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PR firm caught posting phony iPhone app reviews for clients

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Monday, August 24, 2009
News Categories: Apps + Games

In a lengthy, in-depth investigation spurred by an anonymous developer tip, MobileCrunch has revealed that the PR firm Reverb Communications has been actively posting bogus reviews on the App Store for its clients’ games, and offering the same service to potential clients. A check of the App Store, cross-referenced with information from the Internet, shows that Reverb has employed at least seven different iTunes accounts to create positive reviews for clients including IUGO, Pangea Software, which had its game Cro-Mag Rally featured prominently in a TV advertisement for the iPhone 3G, and Publisher X, which is owned by Reverb. In each case, the iTunes account in question had posted only 5-star reviews to a select number of these clients’ games, and had not posted a single review for any non-Reverb application.

In addition to the phony positive reviews, which are created by in-house writers to target select age ranges and are posted upon the game’s release, the company also promises clients “online message boards” management, and preferential placement on the App Store via its dealings with Apple. The company claims to work directly with Apple on “each and every iPhone title,” claiming to have secured on-stage Apple keynote appearances, national iPhone TV commercials, placement on the “What’s Hot,” “Staff Favorite,” and “What’s New” lists, and more for its clients. Other Reverb clients include Harmonix, International Game Technology, Realtime Associates, Playlogic, Zen Studios, Graffiti Entertainment, and MTV Games, and the company claims its clients have sold over $2 billion in product while contracted with the firm.

Over the course of a number of our own reviews of these companies’ titles, iLounge’s Editors have repeatedly noted a pronounced disparity between the quality of the apps and the App Store user comments. We urge our readers to exercise extreme caution in relying upon App Store ratings, as they continue to be subject to considerable manipulation by anonymous users.

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Comments

1

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. I assume if you dig a bit deeper I imagine you’ll find that a lot of One Star Bandit Reviews on certain Apps were left by developers (or their P.R.) of competing apps.

The same is true of user reviews on stuff outside of iTunes as well. Amazon’s user reviews are pretty much approaching a broken state of uselessness.

I’m not sure how you’d correct the problem other than be aware of it.

Posted by Larry Madill on August 24, 2009 at 8:52 AM (PDT)

2

Cro-Mag Rally is still one of the finest experiences available on the iPhone. Anyone who has yet to download really needs to give it a shot. I still play it almost every single day and I consider it to be one of the most groundbreaking and original games of all time. The iPhone and Cro-Mag Rally are basically the same thing in my mind. You can’t have one without the other.

So what are you waiting for? Download Cro-Mag Rally and let the prehisterical good times roll! Available now on the iTunes App store!

Posted by ort on August 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM (PDT)

3

Fake reviews are a bad thing, but really when I have to sift through 50 overly positive reviews and 50 overly negative reviews to get to 1-5 useful ones, how much impact does this have?  Most of the crappy reviews I have to go through are written by kids or people who should not be writing reviews (things like “does not work, fail” are useless).

Posted by Dimitri on August 24, 2009 at 11:45 AM (PDT)

4

So what. The Internet has reduced almost all information to being suspect, especially with the rise of so-called social networking. Wikipedia may be popular, but it is completely open to manipulation and, thus, untrustworthy. Personal reviews are no different.

Most people don’t care. Caveat emptor.

Posted by Alan on August 24, 2009 at 11:48 AM (PDT)

5

Hey ort, do you work for Reverb Communications?? lol

Posted by John Boy on August 24, 2009 at 12:26 PM (PDT)

6

I don’t really read the positive reviews. I read the descriptions of an app and decide if it sounds like something I’ll like. Then I look at how many negative reviews there are and what people complain about. That way I know whats wrong with it. If there are 1 or 2 people complaining about something then it’s probably just them. If 50% or more complain about the same issues then I know thew app probably has a problem in that area.

Posted by Johnny L on August 25, 2009 at 5:41 AM (PDT)

7

I usually go to youtube and see if there is a gameplay video. If there is a judge for myself if I like the game or not. App review sites are much better at finding out the true value of a game. I always take Amazon and iTune reviews with a grain of salt.

Posted by R.R. Torres on August 25, 2009 at 10:44 AM (PDT)

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