Tag Archives: exploitation

App Developers, Stop Asking for 5-Star Reviews!!

Back in 2012, I wrote a piece about the dos and don’ts of requesting and writing reviews on both Google Play and App Store. Nothing’s really changed from 5 years ago; people are still writing shitty useless one-word “reviews” and developers still put those prompts for a 5-star rating in their apps.

Once again, I will explain why I take issue to the latter:

  • The developer only has one thing in mind: A 5-star or perfect rating means better visibility in search results in the application’s store which ups the chances of it being downloaded. It doesn’t matter if the app is not right at the top of the results. The chances are many users LOOK for 4 or 5-star ones as it gives the impression that it’s a good product.
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  • Developers use the bullshit excuse that a 5-star rating will better motivate their team. If you actually valued user feedback, you’d be asking for critiques without tossing in the specific rating suggestion and incentive (or bribe as I like to refer to it as) to review.
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  • EVERYONE WANTS FREE STUFF — especially when it’s premium currency so of course most people will bite. Developers know this and they also know that they’ll fall for the following point.
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  • Users do what they’re asked to despite how they actually feel about the game.
    Poor user is made to think that the only way to get the gift is by giving the app full stars. :(
    Poor user is made to think that the only way to get the gift is by giving the app full stars. 😦

    PRO TIP: I’m unsure how it is with Android apps but with iOS, you don’t NEED to even rate or write a review to get a gift/bribe. Simply tap on the prompt box and allow the device to automatically switch to the app’s store page. Once there, don’t do anything! Just immediately go back to the app.
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    I believe this can also be applied to sharing on Twitter or other social services where you can just cancel the post and still receive the review incentive.

I leave 1-star reviews for companies that practices this sort of shit and call them out. I actually received a reply from one for a game I like playing which stated that players are free to give whatever rating they feel appropriate.

Well, gee. No shit. But as that example screenshot I provided showed, people a) rate 5-stars because they are told to, and b) believe giving a full rating is the only way to get the gift.

I’m not saying developers should outright stop asking for reviews and ratings or giving incentives. I’m only wishing they’d stop being dishonest and deceitful with the review prompts. Users will, in all likelihood, give the full rating and write positive comments if they’re happy with what they’re using. I think that should motivate the team more than all the blind & thoughtless 5-stars.

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Theatrhythm iOS: A New Decrescendo for Square Enix

Theatrhythm iOS menu
Theatrhythm iOS menu

After the fiasco with Demons’ Score, Square Enix remains undeterred and decides to, once again, put their hands into consumers’ wallets by publishing yet another freemium title that requires in-app purchases in order to get the most out of it. This time, however, it seems like the IAP model is the same across the board so Japanese players are also subject to the madness.

One main difference with Theatrhythm is that, unlike Demons’ Score, it’s a port of the $30 US 3DS game. I’m not going to go into detail about the changes since you can read about them at Joystiq but I WILL write about the sheer insanity of the pricing scheme.

Squenix graciously includes a whopping total of 2 musical tracks: One-Winged Angel from FFVII and Zanarkand from FFX. If you want more you must pay either $1.99 for individual tracks or $4.99 for 4-song bundles. Note that the store menu for songs includes tunes that are NOT among the bundles so if you want all music from each series, you’re looking at at least $7 US for each one. Multiply by that 13 titiles + 1 FFT track, 1 FFX-2 track, 1 FF: CC track, 2 Advent Children tracks + 1 from Type-0 , and 1 FFXIII-2 and you’re at $98 US.

In contrast, $30 US on 3DS will get you over 70 tracks. Of course, if you factor in the DLC, which cost 99 cents each, it’ll probably be another $50 US. But still, it’s not hard to see that the better deal is on the Nintendo system.

The iOS version also keeps a few of the unlockable 3DS characters out of reach by placing them as IAP with a price tag of $2.99 slapped onto each one.

Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll find at the store.

