Developers: Steer clear of fake reviewing services on the Windows Phone Store

Published an app on the Windows Phone Store? Wish there was some way to get noticed or perhaps tackle competition on the store? Developers who are attempting to break into the market may find it difficult to accumulate downloads and get their name out there, so how do you get apps and games noticed?

There are numerous ways (including Windows Phone Central - *hint*), but one that we'll highlight today is an example of a service that should be avoided (and reported where applicable) - fake reviews.

We've been made aware of a fake reviewing advertisement over on MSDN (now deleted - see below) and we thought it be wise to make both developers and consumers aware of such a service. What the service essentially offers developers are 5-star reviews on select apps, as well as 1-star reviews on competitors and promoting other apps in review comments - basically we're talking about black hat reviewing on the Windows Phone Store.

So why is this bad for both consumers and developers (yes, those reviews in the above photo are real)?

The consumer relies on reviews on the Windows Phone Store to determine whether or not an app or game is worth downloading, especially if it costs a dollar or two. If you're looking at false and faked data, you could be paying for an app that's not quite what the reviews represent. That's a serious issue for those who use the store front-end. We actually wrote up a nice article on consumer review etiquette, which is worth checking out.

As for developers, these folk are the content creators. Pouring hours of effort and sometimes investing heavily to produce apps and games enjoyed by millions. Ironically enough, the fake review service highlights this, "Many of us spent hours to develop best apps for store." So why go and damage the reputation and work of others, who have also arguably poured just as much (if not more) hours of effort? It's baffling.

Fake Review Service

Is this really what we want to see on the store?

We're not advertising this service, nor are we recommending developers should utilise it. What we are stressing is that developers be on the look out for spam-like reviews on apps and report them to Microsoft, just as our own Jay Bennett has already done so. 

Source: MSDN (now deleted); thanks, Daniel, for the heads up!

