iOS publishers "buying their way up the charts"

Future Games of London wants to unite indies in increasingly noisy market

Independent iOS developers are being pushed out of the iPhone and iPad top ten by social games firms using marketing to "buy their way up the charts."

That's according to Hungry Shark developer Future Games of London, which claims that media companies are using Cost Per Install programs to quickly drive downloads, improve rankings and increase visibility by hitting the top of the charts.

"Any developer who hasn't already had a hit on the app store faces that challenge, 'can I get anybody to play it in the first place?'," said MD Ian Harper, speaking to

"I think if you can get people to see you're in with a fighting chance, but the issue nowadays is lots of big social media games companies are coming into iPhone and buying huge numbers of CPI [cost-per-install] installs and advertising, essentially buying their way up the charts, which really kind of crowds out the space for other people quite a lot.

It's really an alternative to going cap in hand to one of the big publishers and doing some terrible deal with them where you end up with quite a restrictive contract, potentially having to give up your IP

Ian Harper, Future Games of London

"That's been getting progressively worse in the last year, to the point where now it's very, very difficult to get an app seen at all."

Harper says that his company is happy to share its own technology, the Future Games Network, an in-app promotional tool that prompts players to try out other titles on the network, in a bid to unite smaller companies in an increasingly noisy market.

"We'd done this anyway just to promote our own software, and then we were 'oh, y'know, actually other people might be interested in using it.' We're independent developers, we like the idea of general moral helpfulness - we've done quite well on the App Store and we'd like to see other independent developers doing quite well too, so we'd like to help them.

"It's really an alternative to going cap in hand to Chillingo or one of the other big publishers and doing some terrible deal with them where you end up with quite a restrictive contract, potentially having to give up your IP or something like that. So this is just to give people an alternative."

Future Games of London does regulate its partners, with Harper noting there's no long-term value in promoting poor quality content to players.

"We don't guarantee to publish anything that anybody sends us - we're very much cherry-picking what we want to promote and that's really because we don't want to promote apps from within our own games that we don't think are that good. There's not much too point in doing that."

Earlier this week the company revealed that it now reaches a user base of 25 million gamers, following continued success with the Hungry Shark brand.

The full interview with Ian Harper can be read here.

Related stories

Ubisoft picks up Future Games of London

Publisher acquires mobile studio behind free-to-play Hungry Shark franchise

By Brendan Sinclair

Future Games of London: 50m downloads to date, 40m target for 2013

Milestone for Hungry Shark developer as it heads to PC and Mac

By Matt Martin

Latest comments (11)

Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements6 years ago
Interesting viewpoint which in the main is very true but does not apply to all.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tony Johns6 years ago
That's the problem with download games services, unless if your game gets featured in the first few pages nobody is going to take their time to view EVERY game in the download service.

Not many people even try to pick a genre or even a letter to have the games come up on a search engine.

Also with all those free demos that bigger social networking companies are doing that have advertising on the download page that pays for their game and makes them buy their chart seems like the indies have it tough again once when a market is big everyone hits it and the small developers who were there first get screwed over yet again.

I would rather try to sell my games on a free internet site that allows for game demos and also advertise the full game that can be downloaded at a different site with PayPal for people to buy it.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jeffrey Bacon Director of Mobile Strategy, bitHeads Inc6 years ago
Welcome to the game retailing business. As more money is made on stores like iTunes, bigger players will spend more money to advertise, market and secure positioning ... just like in retail stores. Just because it's easy to submit to a catalogue doesn't mean it's easy to get noticed or sales.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (11)
Yann Corno Chief Technical Officer, Days Of Wonder6 years ago
One important issue with iTunes is its poor "discoverability". The search tool is so bad that it won't help people find new games, even though there are some gems out there. As a result, people don't bother and just pick what's promoted. So if you're not in the top chart, you simply don't exist.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yann Corno on 7th October 2011 3:23pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Joel Benton Vice President Business Development, Fuse Games6 years ago
Alan Yu from Ngmoco quite rightly said there is a big difference between Self Distributing and Self Publishing. Publishing involves risking marketing money and employing skill and experience to drive awareness. The Top charts in the appstore are mathematically derived based on installs/hr. If you have no live view of your installs you cannot hope to efficiently market your games into the Top ranks. Any marketing done is done in the dark. If they aren't in the Top lists (and really Top Paid and Top Free), no one will find them. Whether its a digital market or a retail store, its all about visibility. Developers need to learn a whole new set of skills to employ full time around marketing and merchandising their products - or stick to developing the best possible games and work with a publisher they feel they can build a healthy partnership with who will share the risk and the reward according to everyone's exposure.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 6 years ago
Who cares if you give up your IP if 1.) you get a revenue stream, and 2.) you get creative control.

There are lots of ways to rip off a developer and still allow them to own their IP. Just bind the hell out of it with lots of contract clauses.

"Owning your IP" is no longer a deal point for some developers - it's a symbolic religious issue.

You have to learn how to do business and leave out that kind of emotionalism.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 6 years ago
Also, Joel, I agree that really developers should focus on their core attributes: developing games.

Owning 100% of a game that goes nowhere and nobody buys it - because the owners don't know, or aren't inclined, to market it - is just foolish.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alex Bortoluzzi President and CEO, Xoobis6 years ago
Not all publishers have very restrictive contracts and take your IP. Weird that he mentioned Chillingo, as our experience with them has been nothing but positive.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Well its to obviously compare and contrast and drum up interest about their future games network, whilst highlighting a polarised opinion about the state of social games
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brian Hannah Studying Bsc Hons Computer Games Software Development, Glasgow Caledonian University6 years ago
I,m just starting off in the Games Industry and Iphone apps were one of the areas I wanted to focus on. sad reading indeed. Maybe a bunch of indie Iphone devs could get together and play the publishers at their own game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Hannah on 15th October 2011 4:14pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Krasimir Koichev Producer, Riftforge6 years ago
Forget about the "Long Tail" when it comes to the AppStore. It works to some extent for books (Amazon) and music (iTunes) but I don't see it working for apps in general. Everyone want to type their document on MS Word or edit their spreadsheet in Excel.

Some argue that games are a bit of a middle-ground between productivity apps and music but how can you explain an MMO juggernaut like WoW. It exhibits the same dynamics like Word or Excel. You're either playing it or you're in a niche game like EVE.

In fact, I'd argue that the AppStore KILLS a lot of indies because they drive traffic to their games with their own advertising dollars and this traffic ends up purchasing from the Top 10 list. So indies foot the bill and Angry Birds scoops the rewards.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.