Apple bans promo code-incentivized app ratings and reviews | iLounge News

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Apple bans promo code-incentivized app ratings and reviews

Apple has reportedly made a change in its App Store app review policies preventing reviews or ratings of applications downloaded using promotional codes. Mac Rumors reports that the change has been made to “prevent comprimising [sic] of the rating system,” presumably by developers providing promo codes in exchange for positive reviews and high ratings of their applications. It remains unclear whether this new policy affects all promo codes and countries or only those issued since the new policy came into effect.

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Comments

1

Wait, so if I get a promo code for an app from now on I can’t review it at all?

That’s just flat out idiotic on Apple’s part. There are devs handing out promo codes on game sites like TA every day without any expectation other than you *will* review it so they get feedback good or bad. Prevent users from rating an app they’ve downloaded via a promo code and they might as well stopped letting devs give out promo codes at all.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on May 3, 2011 at 8:42 PM (CDT)

2

I can understand Apple’s stance on this—regardless of what the developers expect by giving out promo codes, there is no control on who is getting these codes nor what is implied by accepting them. By removing the ability to review an app if you got it for free, that helps preserve the integrity of the reviews.

Posted by rockmyplimsoul on May 3, 2011 at 10:01 PM (CDT)

3

It actually harms the integrity of the reviews to not allow this, or have you noticed the average level of scrutiny in reviews:

“It works, best game ever” 5 stars!!!

“The fluffy animal is cute!” 5 stars

“It is so addicting” 5 stars (person played game for 30 minutes)

“It crashed once on my device, teh suxxors” 1 star

“It needs Game Center” 1 star

“It has IAP, devs are evil” 1 star

Devs give out promo codes to people who have actually demonstrated and ability to write and critique games so they can be assured of at least a few reviews that tell them and the thinking slice of the species something useful.

Besides, given that you don’t actually have to purchase a game to review it, isn’t this pretty much the opposite of smart? I’ve seen a number of games where the first 30 or 40 reviews are clearly written by people dropping all the same buzz phrases and tips without actually reviewing the game - probably every dev, family member, and janitorial staffer they had was told to go post something from a memo.

So the player who beta tests, provides feedback, and knows their stuff can’t post a review if they get a promo code, but a the fake account an unscrupulous dev created for their cat can?

Apple’s policy team was hitting the bottle when they came up with this one.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on May 4, 2011 at 6:50 AM (CDT)

4

“Devs give out promo codes to people who have actually demonstrated and ability to write and critique games so they can be assured of at least a few reviews that tell them and the thinking slice of the species something useful.”

In a perfect world, that would be true. However, since anybody with $99 and a bit of programming experience can start selling stuff on the App Store, and it’s difficult to get your apps noticed at the best of times, many smaller developers resort to far less ethical tactics to get exposure for their apps.

Further, for the most part, devs who give out promo codes for legitimate reviews are giving them out to actual sites like iLounge and Touch Arcade for posting somewhere other than the App Store ratings.  Generally, most legit developers see these as tools for generating outside publicity for their apps, not simply adding to the ratings on the store itself. We receive dozens of promo codes a week from developers, and I can’t recall a single developer who was looking for a legitimate review ever asking me to post anything on the App Store itself.

It is sadly not unheard of for major app review sites to be approached by developers offering (ahem)  “incentives” for positive reviews, and in fact even before promo codes were available, there were at least two marketing firms that were caught selling astroturfing services to iOS developers, promising high ratings and front-page placement.  Those developers ended up being kicked out of the App Store once they were caught, but it seems like there’s an ongoing struggle to make sure that the reviews on the App Store actually reflect the opinions of real users (no matter how inane those opinions may often be).

“Besides, given that you don’t actually have to purchase a game to review it, isn’t this pretty much the opposite of smart?”

You do have to purchase an app to review or rate it, although obviously for free games this simply means you have to download the game (since there’s no cost).  Of course, there’s also no need for promo codes for free games.

This policy changed over two years ago—only a few months after the App Store opened.  Prior to that it wasn’t at all uncommon to see a whole bunch of one-star reviews from people complaining that the price was too high for an app they’d never even tried.  In fact, Apple went so far as to eventually remove these older reviews entirely.

“So the player who beta tests, provides feedback, and knows their stuff can’t post a review if they get a promo code, but a the fake account an unscrupulous dev created for their cat can?”

If the developer wants to buy their own app to post a review, then I suppose they can.  This is somewhat more difficult to police, unfortunately, but at least they’re not able to do this for free anymore. Further, it’s still one review per account and per purchase, so it could end up costing a fair bit of time and money to get a significant number of reviews posted, and Apple might catch on after somebody signed up for 30 or 40 new iTunes Store accounts from the same computer over a very short period of time.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on May 4, 2011 at 9:40 AM (CDT)

5

“You do have to purchase an app to review or rate it”

I stand corrected - I always see the “Write A Review” button/link on all apps so I assumed I could if I wanted (never tried to review something I hadn’t actually used/played since I take the practice seriously), but just tested the claim and, yes, did get an alert I had to purchase or download it.

That said, I am obviously 100% in disagreement with this policy and anyone’s defense of it. If Apple want to improve the integrity they should stop allowing one sentence reviews (and, worse, recommending the practice) and only post reviews that meet a minimum grade level and content quotient.

I feel this policy change is a “baby with the bathwater” approach that will do nothing to improve the “integrity” of app store reviews, but will go a long way toward harming smaller devs.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on May 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM (CDT)

6

You’ll get no disagreement from me that the App Store rating system could do to be otherwise improved. :) 

However, banning reviews by promo codes is one of these situations where I strongly suspect Apple has more information at its disposal on how the system is being abused than we realize.  As I’ve noted, there are many other ways to get positive buzz out about an app than encouraging people to provide positive reviews on the App Store, and from where I sit, most legit developers are using outside channels, since App Store ratings are virtually useless anyway.

App Store reviews work in situations where somebody discovers an app and wants to see some feedback about it, but it really doesn’t help with getting an app out there and exposed in the first place. This is why most legitimate developers don’t focus on the App Store ratings and prefer to instead get their apps covered out in the real world.

On the other hand, offering incentivized five-star reviews is an easy way for “marketing companies” to make a fast buck, offering services to small developers who may feel that their apps are lost in the App Store’s vast catalogue. Sadly, the banning of reviews by promo code is only going to slow down this business rather than stopping it entirely, as some of these companies are only too happy to pay for their “reviewers” to actually purchase the apps in question.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on May 4, 2011 at 10:01 AM (CDT)

7

Amazon started flagging reviews as “Amazon verified purchase” some time ago to help give some credibility to product reviews. Since Apple only allows reviews from people who have downloaded an item, they’ve taken it a step further. I could see Apple allowing promo code “buyers” review an app, but flag the review in such a way that the reader is aware of how they obtained it.

Posted by rockmyplimsoul on May 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM (CDT)

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