Apple Bans Game After Developer Publicly Trashes App Store

Last week, game developer Tommy Refenes publicly called Apple's app store "awful" and "horrible". This week, Apple yanked his game from their store.

There are a couple of reasons that may have compelled Apple to remove Zits & Giggles, a pimple-popping game for the iPhone and iPod Touch, from the App store:

Possibility 1: Its co-creator did spend five minutes at last week's Game Developers Conference "Indie Gamemakers Rant" to declare that he "absolutely fucking hate[s]the iPhone app store". He likened the iPhone gaming market to that served by the low-quality Tiger handheld gaming systems of the '80s and '90s, handheld devices that played crude Mega Man and Street Fighter games.

Possibility 2: Zits & Giggles' creators also kept raising the price of their game - as an experiment - up to $US400 as of last week.

But Apple hasn't offered Refenes any clues, leaving him only with theories. "They gave me no explanation at all as to why they took it down," the developer told Kotaku after trying to get an explanation from Apple all week. "I'm guessing they are mad that I said their store sucks and the iPhone is a Tiger handheld and they took it down."

Apple has not responded to Kotaku's request for comment

Zits & Giggles was launched in March 2009. It's a simple pimple-popping game. It was co-developed by handful of game makers, including Refenes and Adam Atomic, the developer of the hit iPhone game Canablat. The group made the game as a lark, a sentiment that was clear from the summary of the game that used to appear on the App store:

Will you continue to embrace good taste and sensibility, or will you have the courage and the fortitude to go above and beyond your duties as a patriotic citizen? This cultural milestone is not only the FIRST* but the MOST ADVANCED dermatological simulator ever released on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Few people perusing the App store had any interest in Zits & Giggles in March of 2009. According to Refenes, sales were negligible.

In his rant last week, Refenes explained that, about five months ago, he raised the price to $US15. It was an experiment. On the day he raised the price, three people bought the game. He said he raised the price to $US50 and four more people bought it. Refenes was inspired and convinced that people who buy games from the App store aren't good at sniffing out good games. He would keep raising the price to see how many more people would buy the game. Fourteen people bought the game at $US299, he said.

On Monday, March 15, the day Zits & Giggles was removed from the App store, someone bought the game for $US400, he told Kotaku.

One day after the removal, Refenes received an email from an Apple official. The note, subject-lined "Your App Store submission Zits & Giggles," began with "We have been trying to reach you" along with a phone number to call but did not refer to the game's removal. After receiving the email, Refenes figured out that his game had been pulled. He's been trying to get Apple to talk to him, by phone or email, ever since.

Refenes, who is also part of the development team for the anticipated PC, Xbox 360 and Wii downloadable game Super Meat Boy, told Kotaku that he does not believe his game broke any App store rules.

Kotaku has sought clarification from Apple about whether the pricing experiment, which would have cost consumers far more money than Zits & Giggles is worth, violates any App store pricing rules. In 2008, Apple removed an app called I Am Rich that charged people $US1000 for essentially nothing.

At the Game Developers Conference, Refenes called the App store to the "Tiger handheld game of this generation", a platform on which big brands are sold but where game quality is not the consumers' priority. The pricing experiment had confirmed this, he told his fellow game creators: "My conclusion to all of this is that the people you're selling games to on the App store, they're not necessarily gamers. There are some games that sell very well on the App store, but for the most part, when you have stuff like Street Fighter and Assassin's Creed, the are a way to sell a brand, just like the Tiger handhelds were. "

It is easy to believe that Refenes' March 10, 2010 rant, delivered a year after the game was launched and several months after the price started to climb, was the impetus for the removal of Zits & Giggles from the App store. But whether Apple made its move on March 15 due to discovering the app via the rant or to punish a trash-talking developer will remain a mystery until Apple speaks up.


    I can't say I blame them, when it had gotten to the point of being a $400 game you would have to wonder that people might confuse the price accidentally, and that's far too much money to waste on a slip up.

    Hell, the fact that the games price would rise to even $15 is a cause for concern, taking advantage of people who are under the assumption that you get what you pay for don't deserve to be exploited.

    The game looks like utter turd but I think they have the right to charge whatever they like. If people want to buy a crappy game for $400 then they obviously have so much money they don't know what to do with it. Who am we to tell them how they should spend it?

    Yeah, serves this guy right.

    wow, I find it pretty unsettling that you can’t have your own opinion of Apple and their service or they will pull your content down. So much for free speech.

      apples platform, apple rules.

      Sony wouldnt let you release a game for ps3 called PSTRIPLE SUKCBS BALLS RETURN IT FOR A 360 NAO

    It's not his fault if people don't properly check their purchases. They raised the price as an experiment, and it got some interesting results. Mainly that people think Apps at a higher price are worth buying simply because they are expensive.

    That said, I'm pretty sure the EULA for Apples SDK says that Apple has the right to pull your app for any reason it deems worthy. Slandering the company seems like a "worthy" reason.

    Even though it's ridiculous that it was pulled, when you develop on a closed platform for a company like Apple, you don't go in to that contract expecting freedom.

    The guy sounds like a mega douche - who cares? If he's gonna trash the app that is making him his money then they have every right to take it off. I guess he's never heard of the saying, "never bite the hand that feeds". Oh and $400 for a shitty app? What kind of stupid 'experiment' is that... personally if I were Apple i'd blacklist his name altogether and wish him good luck with his many future years of sweeping at the local high school.

    Generally I'm a fairly serious hater or Apple and their single-minded view on the world, but you have to wonder - If you saw an app on the app-store priced at $400 and had the description of "...the MOST ADVANCED dermatological simulator ever released on the iPhone and iPod Touch." you would understandably think this was a very serious app. This is of course assuming you're a bit of an idiot, and I guess that was the experiment the dev was running - iPhone users are idiots.

    Wonder if that $400 purchase was someone confusing the price for $4.00?

    Seems ridiculous that Apple don't provide a proper advice of the app being pulled even if it only refers to clause xxx of the developers agreement (without a specific example).

    There is a refund option for people who got scammed. Clearly people either didnt exercise that option, or they intended to pay that much.

    i was kinda hoping the reason was that apple has finally implemented some quality control

    I surely do hope that refunds were put forth. You can call it an experiment but given it was not a controlled experiment nor is the detailed data available any conclusion based on this poor experiment is purely speculation. Is the identity of the person(s) spending the large amounts of money on this app known? Is it likely to be a publicity stunt performed by the creator? I think so, but that too is speculation.
    Also like to throw out there the 3rd theory on why it was removed, Apple realised how shit and crude the game is??

      unless it specifies in the contract that they reserve the right to remove 'crude and shitty' games without warning (furthermore what precisely constitutes crude and/or shitty), then they'd be in breach.

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