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  • How to Game the AppStore: Jirbo
    On April 22nd, StealthBomber Premium (link opens iTunes), a side-scroller AppStore game by Jirbo, was the #1 paid app on the AppStore. On April 28th it was not in the top 500. On April 22nd, the day before it hit #1, it was #425. It never hit above the top 750 in the overall ranks of ANY other country's AppStore. Here's a graph of it's AppStore performance:



    On April 28th, Snot Rocket the Game (link opens iTunes), an AppStore game to throw snot really far, by Jirbo, was the #4 paid app on the AppStore. On May 2nd it was not in the top 500. On April 27th, the day before it hit #4, it was #680. It never hit above the top 750 in the overall ranks of ANY other country's AppStore. Here's a graph of it's AppStore performance:



    Of the Top 5 overall paid apps in the AppStore for each day of the past week, EVERY one shows a steady climb/plateau/decline from those top numbers. And EVERY one is in the top 100 of well over a dozen countries, some gracing the top 100 of over 50 countries. (Today's top 5 overall apps are: Angry Birds, The Impossible Game, Doodle Jump, 7.0 Megapixel Camera + Zoom, and Fruit Ninja. Here's a graph of 3 of their AppStore performances:



    A quick glance at the charts of the last 20 or so apps from Jirbo shows surprisingly similar spikes, with a few having solid steady climbs.

    This trend was first noticed on [ame="http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=53244"]TouchArcade[/ame], and brought to my attention recently. Jirbo is quick to point to their AdColony "in-app video ad technology," yet why would this only work for a couple days? The Register also noticed Jirbo adding a space to the beginning of all their app names a while back to move up the alphabetical list - and suddenly removing them later.

    I emailed Jibro, a Los Angeles based company founded by Jonathan Zweig, and asked about the strikingly fortuitous rise of the apps. I received no response. A similar email from a random user on TouchArcade got a response which pushed AdColony as the reason behind the rise.

    The consensus in the 5 pages of discussion on the TouchArcade thread is an idea Jirbo is somehow buying thousands of copies of their own apps to shove them to the top of the AppStore - an idea that may seem ludicrous, but really isn't that tough in practice. Assuming (possible, although a big assumption) you could get a few thousand unique iTunes accounts set up in advance (and that's not as hard as you think if you picture 50 employees, or a week's time), cycling through those with a few dozen people over a day would generate quite a few hits. And if it's all your money going into your app - you're only losing 30% of the spend (Apple's cut). That's not bad to put you at the top of the AppStore. The exposure and sales from that spot would well outweigh the initial spend.

    Of course, maybe they just have a really high, unlikely percentage of apps which hit number one out of nowhere and then fall back off rapidly.

    So is this... wrong? Well it certainly seems shady; could maybe even term it immoral. Or just savvy business? Either way, it doesn't seem Apple would let this go on long once it was brought to their attention.

    What are your thoughts?
    This article was originally published in forum thread: How to Game the AppStore: Jirbo started by Kyle Matthews View original post
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. k.nitsua's Avatar
      k.nitsua -
      Definitely shady, and would be a big red mark on the perceived "future model of all markets". I really hope Apple takes care of this asap like they did with that company who wrote their own 5 star reviews on the App Store under different aliases.
    1. extremzocker's Avatar
      extremzocker -
      yeah, shady.
      although... are the apps any good??
    1. Count Tracula's Avatar
      Count Tracula -
      Theres nothing apple could or would do about this. Apple will say 'sure, we'll take our 30%, keep buying your own apps, we dont care'. Why would they care?
    1. moon#pie's Avatar
      moon#pie -
      lol. I love how pocket god and doodle jump have been in the top 25 ever since I got my ipod touch a year ago. Those devs deserve it.
    1. eg6motion's Avatar
      eg6motion -
      Quote Originally Posted by Count Tracula View Post
      Theres nothing apple could or would do about this. Apple will say 'sure, we'll take our 30%, keep buying your own apps, we dont care'. Why would they care?
      Apple would care. They are less about bottom dollar and more about politics. Hence their (extreme) interests in jailbreaking, app approval, hardware, closed environments, etc.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      I personally don't consider this Shady. Big companies like Apple have told lies to try to get ahead of the pack. We brush those off as ok, why is this a problem?