Note (added 11:08 PM EST):

Here’s the story behind the screenshots: I downloaded the game from the Japanese App Store because I thought it wasn’t available in the Canadian one. I also thought the prices reflected in the in-game shop were the actual localized prices. It turns out that the IAP amounts were simply conversions of the yen prices. I didn’t realize that apps now do this because I’ve purchased things from within Taiko no Tatsujin+ and Puzzle & Dragons before and they always displayed in yen prices.

I might replace the screenshots later.

Songs – $1.99 $0.99 Each:

Not listing  all 59 of them but tracks like Dancing Mad, which is a normal unlockable tune in the 3DS version, is among the list.

Theatrhythm iOS - Some tracks from the Songs IAP menu
Theatrhythm iOS – Some tracks from the Songs IAP menu

Song Bundles – $4.99 $2.99 Each:

13 x $4.99
13 x $4.99

FFI Basic Bundle:

Battle, Main Theme, Mt. Gulg, Matoya’s Cave

FFII Basic Bundle:

Battle Theme 1, Battle Theme 2, Main Theme, Tower of the Magi

FFIII Basic Bundle:

Battle 1, Battle 2, Eternal Wind, Crystal Cave

FFIV Basic Bundle:

Battle 1, Battle With The Four Fiends, Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV, Within the Giant

FFV Basic Bundle:

Battle 1, Battle at the Big Bridge, Four hearts, Mambo de Chocobo

FFVI Basic Bundle:

Battle, The Decisive Battle, Terra’s Theme, Searching for Friends

FFVII Basic Bundle:

Let the Battles Begin!, Fight On!, Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII, Cosmo Canyon

FFVIII Basic Bundle:

The Man with the Machine Gun, The Extreme, Blue Fields, Ride On

FFIX Basic Bundle:

Battle 1, The Final Battle, Over the Hill, Dark City Treno

FFX Basic Bundle:

Battle Theme. Fight with Seymour, Mi’hen Highroad, Movement in Green

FFXI Basic Bundle:

Battle Theme, Awakening, Ronfaure, The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah

FFXII Basic Bundle:

Clash of Swords, Esper Battle, Giza Plains, The Dalmasca Estersand

FFXIII Basic Bundle:

Saber’s Edge, Fighting Fate, The Sunleth Waterscape, March of the Dreadnoughts

Characters – $2.99 $1.99 Each:

There are some that you won't find in the 3DS version.
There are some that you won’t find in the 3DS version.

There are 25 in total so far.  iOS exclusive characters include:

  • Celes from FFVI
  • Tifa from FFVII
  • Rinoa from FFVIII
  • Garnet from FFIX
  • Auron from FFX
  • Balthier from FFXII
  • Hope from FFXIII
  • Serah from FFXIII-2
  • Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Cosmos from FF series

Since the game is stupid unstable on my iPod touch 4G, I can’t even play any stages. However, even if I could, I’d be stuck playing Zanarkand forever since aside from avoiding One-Winged Angel like a plague, I wouldn’t bother spending any money to get more tracks. After all, it’ll only encourage Square Enix to continue with their idiotic gouging on this platform.

Edit at 10:35 PM EST:

Square Enix lowered the prices for all categories? Now singles cost $0.99, Bundles are $2.99, and Characters are $1.99. So the new total will be $147.03:

Singles: $58.41

Bundles: $38.87

Characters: $49.75

I do wonder about something though — when I originally got the game, it was off the Japanese App Store because I thought it wasn’t out in the Canadian one. Could it be that the yen prices were auto-converted to Canadian because a single is ¥170 which is like $1.99 Canadian. However, the bundles are ¥450 which comes out to $5.28 Canadian. (Conversions are done with http://xe.com/). I suppose Apple’s got its own conversion thing going. Weirdness.

Oh well, the zany overall price still remains but it’s no longer near the $250 mark. 😛

$40 iOS Game from Square Enix? You Better Believe It.

I realize this isn’t new news but I figure I’d play my part and spread the word because, frankly, this is quite disgusting.

