App Review Manipulations Techniques

Your app review score will always be a top of discussion and constantly monitored by Product managers as ‘this’ score is the first quantitative data players will see when making the decision to download your app.  These days, its not just the players who judge the book by its cover but recently, Google and Apple both don’t consider any game for featuring if the game doesn’t have an app review rating over 4.0.  The impact of not being featured by Apple or Google is a difference of millions of dollars in lost revenue.  And with that, i have created a post on the top methods developers are using to manipulate their app store rankings so that they can have the potential to be featured by Apple or Google.

Sakura System

Its a very common system that every dev company takes part in, but the concept of Sakura-ing your game is to get as many handsets as possible and to lift up the ranking so that,

  • You either get featured by the first party platform (Google / Apple)
  • Organic players find your game and download the game based on the rank and comments of the game
Fake in Game Rating Prompt

Although users will never know, this is rumored that Machine Zone performs such devious technique. The fake rating prompt is to create an in game ranking prompt that players are displayed with.  Depending on the review score the player provides, the rating gets sent off to the actual app rating score, if the rating falls below the devs expectations, the score doesn’t get sent to the review score and gets lost in space, some how…

Sneaky but sounds like a very effective way to manipulate the rankings.  Kudos to the designer that thought about this. 

Inbox Method

With my 14+ years in this industry, i personally think its impossible to make everyone happy with any such product.  What this does is create an unbalanced dynamic in the rating score as players are more accustom to complain and review vs. review because they enjoy the game.

This dynamic can be balanced with the Inbox messaging technique by querying certain cohorts of your players (ie Players who have reached level 10 or above)  A simple message asking them to rate your game is an effective means to push your review score incrementally, as higher engaged players are more likely to rank your game higher than first time players that expected 1 thing and experienced another.

2 Prong Rating Prompt System

This is becoming more of the ‘best practices’ with respects to implementing a rating prompt system in your game.

What dev are doing now are creating listeners in their game where if a player meets a certain condition in the game, the rating prompt will trigger.  These are usually triggers that are ‘feel good’ experiences in the game.  Whether its unlocking a specific level, champion or stage, or killing a certain boss.  Creating a listener so that these rating prompts can trigger is ‘secret sauce’ in getting your review score higher.

With this system, it’s important that you create a on/off trigger system so that when you reach your desired rating score, you’re not triggering any of your events that could potentially lower your score.

[Updated: September 6, 2017, Apple will no longer accept 2 prong rating prompt as its a violation of one of their many app restrictions.  but its still ok for Google Play]

App Review Service

Now, before you get excited about this method, it is important to know that both Google and Android are cracking down on incentivized reviews and purchased review and have created filters to monitor these grey services. I don’t know how they are going to do this, but it’s Google and Apple. They know everything about you and what you’re up to, so considered yourself warned.

Services like,

Provide a product offering where players purchase x amount of reviews and other services to boost up your ratings.  This may be the quick and dirty way to boost your rankings immediately.

 

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  • 15+ year mobile application industry veteran, probably product managing multiple apps. If he's not busy running this website, you can probably find him at the gym shooting half court shots, while playing the latest mobile rpg game.

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