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I hate seeing those reviews in the store
  • Unfortunately, this has become a pretty big business for App Stores all over. The more popular ones already have to deal with this stuff and since WP is showing signs of growth, it is now getting its fair share of the stuff too. One positive would be that WP is finally big enough for people to consider advertising ideas like these? Either way, these reviews are nothing more than a waste of screen space and do nothing more than sour my experience in the Store.
  • Thanks for informing us about this scam. It'll be helpful to us when we're looking for new apps, to avoid ones with fake reviews.
  • Only avoid ones with 5-star fake reviews!  Disregard the 1-star ones, since those are most likely not deserved.
  • fakers will get smarter and diversify their ratings. hate to see this happen but inevitable.
  • There needs to be a rating system to rate reviewers so you can filter the spam out.
  • I agree 100%.
  • Yes!! Windows 8 Store already allows to chose if a review is helpful or not, so why not Windows Phone Store?
  • Yes, this is badly needed. Especially in the WP store where reviews are hard to come by, a stupid 1-star review (e.g. becuase an app doesn't support a person's language when it doesn't claim to support that language) can bring down the overall rating.
    And sadly, people are more inclined to leave negative reviews than positive ones, and something like a tiny bug (that is subsequently fixed) has more effect on your rating than all the users who use the app regularly yet don't leave a review.
    Negative reviewers almost unanimously go for 1-star (as if your app personally offends them in some way), whereas positive reviews tend to be more conservative (4 stars being common - and let's face it those of us who are amateurs can't really expect the same ratings as Angry Birds).
    My latest game, Puzzle Detective, has a 4-star average, which I'm very happy with, but I still have occasional 1-star reviews from people who leave no reasoning.
    In short, the negative reviewers have more influence on your overall ratings than the happy or content users who tend to not rate at all or rate more fairly/realistically.
  • has been doing this for a long time and it works really well!  Maybe Microsoft will do something similar.
  • Yes that developer AE games is the worst with those annoying reviews. not only does it copy other franchises and games but its also EA spelled backward !!! :D . I hope microsoft would axe them for good.
  • They have one of the best free games who don't want to pay ..
  • They provide somewhat decent games entirely for free, it's a nice alternative for people who can't afford to pay for apps. Gameloft makes a fortune ripping off triple-A titles and bringing it to a mobile platform, so I really don't see the issue with this.
  • While is skewers the average, you can still see what the 'majority' says.  If there's 14 one-star reviews and one 5-star glowing review, then its a pretty safe bet that the app sucks.
  • The problem is that its not just one review, its a company doing up to hundreds of reviews which can really screw someones app reputation.
  • Microsoft should really be managing this better. There doesn't even appear to be any censoring applied to the reviews. Not helpful for consumers.
  • Happens at every store actually not just WP
  • There also seems to be little filtering on the apps themselves. Look at the Top Paid in the Music and Video category, there are like 40 out of 100 apps that just stole the Windows Media Player logo (or iTunes, or realplayer, etc) and made some variation of the name in an effort to trick consumers. That leaves little room for developers with real apps like say the PlayTo Receiver for example
  • Should we create a thread that has a list of a.) Apps that are being attacked and b.) Apps that are being falsely positively reviewed?
  • Sure, why not. I see no harm in it.
  • could be helpful until Microsoft sorts this out
  • I'm in the minority on this, but reviews rarely influence my opinion on an app. However, when I see this done it angers me and makes me not trust the app developer. The practice should be banned.
  • It doesn't take too much time to try an app yourself but if there is no trial available, you have to rely on user reviews.
  • Also, the store placement relies heavily on reviews. If people don't review your app positively it will simply be hard to find in the store. The cheats who inflate their ratings get more prominence in the store, and therefore more downloads, and this in turn increases their downloads and the expense of the more honest devs.
  • Thanks Rich and Daniel for the update !
  • No worries. I hesitated if I should tip WPCentral about it since I don't want these kind of services to be promoted, but maybe it's better developers are aware and on the lookout for bottom feeders like these and can report them to Microsoft. I really, really hope nobody considers employing these kind of services since it can be incredibly harmful to the ecosystem and drive both developers and consumers away from the Store. Cheers,
  • The guy sucks balls. I usually skip reviews that just say, "Sucks". Well why does it suck? Give us more info. We need to out these developers and reviewers.
  • You should read some of the reviews on the xfinity remote AP. People who are not even a Comcast customer downloaded the AP and then gave it 1 star because they didn't have an account. There should be away for a developer request removal of those reviews.
  • My app, Catholic Daily Readings was attacked today in Nigeria.
  • This is also a problem on the Windows Store for Windows 8 apps.
    Many of the most active reviewers are simply spammers leaving their email address or company name on hundreds of apps for publicity.
  • But why the hell would you comment your email address? That's just asking for spam.
    Honestly, some people are just clueless.
  • I wouldn't know, they left 274 reviews, all 5 star, nothing but their email address. I guess they want you to look them up and see what they are selling? You might end up viewing the Education Management Corporation website. Others link to their tech blog, or Mangla Media. It's apparently just free advertising space however good or bad it may make your company be perceived...
