Game Center WWDC 2013

TechCrunch has a fascinating insight into the world of App Store scammers, using the example of a game created from a $10 template that ended up making $10,000 a day.

The piece alleges that the developer of the paid version of Red Bouncing Balls Spikes used a network of around 20,000 fake Apple IDs to buy his own app in order to get it to the top of the charts, an up-front investment of $20k that would be repaid many times over … 

Not all games are created from scratch. Some are created from templates – small building blocks that form the basis of a larger game. Developers can buy these templates for just a few dollars, in this case the Red Ball Template that cost the developer just ten bucks.

From this, he was able to create a simple, multi-level game that he put into the App Store at $0.99 back in December. There it sat, quite unremarkably, until an update on 30th January – at which point it suddenly shot up the charts, at one point reaching the #2 slot for a paid iPhone app.


The key to achieving this kind of ranking is around 20,000 sales within the space of a day or two. If a developer has the capital, and access to enough fake Apple IDs, they simply buy their own app thousands of times, knowing they’ll make back the cash and more. Apple’s take is 30 percent, so although they need the $20k up-front, they’ll get back $14k of it once Apple settles the account.

One developer we spoke to said this kind of scam is not uncommon, and there’s little Apple can do to prevent it.

This isn’t a new thing, it happens quite a lot. There’s not much Apple can do about it because the app is getting genuine sales from thousands of different iTunes accounts, it’s just that one person is controlling those accounts.

The full piece is well worth reading.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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