Taking A Stand Against Sites That Charge For iPhone App Reviews

With dozens of new iPhone and iPad apps popping up on a daily basis, developers are finding it increasingly difficult to get coverage for their latest games. It's a situation so desperate that several websites selling "expedited" app reviews, a practice mobile developer co-op AppyNation's Andrew J. Smith is not particularly fond of.

In a post on the AppyNation website, Smith calls out a number of websites that openly offer mobile game developers guaranteed reviews in exchange for cash. Sites like AppCraver, which offers regular reviews but also gives developers the option to pay $US150 to ensure their app gets a critique within seven days of payment. Or Best10Apps, seen above, which allows developers to submit their own article for free but has three different tiers of paid reviews for sale.

These two sites and several more are the first entries in a list Smith plans to maintain on the AppyNation website.

Charging for reviews (or for ‘consideration', or to cover ‘administration' fees) is a tactic that raises our hackles, gets our goat, boils our blood and generally makes us want to shout. So, rather than shouting, we thought we'd create a permanent (and often updated) list of these websites. And for anyone wondering, we've linked to them so that a) you can see they're real and b) their advert revenues go up and they can stop charging for reviews. Sneaky, huh?

None of the sites on the list seem to be actively hiding the fact that their reviews are paid for — any visitor can find the pricing details without jumping through too many hoops. Some note in the review proper that money changed hands.

I find the transparency more troubling than the thought that other websites might be doing this sort of thing in secret. That someone thinks this practice is OK simply astounds me. When cash money changes hands it doesn't matter how objective the writer claims to be. Their credibility is gone.

The sad thing is I understand why the mobile developers turn to websites like these. Here at Kotaku we feature five gaming apps, one-per-day, five days a week. We choose games that look interesting to us. Sometimes a press release catches our eye. Other times a game is just too big to pass up.

But it's just five. Every day we get a dozen new gaming app announcements, and every day many of them slip through the cracks. It's a constant struggle for us to find and cover the best ones. The developers are desperate for attention, and that desperation can push them to sites like the ones on AppyNation's list. For many developers, it's the only coverage they get. I've had developers email me asking for review rate quotes. At first I found such messages offensive; now they just make me sad.

There has to be a solution, but paying for reviews isn't it. Hopefully AppyNation's list will help encourage the app-using community to find a better way.

I've reached out to each website on the list for comment. Should I receive a response I will update this post.

Hall of Infamy: Sites that charge for reviews [AppyNation via CVG]


    As a developer, and a massive advocate for artistic integrity in this field, I fail to see a problem with this.
    Reviews are a form of advertising. You pay money to get your ad in the medium of your choice. In this case, the ad is not a promotional piece the developer makes, but a critique written by someone else, but if anything this makes it more tolerable.

    Also, saying that being paid to review something loses journalistic integrity is bogus, when the agreement is for an honest review.

      As soon as a monetary sum changes hands, the integrity is immediately tarnished wether you like it or not. Credibility is essentially out the window. A positive review can be seen to be 'bought', a negative review can be alternatively questioned because 'you didn't pay enough' if you only paid for the 50 instead of the maximum amount for instance. Paying for reviews is flat out wrong. A website should not be asking for payment as their money comes from advertising, subscribers etc. If you cannot see the issue with paying for reviews, you need to take a step back and reassess.

        Speaking as a small time developer I don't see a problem with paying a review site to devote time to reviewing my game. If I am serious about having my game seen (good or bad) then $50-$150 is a small price to pay not only for getting my app name out there, but also for giving my potential consumers some small piece of mind with a review.

        Given the sheer volume of releases on the app market I have no problem with paying to guarantee that at least someone will see my app. There's many arguments for and against but that's my personal opinion.

          I fully get why you may not have a problem with that, but the reader of the reviews certainly should.

            I should clarify (being as I may not have given the impression earlier) I am completely against buying a good review. Paying to be reviewed and buying a good review are two different things.

        How is that different to "You didn't pay us enough to advertise your game, so now we'll review it poorly"?
        By this argument, any paid publicity is a loss in journalistic integrity.

          Advertising and a review are completely different thing... You really need me to go into the differences? Honestly?

      Kane and Lynch..?

      Gamespot is still recovering from that.

        But that was almost the exact opposite scenario. Gamespot accepted bribes for good reviews. Kane + Lynch's PR team paid them heaps, and when the review was bad, Jeff got fired.

        We're talking about paying to be reviewed, and accepting an honest opinion in the review, not being reviewed regardless, and paying for it to be a positive review.

      You and your kind are the reason why we get shit games over and over and over and over and over. Take SW:TOR for example. At release, it was painfully obvious that the gaming media was given 'incentives' to give the game near perfect reviews and scores. Then 6 months later the game is almost a ghost town and going free to play. Reviews and impressions that are paid for by the developer/publisher are pure cancer that is destroying the industry, choking it of innovation all in the name of making a quick buck off some shoddy piece of shit shovelware that no one would have wasted their hard earned money on if they were not lied to by the supposed gaming 'media'.

      TL;DR, If you think its ok to lie to people for the sake of money, your the reason the gaming industry is the way it is.

    I guess you could get up in arms about this sort of thing, but I'm not really sure it's worth the effort.

    Most of the sites that let developers pay for reviews, including the example shown above, are explicit about saying that you are not guaranteed a positive review for your payment. You're simply guaranteed that they will actually review it.

    It's not really any different than the way gaming press has been run since the dawn of time. Developers and publishers throw parties, send freebies, give previews, buy magazine covers, pay for advertising and in a million other small ways spend an awful lot of money on getting their games reviewed.

    A small, independent developer can't do that sort of thing to get noticed. If I just emailed a magazine or review website a link to my game and asked them for a review, the chances are exceptionally good that I'll just get ignored.

    Paying for reviews is really just a more honest and accessible version of the current "butter up the publication" method of ensuring that someone actually looks at and writes about your game.

      A positive review may be an unwritten rule... I don't know I haven't visited these sites.

      But one fact is that if you submit an absolute stinker of a game along with a $129 cheque then that site is going to feature your stinker in the "Featured: Noteworthy Apps" section of their site.

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