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SE has been known for its zany pricing which has been loving dubbed as “Square (Enix) Tax” by various iOS gamers. A lot of times, people could see that a port of a PSP or Nintendo DS game, while still running close to $20 US, is relatively cheaper than buying the game to play on the parent system. And then there are those that will also defend the pricing scheme of critically acclaimed titles like the Chaos Rings series that are made specifically for the mobile platform. These particular fans will tell you that the quality of the games justify the premium prices.

Finally, you get something like Demons’ Score, a $7 US rhythm action game with a whopping $35+ worth of in-app purchases. You may think that it’s just for virtual currency and silly little aesthetic changes but NOPE. These IAP are content-based; that is, unless you want to play the same two music tracks ad infinitum, be prepared to donate your life savings to Square.

Strangely enough, Japan is not affected by this madness. While the title is sold at a higher price from the get-go, all content is already included. Simply put, for roughly $20 US, you get the entire game. To drive home the point, you can see the pricing comparison with screenshots at http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPhone/Demons’+Score/news.asp?c=45198

The revelation of the price discrepancy obviously isn’t going over very well with gamers around the world. However, I came across a post over the forums at The Escapist that suggests that it’s plausible SE considered the chance that Demons’ Score wouldn’t really be something the international market would eat up with a $20 price tag. Now, if there really was some sort of market research that was done to determine the possible behaviour and reaction of international rhythm gaming fans, Square Enix fans, and iOS gamers to the title, then why didn’t they just convert the $7 game to a free Lite version or at least reduce the price? (The obvious answer is that they wanted to make some sweet profit from the “trial” version. Kind of sickening.)

Honestly, I’m down with people defending the prices of ports and some of Square’s other premium priced games, but I can’t imagine anyone approving them for gouging users like this.

The Dos and Don’ts of Seeking and Giving Reviews on the App and Google Play Stores

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece not some actual guide. 😛

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I’m certain I’m not the only person that’s annoyed at coming across useless reviews on the App Store and Google Play Store; you know, the ones that just read “5 stars! Instabuy!” or “This game is really fun!” or “Boring”. Is it really that difficult to give some constructive criticism or elaborate why you think the game is fun? I’m not sure about most folks but when I’m looking for opinions or any justification for purchasing an app, I want to some proper details. The chance of me getting something due to 10,000 5-star ratings and a bunch of reviews that consist mostly of “Great!” isn’t very high but I must admit that the high rating WILL get me to at least read the app description and take a look at the screenshots.

Yeah, I know there are sites dedicated to reviewing apps but why should I have to deliberately go to one of those when there’s a bloody section under each product information page dedicated to USER REVIEWS? A good review doesn’t have to comprise of  1,000 words. A simple list of pros and cons would do the trick. Honestly, I think  the section should be renamed to “USER COMMENTS” like on YouTube because that’s pretty much what they’re like.

What’s funny is that you’ll most likely get the stupid, pointless single-word reviews and such on apps where the developers ask for a review; especially if they offer some sort of incentive in return. Yes, there are developers that will BRIBE users to give them a 5-star or positive review. In fact, let’s get into the whole dos and don’ts now:

Developer Dos

  • Ask for a review after the user uses the app a few times

    Some devs honestly want feedback which is great because it’s an indication that they actually care what people think about their products. And it’s really great when the request for a review appears after using the app multiple times or an extended period of time. Why? Well, you’d most likely be familiar with it enough to write something meaningful that will help developers understand the needs and wants of their users to improve their works.  As well, you’d end up assisting fellow iOS and/or Android users to make the decision of whether or not they should install the application. After all, that’s the purpose of reviews, yes?

Developer Don’ts

  • Ask for a review right after you run the app for the first time

    You’re probably laughing at this but this actually happened. It’s hard to tell with this screenshot of Armageddon on Stick Guy but I kid you not that, before you can even hit Start, this bloody window pops up:

    Before you can even start playing the game ...
    PLEASE REVIEW IT … even before you play it!

