载或积极评价）的营销方法来利用App Store榜单排名算法。如果不审查这些行为，它们就可能将App Store这种让大家发现高质量游戏的地方颠覆成由财大气粗但游戏欠佳者称霸的广告平台，从而迫使独立开发者走向末路。
对于那些在整个App Store职业生涯创收都无法超过1万美元的独立开发者来说，两周赚1.7万美元真是一个遥不可及的梦想。但App Store的榜单排名算法和推广策略令这一梦想成为可能。让我们来解决一下。
在上述例子中，苹果是根据关注质量和吸引力的标准（例如，该应用是否优秀，App Store用户是否喜欢它？）推荐AnyList。实际上，所有获得苹果推广或者用户选择榜单的应用都是因为符合这一标准而上榜。而这一标准没有考虑到的因素就是营销预算。为什么？因为确保应用是根据质量而非开发者所能承担的营销预算获得推荐，正是App Store维持其发现优秀内容平台这一地位的关键。它还允许无营销预算的开发者创造出色的游戏并获得曝光度——这也是App Store成为独立开发者重要发布渠道的一个原因。无怪乎独立开发者所发布的手机游戏占比高达68%！
Substandard Studios向App Store发布了一款含有应用内置广告的免费游戏《Crap-O-La》。Substandard之后发现了一家承诺只要交9.6万美元就能够保证《Crap-O-La》进入App Store榜单前十名的“营销代理机构”。substandard就同意了这一交易，在一周内支付了费用，《Crap-O-La》顺利进入榜单前十名并实现了200万次下载量，每天收获5万美元广告收益。与此同时，App Store用户则愤怒苹果居然推荐了这样一款糟糕的游戏，并困惑为何它能够获得如此多下载量和好评。苹果也很愤怒，因为Substandard戏弄了该系统，损害了苹果推广高质量内容的信誉，导致它失去了用户信任。而最终，遵从苹果规则的独立开发者发布了高质量的游戏，却因为苹果排名算法的失败而被忽略了。
尽管不守规矩的开发者不时在排名系统做手脚的现实看似无害，但如果不进行彻查，苹果App Store就会维持现状，这一现实也会成为常态。在一个开发者必须投入将近10万美元才能参与竞争的市场中，独立开发者只有两种选择：找到投资者并被迫创造作为独立开发者并不想创造的游戏，或者寻找另一发布渠道。这两种选择都不够理想，并最终会导致App Store上的独立游戏彻底灭绝。
Gaming the App Store: The Start of an Indie Ice Age
by Emmy Jonassen
The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Indie Ice Age
As an indie supporter and marketing professional, nothing outrages me more than developers who pay their way into the App Store’s charts with shady acquisition practices. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against paid acquisition. (I don’t think you’ll find a respectable marketer who does.) What I am against are acquisition methods that simulate or incentivize real user activity–like downloads or positive reviews–to trick the App Store’s charting algorithm. If left unchecked, these practices will turn the App Store from a place to discover quality games into a banner farm for subpar apps backed by deep pockets, forcing indie games into extinction.
Why is charting such a big deal?
Before one can grasp how damaging shady acquisition practices are, it’s important to understand the power of charting. By applying what we know about app monetization to the real-life example below, we can do just this.
In late 2012, AnyList, a grocery list app, was released on the App Store. After one week, AnyList had generated 215 downloads. Soon after, Apple featured AnyList as “New and Noteworthy” for two weeks. During this time, AnyList generated over 60,000 downloads–a 28,000 percent increase from before it was featured.1
Now, imagine AnyList was a free-to-play game with in-app purchases. Knowing that three percent of freemium users make at least one in-app purchase that averages $9.99, AnyList could have earned at least $17,000 from being featured for just two weeks.2 Compare this to the $64 the app could have earned the week prior and all of a sudden the allure of charting becomes understandable.
Why is charting such a big deal for indies?
