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Wings over Sealand


Some people are on the pitch

Posted on September 05, 2012 by RevStu

As regular readers will know, we've always been keen admirers of Bruce Everiss's almost-unparallelled videogames-industry knowledge and expertise. So we've been thrilled to recently see him storming back to the cutting-edge as chief of marketing for David Darling's new company Kwalee, which has hit on the genius idea of making it big in the ultra-competitive App Store market by employing a vast team of staff to come up with two-player-only knockoffs of ancient board games.

The well-documented problem with the App Store, of course, is visibility. To have a chance of getting your game noticed you need it to get lots of great reviews, and when your games are extremely mediocre and competing against hundreds and hundreds of existing clones of the same thing which DO offer single-player play as well as online, the chances of that happening are slim.

Unless you cut out the middleman and write the reviews yourself, of course.

Kwalee's most recent release, a Reversi ripoff labouring under the name "Pussy Flip", has already picked up a clutch of four- and five-star reviews. Some are just a single word long, and others read, funnily enough, a lot like something a marketing man whose friends are mostly spambots purchased from companies who sell worthless Twitter "followers" would have written:

"I like flipping and I love the pussies, so I'm having big fun flipping these kitties. I thought revers-eye might be boring but these pussies take it to the next level!"

Because THAT'S how the kids talk, right?

Just for fun, we decided to see which other games these "reviewers" liked. The results were surprising, by which we mean "possibly the least surprising thing we've ever seen". To help understand why, let's fill in a tiny bit of crucial background information:

Bruce, if you didn't know, used to work for David Darling at Codemasters. So bearing the content of the above tweet in mind, let's check out the work of these honest-to-goodness Pussy Flip fans. Click any of the pics to enlarge.

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"plw222" has reviewed just nine apps out of the 500,000 or so available on the App Store, two of which are versions of the same thing. Three are either Kwalee apps or those by other ex-Codemasters developers named in Bruce's tweet of September 3rd, and five of the other six are from the "AppyNation" stable inhabited by Fluid Football.

(With impressive irony/chutzpah, AppyNation recently published an article entitled "Hall Of Infamy", attacking the shady practice of paid-for review sites.)

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"Peter Jessen", meanwhile, has also reviewed just nine apps, including not just both of Kwalee's games but also their podcast. He's keen. The reason why might just be revealed in one of his other reviews:

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See if you can spot it.

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"Stufar" has offered his views entirely at random on seven App Store products, including two Kwalee games and the ex-Codemasters-developers title Fluid Football.

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"Nobber the face", on the other hand, has scoured the half-million games available to iOS users and decided to single out just one for praise – Pussy Flip, natch.

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As has the admirably concise "Justin Gorka", who devotes 50% of his review to writing his own name, a characteristic followers of Bruce's extraordinary, Alan Partridge-esque new blog (and particularly its fantastic picture captions) will find oddly familiar.

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And finally, "Tom Aherne" has broken a five-month silence to double his tally of reviews by telling us how fun Pussy Flip is. But wait, who's this on the Kwalee staff page?

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There's a name for pimping your own products with self-penned reviews purporting to be from members of the public – "astroturfing". It's so named because it's a fake form of "grass roots" publicity, and it's against the terms and conditions of most review sites (including the App Store) and gaming forums. It's sometimes even against the law.

We have, of course, no idea if Kwalee have been systematically indulging in such underhanded, tacky and dishonest behaviour – except of course for the bit where their CEO openly admits that he has, albeit under an assumed name. We merely present the evidence for readers to form their own opinion on.

We trust Apple will investigate the matter and take any action they deem appropriate, and that any other reviews of the (free) game which may subsequently appear can be relied on to be honest and independent appraisals by real gamers.

58 to “Some people are on the pitch”

  1. "Astroturfing"?  What's wrong with "Corrupt, lying shit"?
     
    Honestly, it's as though Everiss made a bet with someone that he couldn't get the dictionaries to redefine "parody".

  2. You really do need to get a tinfoil hat, wasting so much time to see conspiracy where none exists. 
    I have never ever reviewed Pussy Flip, not only that I have never asked anyone to review Pussy Flip, not only that I have never used any of the paid for app review services that are available, which you seem unaware of.
    All this makes us a hell of a lot straighter than the vast majority of app developers. Yes some staff here may have got enthusiastic on their own accord, but wouldn't you if you had just spent several months on a creative project?
    The fact is that if you have a top development team and give them the time and the tools then they will create a game that gets good reviews. Many thousands of people downloaded and played the game yesterday. Touch Arcade put us on Hot New Games. So, unsurprisingly we got good reviews. People like our game because it is fun. The number of reviews we got is not disproportionate with our number of downloads and it vastly exceeds the number of people employed here.
    What you don't mention is the sad trolls who give all our games one star reviews without even having played them. We report these to Apple.
    If you go and do the forensic job you have done above on a few more games from other publishers you will quickly realise just how clean our marketing is.

