AppyNation: Ignorance the only excuse for devs using rogue review sites

You won't do it twice, says Andrew Smith

AppyNation: Ignorance the only excuse for devs using rogue review sites

The starting pistol on AppyNation's aim to publish a 'hall of infamy' listing websites that charge for game reviews may have been fired by the firm itself, but the dev community has since picked up the baton.

That's according to comms manager Andrew Smith, who – just weeks after the venture was unveiled on AppyNation's blog – claims entries from developers have been flooding in from the word go.

Having researched the 18 websites detailed to date, we caught up with Smith to find out if he's any closer to finding out just what's fuelling the current rush of rogue review sites.

Pocket Gamer: We're a few weeks in, and you've got 18 sites on the list. Have all these new ones come from outside contributions? Andrew Smith: Indeed they have. The response has been phenomenal so far, and for the last two weeks we've been inundated.

I've still got about 14 more to go through, research and post to the list!

Have any of the sites cited been in contact to contest their solution or offer an explanation?

So far we've not seen any correspondence from the sites on the list.

While a lot of them claim to have huge readerships, we've noticed a lot of them seem to be updated very sporadically. Maybe they're lazy, or maybe some of them are dying off naturally. But there are some that seem very active indeed.

Some would argue that paying for reviews is fine, as long as the reviews in question are objective. From what you've seen, are reviews on these site universally positive?

It varies. Some of the sites seem to only post positive reviews out of policy - and even state so in their 'contact us' sections - while others seem to just post whatever they're sent, and others state specifically that their reviews will not be affected by the money.

Oddly, some sites don't even say that much! It's very hard to tell if there's any natural bias, simply because the sites in question often don't guarantee coverage one way or the other.

Part of me hopes that they are at least made good enough stuff to stick to their morals, but the whole root of the problem is that nobody will ever be able to tell. The money clouds the issue so much as to obscure any truth.

What do you make of the developers who make use of such sites? Is this a legitimate promo technique?

I tend to assume, as a developer myself, that developers who use these systems will only ever do so out of ignorance. That's why we set this list up, so that people who don't know any better can avoid being tricked.

The fact is I doubt anyone who's ever paid for these sites' services has seen a decent return, so any developer who does think it's a legitimate tactic would never do so more than once. Maybe us lot at AppyNation should try a few experiments and publish our findings - that'd be very interesting to see.

When it comes to the moral side of it, I could see people justifying the money through the promotion that these sites promise, but if you're using them while totally aware of their dubious nature then I can only tut and shake my head at you.

What's your longterm aim? Are you looking to influence change at the sites in question – to encourage them to 'go straight', as it were – or are you just interested in highlighting them as potholes to avoid?

A bit of both. Ideally they'd all change their ways and we'd get a nice lot of impartial and successful review sites that we can safely send our games to in the future. Everyone would benefit.

Competition breeds success, and that's still true in the critical media.

Realistically, I doubt that will happen, so having a nice handy list that people bookmark and tell each other about will have to suffice.

AppyNation really does believe that a rising tide lifts all ships – while we love Fluid Football, Chucks Challenge and all the games in our line-up, we're just happy to be doing a little bit to try and make life simpler and easier for developers the world over.

Thanks to Andrew for his time.

You can keep track of AppyNation's log of rogue websites here.

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.