A few days ago, the app AppGratis was pulled from the App Store for specific reasons unknown, but many conjectured it was due to the service that the company provided for developers — specifically in promotion of their apps. AppGratis, it was claimed, was gaming the system and manipulating the charts of the App Store so that they didn’t really accurately reflect reality. I don’t know whether or not that’s actually true, but it’s plausible given the shadiness of some parts of the mobile sector.
What I do know, however, is that the App Store charts are useless anyway, largely due to the huge amounts of miscategorisation (is that a word? It is now) going on, making it absolutely impossible to browse and find something you’re looking for.
But is it really that bad? I decided to do a little experiment to see how accurate the descriptors in the Games category — the only App Store category to have subdivisions — actually are. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 in a selection of these categories and see if the games therein actually belong in those groupings, shall we? Wait, where are you going…?
Huh. Sod those guys, we didn’t like them anyway, right? Here we go, then.
Adventure Games (Paid)
Wikipedia’s definition of adventure games:
An adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving instead of physical (e.g. reflexes) challenge. The genre‘s focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media such as literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Nearly all adventure games (text and graphic) are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult.
- Temple Run Oz – not an adventure game, it’s an action/arcade game
- Minecraft – not an adventure game, it’s a… Minecraft
- Badland – not an adventure game, it’s a platform game
- Doodle Jump – not an adventure game, it’s a platform/arcade game
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – not an adventure game, it’s an action game
- Temple Run Brave – see No. 1
- Dead Crossing – not an adventure game, it’s a shooter/driving game
- Eden – not an adventure game, it’s a Minecraft-alike
- Clear Vision – not an adventure game, it’s a sniper-centric shooting game
- Blue Toad Murder Files – HOLY SHIT AN ADVENTURE GAME
One out of ten is correctly categorised. So that’s not all that good, really, is it? Let’s look at the free adventure games.
Adventure Games (Free)
- Gangster Granny – shooter
- Temple Run 2 – See No. 1 in the Paid category
- The Simpsons: Tapped Out – citybuilder
- The Sims: FreePlay – It’s The Sims, but more boring
- The Croods – citybuilder/farming game
- Frontline Commando: D-Day – shooter
- Minecraft Lite – Minecraft
- Jail Break Now – vaguely adventure-ish
- Tap Paradise Cove – citybuilder/farming
- Nimble Quest – Snake with a twist
Nope. Nope. Nope. One out of ten, and that might not even count as it’s more of a stealth game. Let’s look at a favourite genre: role-playing games.
Role-Playing Games (Paid)
A role-playing game (RPG and sometimes roleplaying game) is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making or character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.
- Slayin – arcade game with RPG elements
- Gemini Rue – THIS IS AN ADVENTURE GAME WHAT THE FUCK IS IT DOING IN THE RPG SECTION
- Mighty Dungeons – old-school dungeon-crawler. It counts.
- Skylanders Battlegrounds – Sort of RPG-ish, but more action game than anything
- Dentist Surgery Game – NO. Not even a little bit.
- Minecraft Explorer Pro – Not even a game; this should be in the Reference section.
- World Explorer – Made for Minecraft – Crap Minecraft clone. Not an RPG.
- Monster Wars – Strategy game
- Surviving High School – Visual novel/adventure game, not RPG
- Minecraft Papercraft Studio – Not a game at all
Hmm. Slightly better. Still not great. And the presence of Gemini Rue in there just feels like the App Store is mocking me for writing this. Let’s look at the freebies.
Role-Playing Games (Free)
- Beauty Dentist – NO. (Also what the fuck is up with all the dentist games?)
- Tekken Card Tournament – Vaguely RPG-ish, but no. It’s a card game. There is a card game section.
- Mighty Monsters – Pokémon ripoff. Crap, but could accurately be described as an RPG.
- Come on, Zombie! – More of an RTS than an action RPG, but I’ll allow it.
- Campus Life – Poor-quality The Sims knockoff.
- Campus Crush – Visual novel/dating sim, not RPG
- Dungeon Hunter 4 – Yes!
- My Beauty Spa – No!
- Epoch – shooter
- Crime City – Citybuilder wanting to be edgy, actually just crap. Not RPG.
Oh dear. (And seriously, people, why all the virtual dentistry?)
What about board games? I like board games, and there are some good adaptations on the App Store, I know that for a fact. So what do the charts look like?
Board Games (Paid)
- Monopoly – Yep
- Scrabble – Yep
- Words With Friends – Yep
- Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition – Yep
- Trivial Pursuit – Yep
- The Game of Life – Yep
- MahJong – Please learn the difference between “Mahjong” and “Mahjong Solitaire”, but yep
- Pentix: warning! this developer likes to put stupidly long titles in things in the hopes of making their game look better! – Nope
- Doodle God – Nope
- Risk – Yep
Much better. Not perfect, but better. Shame all the top-selling ones are crap board games, though. Seriously, people, two different varieties of Monopoly? I don’t mean to sound like a board game snob (actually, I do) but there are far better games out there. But at least it’s actually in the right fucking category.
Board Games (Free)
- 6 Numbers – Countdown ripoff. More of a puzzle game.
- Lazors – Again, more of a puzzle game, but there is a board game a bit like this.
- Bingo – Nope. To the Casino section with you! Away, filth!
- Four In A Row 2013 – (Spoiler: it’s the same as Four in a Row has always been) Yep
- Words With Friends Free – Yep
- Monopoly Hotels – NOPE. This is a shitty Monopoly-themed building game, not a board game. Sadly, there isn’t a “shitty building game” category, but it would better belong elsewhere.
- Sudoku – Puzzle, not board game.
- Ruzzle – Yet another Boggle ripoff, but yep
- Chess Free – Yes!
- Friendle — Live Board Games with Friends and Family – The clue’s in the name!
Again, better. But again, crap that has nothing to do with board games (except the name in Monopoly Hotels’ case) is in the board games category.
So the situation varies a bit from category to category. But it should hopefully be clear from that that there are some significant problems there. Imagine you really want to play an adventure game on your iPhone or iPad — something like the excellent Gemini Rue or Broken Sword. Browse through the adventure game category and you may well have trouble finding things that are actually adventure games. That’s a problem.
Sadly, without a complete wipe of the App Store’s catalogue and recategorisation of everything, I think we’re too late to really do anything about this. Developers deliberately submit their titles to the wrong categories to get greater visibility, and this effect spreads as more and more people do it — and in the meantime, Apple don’t appear to care all that much when things are incorrectly categorised. The whole situations is a big ol’ mess, and I’m not surprised independent developers working on genuinely great games are enormously frustrated that it’s impossible to get their stuff seen amid all the other shite.