  3. RevStu says:

    Hello Bruce! Firstly, if you'd bothered to read the piece (I know, getting the facts before you comment IS horribly dull and tedious) you'd notice that in fact I am aware of paid-for review services, because I mention and link to AppyNation's piece on them.

    Secondly, I note that you don't actually deny Kwalee employees wrote these reviews – in fact you admit it, putting it down to innocent high spirits. Shouldn't someone like David Darling, who's been in the videogames business for around a quarter of a century, have a little more professional self-control, though?

    (And just for the record, can you tell us officially which reviews are and aren’t by Kwalee employees?)

    Thirdly, Touch Arcade didn't "put us on Hot New Games". Appearing in that list is merely an indicator of games which have been discussed in their forum, even if that discussion was merely more partly-anonymous astroturfing and thread-bumping by you and your Kwalee colleagues.

    Fourthly, do you have any evidence to support the allegation that "sad trolls give all our games one star reviews without even having played them"? Is there, in fact, even a single iTunes user who has posted a one-star review of both of your games? If so, what evidence do you have that they didn't play them first?

    Fifthly, the claim that "The number of reviews we got… vastly exceeds the number of people employed here" seems to be flatly untrue. At the time of writing this piece Pussy Flip had eight reviews on UK iTunes (one more has subsequently appeared, from another user who hasn't reviewed any other apps), while your own staff page lists 20 employees. I know from experience you're not hot on numbers, Bruce, but 20 is more than eight.

    And lastly, your "clean" marketing appears to mainly consist of buying spambot followers, endlessly retweeting your own employees' excited tweets about their own games (without noting that they're employees), and sending out press releases to autobot retweeters and then retweeting THEIR retweets to make it look as if anyone cares about your rubbish Othello knockoff.

    Oh, and let's not forget endlessly spamming forums like RLLMUK with your drivel, to the point where you get repeatedly banned from them.

    But anyway – now you're here and you can't just delete everyone's replies: what killed Imagine, Bruce?

    http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/bruceworld/

  4. John X says:

    Good riposte, Bruce!
     
    Deny a series of things the article doesn't accuse you of, and then say "But sure, we did the thing the article actually says."
     
    "but wouldn't you if you had just spent several months on a creative project?"
     
    Um, no? Because it's dishonest, unhelpful to genuine customers, and against the T&C of the shop you're selling it on.
     
    The reason you have good reviews so far is because your staff and friends have written them. Saying that it's because the game is fun, in the face of the evidence that shows that the reviews are deceitful, only makes it look more idiotic. Then saying you report the reviews that you *weren't* responsible for!
     
    Your marketing is not "clean" in any sense. It's dirty. That another imaginary company you don't name is dirtier doesn't make yours clean. You cheated, and it's wretched.

  5. RevStu says:

    Viewers! Hilariously, I've just learned that Bruce's marketing skills are so deft that not only has he been permanently banned from RLLMUK, but any mention of Kwalee whatsoever results in your thread being deleted. According to forum user and celebrated indie developer John Pickford:

    "It's against the rules to talk about Kwalee on here. I think they threatened legal action or something."

    Threatening to sue people who talk about your company? Now THAT'S marketing! We keenly await a letter from Kwalee's solicitors.

  6. Dan Bridge says:

    Big fan of your work but you're enabling my Bruce addiction. I'm now browsing the new bruce blog and I'm struck by the amount of times the phrase 'Bruce Everiss' is mentioned, it's almost like he's trying to SEO his own name!

  7. RevStu says:

    It IS almost like that, isn’t it?

  8. Robin says:

    Hi Stu.

    I work for AppyNation, and feel I should point out that we take Apple’s guidelines regarding the user review system very seriously (and have no affiliation with Kwalee). Two of our six studios involve ex-Codies personnel, one of whom (“plw222″) I’d speculate may have individually chosen to post a review as a gesture of support for a friend.

    The reason many iOS developers are anxious to post positive ratings soon after an app’s launch, either soliciting them from friends and fans or (despite their better judgement) posting reviews themselves, is that early reviews can get ‘stuck’ to an app’s iTunes Preview page.

