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.