    Yeah, I can see the “Review Later” button but how could they honestly hope that the “application satisfied” me when I didn’t even have the chance to play the game? No one can magically form an opinion before experiencing the product. Obviously, these guys didn’t grasp the concept of properly timing the request.

  • Ask for a 5-star rating

    Companies do this to inflate their ranking on the app stores, thus allowing them to be “featured apps” and also have more visibility on the apps charts. Besides, highly ranked apps are most likely to be downloaded/purchased. Com2uS USED to do this but have since gotten smart and changed their spiel to something like “Your positive reviews will keep us motivated!”. I think a lot of freemium-loving devs still pointedly ask for the 5 stars though.

    Yes, there WILL be people that actually like an app and will gladly rate it full stars. I realize that. But there’s also a fact that many users are just doing it because it’s specifically petitioning you to do so.

  • Ask for a positive/5-star rating in exchange for perks

    This is another example of rank inflation but this method is even more effective because the user gets something in return like virtual money to use in their games. You’ll find that many game developers that create games with in-app purchases practice this. And sadly, it works. The result, however, is the User Reviews section being flooded with inane and shallow insights like “Very good game! I like it!”. Some may mean it, most of them probably don’t and are only writing one for the goodies they get in exchange. Here’s an example of an honest review from this bribe tactic (which wasn’t written by me):

    I just wanted the coins
    “I just wanted the cash”

User Dos

  • Write critiques

    User reviews aren’t meant for praising the hell out of developers. If there’s something genuinely disrupting your enjoyment of the app, mention it. Chances are, there are other users like you and would like to know about the issue.

  • Edit reviews

    Opinions and experiences can change the more you use an app so one should consider modifying an existing review. For example, I’ve seen instances where people leave a review about bugs only to revise them later on after an update fixes the problems. It’s great that fellow users do this because sometimes, the change logs don’t have any information or just provide a generic “bug fix” statement.

    However, I wish more revisions would happen with those apps where the review request happens way too early like  in some roleplaying games. I mean, 5 minutes into it and you’re asking me to review it? Unless the total gameplay actually lasts 5 minutes and I’ve experienced all that it could offer, I refuse to write anything about it. Can you imagine professional reviewers basing their reviews on a few minutes of using an app? It just doesn’t make any sense.

User Don’ts

  • Submit absolutely unhelpful reviews

    “This sucks.”

    “dddddddddd”

    “This company always makes the best apps! 5 stars!”

    “I’m giving 5 stars even and I didn’t even start it!”

    “Yay!”

    “This game is good.”

    I think these account for a good majority of reviews in existence on every single app store. Notice how uninformative those quotes are? Yeah, I made them up on the spot but if I wanted to, I can probably dig up a few of these EXACT reviews from both the App Store and Google Play Store. About the “dddddddddd”, something like this usually comes about from those bribe type review requests. It’s a simple case of “Well, I can’t think of what to write/can’t be bothered to write something but I NEED to write something because I want those coins/points/diamonds/cash/gems since I can’t just rate it 5 stars”. (Actually, in a lot cases, you don’t even NEED to rate OR write anything. Just switch back to the game and the payment will be there. Also, you writing something into the review/comments field is not mandatory at either Store.)

  • “Add me”/Just leaving your referral code

    This relates to those semi-social/social games like Rage of Bahamut where the player providing the referral code and the player entering it will both benefit in-game in some way. I suppose it could be seen as helping out a new user but come on, there are A LOT of message forums dedicated to mobile games and there’s a good possibility that the developers have a forum for the game too. Do the code listing on those instead.

I suppose I should add some sort of conclusion. Basically, I wrote this up just to vent some of the frustrations I have regarding developers exploiting the review system and users just being dumb. When it comes to rating an app, reviews are OPTIONAL on BOTH the App Store and Google Play Store so if you don’t have anything marginally useful to say, just select the number of stars you want to give an app and, for the love of God, don’t write anything. If you have to, be honest and provide some information that other users can walk away with. For instance, if you really like something, explain why.