App Store Caught Up in PR Firm’s ‘Review Fraud’

“User reviews” are not in any way exclusive to iTunes. Anyone who has been shopping on the web in the last ten years will be familiar with the concept of laymen (folks supposedly like you or me) recommending or slating their purchases for the benefit of the ignorant. Most of you will also grasp the idea that not all of these reviews are entirely bona fide.

So it shouldn’t be all too surprising to find out that PR firms are reportedly targeting the App Store, posting positive reviews of games on behalf of their clients, iPhone developers. That’s according to a story published by Mobile Crunch, which claims it has gotten hold of evidence from an unnamed developer that PR agency Reverb Communications has whole teams of writers that upload five-star reviews to the App Store, and also flood forums across the net with positive accounts.

Mobile Crunch’s dismay is further agitated by its claim that Reverb has, in the past, worked with Apple itself, though a quick scan of Reverb’s website reveals that there aren’t all too many firms Reverb hasn’t collaborated with, with Harmonix of Rock Band fame, console specialists PlayLogic, Atari, Zen Studios, RedOctane and SouthPeak Games all registering under current or past clients.

It would be almost naive to assume that the iPhone would somehow be immune to what Mobile Crunch describes as “fraud”. Indeed, as Reverb has pointed out in its response to the allegations, the App Store only lets you review games you’ve purchased, meaning that any supposed writers working for the agency will have, in essence, had to download the game in question, making their view as valid as any others. It’d be pretty hard to build a serious case against the agency, in short.

So, has Reverb actually done anything wrong? It’s hardly an ethical practice, though it has to be said, many of the games caught up in the “scandal” are actually pretty decent in their own right, with games like HydroTilt picking up high scores from impartial sources across the web in addition to any top marks apparently awarded by Reverb employees. Our advice? Don’t take views expressed on the App Store all too seriously-’“ it’s just as susceptible to fraud as any other user generated review system.

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