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 GamesIndustry.biz.
"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 IPIan 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.