Whenever there is a succesful enterprise you will always find smaller 'leeches' latching on and sucking as much blood as they can before being burned off. This is not wholly unexpected, money attracts followers.The strangest thing has happened however, Leeches have started to appear in response to iPhone game failures rather than succeses.
Some enterprising companies/individuals have realised that the staturated App Store makes selling significant amounts of iPhone games difficult and they set about trying to capitalise on this by providing services supposedly aimed at expaning the profile of a game and therefore attracting more buyers.
A few weeks ago I released a new iPhone game called Koan (found at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/koan/id366816832?mt=8). I am not going to claim that Koan is a fantastic game, I like it but then again I made it. However, it seems to have captured the imagination of some people since the current total number of scores on the high-score table is 8013 with around 100 new scores being added each day. So somebody likes it.
I had released an iPhone game before as an experiment in learning how to code an iPhone game and also the App Store submission process but I didn't promote it in any way so it only made something like $240. This time I was detirmined that I would get the game out into the public eye and promote it anyway I could.
My first attempt was to send out a press release about the game and I got something like a massive 4 sales from that. Ironically it was down to a press release for another game I am working on that netted me a further 8 sales called Freeman http://www.freeman-game.com/. All other sales seemed to be just incidental as they are just trickling along. In all it has sold enough to raise ~$50. Don't get me wrong, I am stoked that the game made $50 at all and I am very lucky but the reality is I would love to be able to give up contracting and concentrate on being an indie developer.
As it turns out for an indie developer working on their own it is incredibly hard to get your game noticed and unless you get picked up by an iTunes editor and featured on the front page of iTunes you are not really going to sell that many copies. This can be truly disheartening. Cue the leeches:
'Are you satisfied with your sales on the App Store?'
Well, no, I'm not so I dived into the email and what did I find? Basically people are setting up services offering to review your game on the AppStore. In fact for a mere $237 they will put up 25 reviews for your app. Unbiased reviews so they claim so if they don't like the game you will have paid $237 for 25 reviews slamming it - bargain!
So, lets step back for a moment and examine that. Koan made $50. But for a mere $237 I can make it look like 25 people bought a copy of the game and were impressed enough (or not as the case may be) to leave a review. And you would do this because there is a possibility that people seeing multiple reviews will think it's a worthy game and then buy it.
How would you react to this kind of email? Would you think that it's a bargain and snap up the opportunity? I didn't and in fact I would go as far as to say that this is a case of exploitation but perhaps I am alone in this view and will never succeed because I am unwilling to resort to such tactics.
I would like to claim that this kind of thing is happening in isolation but the reality is other Leeches are popping up and finding unique ways to capitalise on the fact that iPhone games aren't really selling in significant numbers for indie devs.
So, who are the ones making a living wage from the App Store? I suspect it's the leeches.