For an indie who statistically won’t make over $10,000 in his/her entire career on the App Store, $17,000 in two weeks is a dream, however, the App Store makes it possible with its charting algorithms and promotion philosophy.3 Let me explain.
In the above example, Apple chose to feature AnyList based on criteria that focuses on quality and appeal (i.e., is the app good and will App Store customers like it?).4 In fact, all apps that get promoted in Apple- or customer-selected charts are there because they match these criteria. What isn’t factored into this criteria is marketing budget. Why? Because ensuring apps get promoted based on quality, not how much marketing developers can afford, maintains the App Store as a place to discover great content. It also allows developers with no marketing budgets, who create amazing games, to get discovered–making the App Store a critical distribution channel for indies. No wonder indies are responsible for publishing 68 percent of mobile games!5
What would happen to indies if Apple’s charting algorithms were compromised?
With the App Store being so critical to indie success, any compromise to its charting algorithms would clearly have an impact. How big would this impact be? Let’s consider the below example.
Substandard Studios publishes Crap-O-La to the App Store as a free-to-play game with in-app advertising. Substandard then finds a “marketing agency” that guarantees Crap-O-La a spot in the App Store’s Top 10 in exchange for $96,000.6 Substandard agrees, pays the agency and within one week, Crap-O-La is on the Top 10 generating two million downloads and $50,000 in ad revenue per day. Meanwhile, App Store consumers are furious with Apple for recommending such a terrible game and confused how it could have so many downloads and excellent reviews. Apple is furious because Substandard has gamed the system, tarnishing Apple’s reputation for promoting quality content and causing it to lose consumer trust. And finally, indies who followed the rules, publishing quality games, are passed over because Apple’s charting algorithms failed.
While it may seem innocuous for a naughty developer to game the system every now and then, if left unchecked, this could become status quo. And in a world where developers must spend almost $100,000 to compete, indies have two options: find investors and risk being forced to build games they became indies to avoid or find another distribution channel. Both options are not ideal and will eventually lead to the disappearance of indie games on the App Store altogether.
How can we stop this unfortunate scenario?
Apple doesn’t have to be the only one taking a stand against unethical marketing practices. In fact, they shouldn’t be. As indies or indie supporters, we should take unethical marketing practices just as, if not more seriously than Apple. Below are four ways indies and indie supporters can curb and slowly eliminate unethical marketing behavior.
Do Your Research
If you’re an indie fortunate enough to have a marketing budget, make sure you hire reputable marketing agencies and/or consultants. How? Check references, read reviews and so on. A good marketing vendor will have no problem providing you with references, examples of work and any other information you need to make an informed decision (barring disclosure of confidential information of course). In addition, a good marketing vendor should do this with complete transparency and no guff. If you discover or get the faintest whiff of a fishiness, move on and warn your indie friends to do the same.
Monitor Your App’s Activity
If the agency you hired is managing your lead acquisition, be sure to monitor your game’s activity closely. Pay special attention to (1) little to no in-game activity after download (i.e., are the downloads you’re getting actually playing the game?) and (2) similarity between positive reviews (i.e., are your positive reviews similar in content, language, style, etc.?). If you are seeing any of these patterns, your marketing vendor could be engaging in unethical behavior.
Raise Awareness by Taking a Stand
Unethical App Store marketing practices impact the indie community in a major way and should be something you care about. Help generate awareness around the issue by taking a stand. Talk about your feelings on the subject with other indies, on your social media properties, on your blog, etc. Don’t feel the need to go crazy on the subject, but any attention you draw to the issue will make it harder and harder for agencies to get away with continued shadiness.
Help Your Indie Comrades Out
One of the reasons I am so fond of the indie community is because we help each other out. Promotion is no exception. If an indie releases a game you feel is excellent, tell people about it. A simple Tweet or Facebook post to a group of followers carries a lot more weight than a paid ad. It may seem insignificant, but if enough indies participate, these small gestures can add up, becoming a powerful marketing vehicle.（source：gamasutra）