As if to prove that point, now we have a villain thrown in, a 3rd party service that offered a developer to promote his app for $5000 and get it into the top 25, guaranteed. The developer thought this is quite a small price to pay, compared to the established AdMob network he planned to turn to initially. AdMob quoted him quite the steeper amount, and the sales guy mentioned it takes a lot of time, money and traffic to get into the top 10 featured apps.
The developer doesn't mention the name of the 3rd party service that offered him a top 25 position for $5000, but when he asked why so cheap for such a service, the rep disclosed something pretty shocking for the uninitiated into the ins and outs of the application stores business.
server farm that employs bots to robodownload an app numerous times, thus increasing its rankings, and they eventually get it into the top placings.
What's even worse, to try and close the sale, he asked the developer to fire up his phone, and look at the top 25 apps, then walked him through it, and told him which of the applications belong to the bot service's clients - and there were 8 of them! This, of course, means that a third of the top 25 apps were there not based on their merits, which they might or might not have, but on a clever way to game the system.
The rep then told him that the price is just $5000 now, since Apple is aware of this robodownloading thing, and has already cracked down on one developer called Dream Cortex for promoting their apps through such a bot service. This posting has apparently forced Apple to speed up on the crack down process, and it is sending out letters to developers warning them that they could lose their Apple Developer Program membership if robodownload services are used to promote their apps. Yesterday Apple posted this in its developer news website section:
Oh, the drama! Where there's a lot of money to be lost and gained, there will always be people that try to game the system, and we are wondering what's the situation with other app stores, too. Hopefully Apple will make an example of several "cheaters" to nip this thing in the bud, as it could really affect the reliability of the App Store rankings.
source: Toucharcade (forums) & Apple via TUAW