How app store scammers can make $10,000 a day from a $10 game template

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 … 

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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.

charts

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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Comments

  1. scumbolt2014 - 9 years ago

    I’m sure that the attention this practice is getting with the how-to dorections won’t flood the app store woth more flappy-tits style junk.
    Sarcasm.

  2. sardonick - 9 years ago

    If I don’t know the company, I don’t buy anything from the app store. It’s a chinese flea market if you don’t research who the developer is. Not to mention all the devs that make the SAME app with a different name and different price points to attract multiple levels of consumer. I’ve seen writing apps that even use the same screenshots but show a different app name, dev name, and price. Apple needs to pull the reigns in a little tighter.

  3. Erica McCowan - 9 years ago

    That title seems a little off since the artical says they need to have something like $20k up front to make this work which is a ton more than $10.

  4. Apple takes %30 of income so 20.000 downloads from $0,99 costs about $5940 for Apple.

    Developer pays about $6000 to make it download more than 20.000 times.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      That’s true, but they need the $20k upfront to fund it. I have, however, clarified that they recoup $14k of that.

  5. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    Considering the developer behind this particular app is actually a 13 year old kid in Ottawa, I think Apple could “do something about it.” They could throw this kid out of the store for being such a little asshole.

    What right does a kid have to even apply to have things in the store? Also, what kind of loser parents does he have to let him do this kind of shit from his bedroom.

    At the very least, someone needs to kick this kid in the ass, and his parents need to be publicly humiliated for being such reprobates.

    • This little kid is making $10,000/day from his bedroom. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that that’s probably more than you do.

      While I think it’s scummy, underhanded, and contributing to the downfall of society in more ways than one, I do commend a thirteen year old for actually executing something that makes him this much money.

      That’s assuming this is actually a 13 year old kid and that he didn’t have outside help.

  6. Brad Burke - 9 years ago

    Seems to me there needs to be a limited number of Apple ID’s per IP address. That knocks out about 75% of people that can’t spoof their IP or go to every public wifi around town, right?

  7. Bryant NorCal - 9 years ago

    Humans perpetually strive to find the path of least resistance and exploit it.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy 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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