  • I noticed that too, as most of the people stated above we need MS to introduce a filter mechanism so spammers can be down rated. However on the flipside when spammers start varying from 2 starts to 4 stars.. it would be difficult to distinquish - poor use of grammar will not help either as more and more people start upgrading from feature phones to phones like the L520 you will have people not fluent in English or speak it at all
  • Has anyone noticed the lack of proper English grammer in the picture of that post?   So far, none of my apps have been attacked yet, but I will be on the lookout thanks to this article.
  • i cant believe you guys are censouring that comments on picture
  • You would if you knew what was behind them
  • I've been noticing this on the store for some time now. There are games that are clearly junk averaging 4.5+ stars with hundreds of reviews. If that isn't evidence enough of the scam, most reviews consist of one-line comments or even strings of random letters. I wonder if this happens in Android or iOS. I don't think Microsoft does nearly a good enough job of promoting good apps and filtering out the junk.
  • As has been mentioned before the store reviews section needs an overhaul. Microsoft could implement some authenticity filtering but it also needs things like dev response to comments, rate a review as helpful/unhelpful etc.
  • I hate it when I see a reviewer compliment an app, praise it, and then give it a 1 star. Its review trolling.
  • Haha, that always makes me laugh, thats what one can do at the moment - with no filter system. Unless you would rather start crying about it? lol
  • Thanks for the heads up, I will be on the lookout for fake 5 star reviews so I never support developers who utilise these disgusting immoral methods to try to cheat potential customers.
  • I've actually seen a developer giving himself a fake 5 star review. The giveaway was the username on the review was the same as the account he had used to promote his app here in WPCentral. Usually I will support developers even though their current apps may not be that great but as long as they are serious and work hard to improve their skills to create better apps. Frank to say for this developer, I won't be downloading any of his apps ever.
  • Why to blame a developer for posting a single 5 star review, I am sure he honestly appreciate his app and probably is also proud of it. You may argue that the review is subjective, but this is the essence of user reviews, someone's opinion, is not an objective analysis of the app.
  • You can't also blame a developer for giving the app a single 5 star review. I am guilty of that. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no way currently for developers to directly respond to questions that a reviewer has or for developers to generally respond to reviewers who are curious about the app and might be sincerely confused, without reviewing the app themselves.
    Do you honestly expect me to give my app anything less than 5 stars, given the amount of hours I spent on it?
    To Mikey94, I think Bee Mon's concern is realistic. As much as reviews are supposed to be personal views, they are also meant to inform potential users how well the app works or how well its designed. Most people give apps bad reviews without even understanding what the app is supposed to do. They just simply download and try to experiment and when they cannot understand it, they freak out and explode in the store.
    For instance, my app is a workout log app, as indicated by its name, Gym Pad. Some reviewers are angry because it does not have any workouts. How can it have workouts when its meant to record workouts that you have already done? See? They simply looked at the images, but forgot to read the app description.
  • Here's the thing though : Microsoft doesn't give a shit. I have been the victim of such spam on my app, by a competitor. Thousands of 1 star reviews, all from the same device, so it is quite obvious what's going on. Yet, although this clearly violates the developers agreement, Microsoft told me to fuck off, that they would not remove the reviews because he could do it again. It would take them 5 minutes of their time to make a filter and remove the reviews (or at least to see they're all coming from the same place), yet they won't move a muscle and they'll let my app to rot. I lost more than 50% of downloads because of this and it's still going down...
  • Oh man that sucks! I really feel your pain. I think I am being hacked by a competitor right now. Anyway, let's just hope the real reviewers can see how much work we put into those apps. For example, I have some weird reviews, but I also have some reviewers who have used my app and know what its for and how it works; so they respond to the weird reviews with the truth.
    Our main problem is that most people who actually use our apps don't give us few seconds of their time to review it.
  • I'm a developer for Windows Phone and this is really bad. Even if we spent hours on an app but it has flaws, we'd like to know those so we could improve it instead of getting fake reviews and get to know the real responce by the users. I think it's Microsoft's responsibility to block and tackle such fake services. 
  • I'm pretty sure this is what gets the "Facebook/YouTube Pro+" fake apps to the top.
  • This is a serious issue. I currently have an app in the store. This app is very simple. Simply meant to log your workouts so that you can remember the workouts and the body parts you worked on; you know, just like the regular yellow pad you take with you to the gym.
    Now, I have couple of reviews, which I appreciate, but there is this one particular review from an anonymous reviewer called "user". It just says two words, "it sucks".
    I mean I have no problem with someone thinking my app sucks, but at least tell me how. I guess this is why the review is there.
    Any way if you are curious, the app is called Gym Pad. Check it out and leave me a strong review.