Sunday, August 23, 2009

App Store User Review Gaming Uncovered

It's not the first example of end user review gaming, (anyone recall the Belkin Amazon.com review "scandal" from January?) and there's no reason to believe there isn't a lot more of this going on than you might think. In fact, a leaked document shows end user review gaming is happening in the App Store.

Reverb Communications is a PR firm that specializes in video games on several platforms. Their site describes the advantages of Reverb thusly:
At Reverb Communications, we specialize in launching new videogame titles and videogame peripherals with our distinct integrated approach. From messaging and PR planning to sales calls with retailers, Reverb provides REAL SOLUTIONS that directly contribute to your bottom line.
Real solutions like paying for reviews, apparently. Here's what the document shared with Mobile Crunch says:
Reverb employs a small team of interns who are focused on managing online message boards, writing influential game reviews, and keeping a gauge on the online communities. Reverb uses the interns as a sounding board to understand the new mediums where consumers are learning about products, hearing about hot new games and listen to the thoughts of our targeted audience. Reverb will use these interns on (redacted) products to post game reviews (written by Reverb staff members) ensuring the majority of the reviews will have the key messaging and talking points developed by the Reverb PR/marketing team.
In other words, ensuring the majority of reviews will be positive.

Additionally, the company indicates it will tailor the reviews to appear from different age ranges, including keywords that "resonate" with the demographic. They start the reviews on the day of launch.

The cost: $0.75 per app download. Not just taking the word of the tipster, MC did some homework, found apps belonging to clients of Reverb Communications, and by cross-checking reviewers against other Reverb Communications' clients, found an astounding coincidence: some reviewers seemed to only give 5-star reviews, and only for Reverb clients, no one else.

As Ricky Ricardo would say: Reverb, you got some 'splainin' to do.
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