      Quote Originally Posted by eg6motion View Post
      Apple would care. They are less about bottom dollar and more about politics. Hence their (extreme) interests in jailbreaking, app approval, hardware, closed environments, etc.
      All of the above you just listed can be used as an argument as to Apple going for the big bucks too. In their eyes Jailbreaking takes awa from the appstore, they make money by being the only ones to sell THEIR hardware, and keeping a closed environment limits you to buying only what THEY can benefit from. This is a double edged sword my friend.
    1. ecd5000's Avatar
      ecd5000 -
      something about this just seems wrong, but let them waste their 30% on this. All the games youve shown are junk anyway.
    1. Jahooba's Avatar
      Jahooba -
      Hey, that's pretty shrewd of them if that's what they're doing. I certainly wouldn't have thought to do that. But I'm not Rebel Scum!

      I doubt Angry Birds is a part of that. That game is actually really good.
    1. vedavis's Avatar
      vedavis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Matthews View Post
      ...an idea Jirbo is somehow buying thousands of copies of their own apps to shove them to the top of the AppStore...
      This 'idea', if true, can be defused by forums like this. Let's keep up the pressure on these AppDevs and make them go away.

      P.S. My one and only Jirbo app was deleted two years ago. Crapware.
    1. Truckerbear's Avatar
      Truckerbear -
      I agree that the jirbo apps are crapware that is why they drop off into the abyss after a few weeks.

      My guess is Apple doesn't know but they do now!
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Edit
    1. Count Tracula's Avatar
      Count Tracula -
      This is the same premise as buying your own cds in the music industry. it will get you on billboard and will get other people interested. if you buy 20k of your own cd, sure you lost the manufacturing and distribution fees but you have major labels now interested in giving you a large record deal. just ask Master P. and several others. Its pretty common practice.
    1. gorduxo's Avatar
      gorduxo -
      you do know, that they're not the only one doing it...i wouldn't say that's the normal business practice of "fair" companies, but i believe there are other people/ companies doing the same (ex.: musicians)
      you can even call it "marketing", as they're using the itunes app store to generate interest (the normal user probably won't know the background story or think about anything like; he'll only see that it's the #1 app).
      it's a question of business ethics, i wouldn't do it as a dev and i think apple as the store maintainer should step in. we are the final customers and if that happens again amd again with crappy apps there will be people complaining (why the hell is that app sooo bad and it's #1 in the store...bla bla bla)... but i'll guess it will take some time, as apple surely wants to get those 30% for as long as possible ;-)
    1. drunknbass's Avatar
      drunknbass -
      Quote Originally Posted by Count Tracula View Post
      This is the same premise as buying your own cds in the music industry. it will get you on billboard and will get other people interested. if you buy 20k of your own cd, sure you lost the manufacturing and distribution fees but you have major labels now interested in giving you a large record deal. just ask Master P. and several others. Its pretty common practice.


      Not really the same as people going into tower records and buying up a bunch of cds.

      The difference is this violates itunes/appstore TOS creating multiple accounts, and defrauding the rating/review systems/customer when you rate your own stuff 5 stars.

      And there have been others in the past defrauding the appstore leaving fake reviews and have been perma banned. Im curious how apple will handle this larger name doing something even worse(gaming the ranking system)
    1. ddonuts4's Avatar
      ddonuts4 -
      Companies like storm8 (search for "world war" and youll find them) and ngmoco offer free "points" in their apps if you download another app they make. They would have to have top 100 apps though. This would explain it, BUT, not the fact that they were all bought in 1 country
    1. PM5K's Avatar
      PM5K -
      It's only shady if they reviewed the app as well. If you're dumb enough to buy an app simply because it's popular, that's your own problem.
    1. whereswaldo's Avatar
      whereswaldo -
      i hope angry birds is #1 for along time, it rocks
    1. mortopher's Avatar
      mortopher -
      This could easily be avoided by Apple allowing you to change the time frame for ranking "what's hot". I'm assuming the time frame is 1-2 days? Regardless, I'd be much more inclined to browse over through those apps if I could see "what's hot" over the past 2 weeks, month, etc. Until options like that come to fruition, I'll just continue to have a 2-button Appstore app: Search & Updates.
    1. ExileTEAM's Avatar
      ExileTEAM -
      Quote Originally Posted by eg6motion View Post
      Apple would care. They are less about bottom dollar and more about politics. Hence their (extreme) interests in jailbreaking, app approval, hardware, closed environments, etc.
      And all this is doing is making there apps be in the top so that people can then be like hum ill go to the jailbreak appstore and get it for free thus, Jibro loosing sales.
    1. NegativeBeef's Avatar
      NegativeBeef -
      how much of your own app would you have to buy to make it #1 paid app?