Fake Games in App Store Plague Real Developers

Temple Run vs. Temple Jump

According to The Guardian, his name is Anton Sinelnikov and he makes fake apps–games mostly–intended to dupe iPhone and iPad owners into buying one of his titles instead of the real thing. Fake apps that are costing real independent developers lost profits, costing customers lost cash, and generating a mixed response from Apple.

Sinelnikov’s fake apps are designed to look like the real thing, at least until you purchase one. Titles run the gamut from Numbers with Friends, Tiny Birds, Angry Ninja Birds, Plants vs. Zombie, and Temple Jump. Before their removal by Apple this past week, the knock-off apps garnered negative and angry reviews from users who’d mistakenly purchased the fake titles. But in some cases Apple was slow to remove the fake apps.

Keith Shepherd, founder of Imangi Studios, creator of the popular Temple Run game, tweeted throughout the week about Temple Jump, the knock-off app created by Sinelnikov. When Apple pulled some of the earlier knock-off titles from their store, Shepherd continued to tweet, wondering when the fake app based on his game would eventually be taken down. It was, sometime early this morning, but not before an unknown number of customers were duped and not without press attention.

Still, there are some serious questions that need to be asked of Apple’s App Store policies. Surely an argument can be made that fake apps, like the kind created by Sinelnikov, which do nothing more than trick a customer out of their money, should be taken down. But what about apps like Dream Heights? Zynga’s clone of the incredibly popular Tiny Tower which debuted in Canada this past week. Is there a case to be made for games being too similar? And where do we draw the line?

Are knock-offs just part of the App Store economy and, if so, will the market take care of itself and weed out the imposters?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Vikram Kalsi

    Scammers are everywhere, the app store is not immune. Customers need to use at least a few brains cells when spending their money.  So many times I see an app that I know is garbage and bam I see tons of reviews of people crying about it being fake or not doing what they thought it was going to do. I have bought 100′s of apps and have yet to be scammed because I take a look at the description, then the screenshots, and finally reviews. If i want more info I look online, just like i do with any other purchases I make in like. I have no sympathy for these fools that just blindly buy and then realize “uh oh’ I made a mistake. Like really? you honestly think an app will allow you unlock your phone using your camera? lol

    With that said, Apple should be held responsible to an extent. I’m constantly shaking my head wondering how a particular app made it threw approval.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly agree and, in fact, to play the devil’s advocate a little bit, I don’t really see why the apps should be removed. The ecosystem of the App Store shouldn’t be messed with and, obviously, Apple saw fit to approve them in the first place and they make reviews VERY accessible. If the app passes Apple’s standards, I don’t think it should be removed because people are getting confused. Do what Vikram does and actually vet an app before you spend your money on it.

    To answer the question you pose, Keith, I do think the market will take care of itself and by removing the apps Apple is actually preventing word of knock-off apps exiting from spreading. Knowledge is power in this case and, in a way, Apple is actually censoring the spread of that knowledge.

    Interesting piece!

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