PR firm caught posting phony iPhone app reviews for clients

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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