    There is a fear of having some anonymous reviewer claim that your game is literally non-functional (usually just meaning they didn’t like it) permanently emblazoned on your game’s ‘box’, with the obvious deleterious effect on the game’s fortunes that would result. (It’s very, very hard to get Apple to remove reviews barring exceptional circumstances.)

    I’m not excusing the practice, just pointing out that it’s an arbitrary quirk of the store that has caused it to become so widespread. If it’s just one or two reviews (as opposed to a mass campaign) their effect on the overall star rating quickly gets drowned out by real reviews anyway.

  9. RevStu says:

    Duly noted. The trouble with Bruce's scattergun approach to spewing shit all over the internet is that sometimes people just standing somewhere vaguely near him get covered in it too.

  10. DG says:

    I can confirm Mr Pickford's statement above.  The few times the man is now mentioned on Rllmuk he is referred to as "Voldemort".

  11. DG says:

    Incidentally I happen to have pretty much the whole Kwalee thread from Rllmuk, having seen this coming a mile off having "seen this coming" (http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/bruceworld/pages/bruce_everiss_vs_pesky_reality.html) should it be of interest to anyone.

  12. asdasd says:

    "Bruce Everiss, human remains"
     
    Well, quite.

  13. RevStu says:

    "Incidentally I happen to have pretty much the whole Kwalee thread from Rllmuk"

    Would be very happy to see that.

  14. Mr Me says:

    Sometimes I really, really love this blog :) Please post the rllmuk thread.

  15. This is a very low-level sort of dishonesty, though. I don’t mean to condone it, but it’s unlikely to do any substantial harm. There aren’t many people in the world who are above a bit of minor dishonesty when they perceive it to be harmless and they don’t expect to be caught. That’s not my favourite feature of humanity, but it’s one I’ve learned to tolerate, and that most people know about and are capable of adjusting for. I can’t claim to be completely above reproach in that regard myself.
    It’s not very significantly worse than asking a few of your friends or your mum to review your game. Even if you’re careful not to direct them, they’re bound to be at least a bit biased in your favour, and you get a handful positive reviews that are apparently indistinguishable from real interest by independent third-parties. I suppose that’s a bit dishonest too, but it’s veering towards unintentional dishonesty, and it’s the sort of behaviour that’s well below the threshold where even quite grumpy people like me care very much.
    At the moment Pussy Flip has 25 positive reviews and one negative, and I’m going to uncharitably assume that all of the positive reviews are fake, or at least biased. I’d guess that’s one fake review posted each by most Kwalee employees and associates, and a few more dubious reviews posted by their family and friends. That’s about in line with the level of minor dishonesty I’d expect most people to stoop to, maybe a little higher than usual. I agree that it’s wrong, but it’s something I just can’t get upset about.
    If the game is even moderately successful, then that number will soon be dwarfed by real reviews. In the meantime, anyone naïve enough to believe that those 25 reviews are real is beyond help, and I suspect that the people who wrote them are fully aware of that.
    If they were making a serious effort at astroturfing I would expect the game to have hundreds of reviews at least. Perhaps they’re biding their time, or perhaps they’re just not very competent. Until then I’m inclined to think it doesn’t really matter.

  16. RevStu says:

    With regard to Pussy Flip's "thousands" of downloads, by the way: a quick check of App Annie suggests that its chart peak so far was No.77 in the "Strategy" section of the UK App Store.

    For some sort of reference point, Free-App Hero, which hasn't been updated in months, hit No.40 in the "Utilities" section of the UK Store one day last month. On that day it sold 27 copies.

  17. RevStu says:

    “At the moment Pussy Flip has 25 positive reviews and one negative”

    I don’t know what country you’re in, but on the UK iTunes it has seven positive reviews (mostly, as we’ve seen, from Kwalee staff) and two one-star ones. There are 27 ratings, of which 18 are four- or five-star, with seven one-stars and a single two-star. There are no reviews or ratings at all on the US Store.

    And nobody’s saying it’s the scandal of the century. It’s just always a chuckle to catch Bruce out as he galumphs around proclaiming his incredible marketing prowess while leaving giant inky fingerprints all over the crime scene.

  18. Someguy says:

    Even their ex-staff don't seem to be big Bruce fans…
    https://twitter.com/andybastable/status/238569280025796608 (noting the replies)

  19. I’m in the UK, but what has happened there is that you’ve caught me out estimating from what little Apple will show me without iTunes installed (and with my limited understanding of how iTunes works). I should have just said so in the first place.

  20. Mr Me says:

    Daniel's avatar photo looks a lot like Joe from Kwalee. They could almost be brothers :)

  21. Mr Me says:

    And yes I know he isn't. I just thought it was funny.

  22. Huh, you’re right. He and I are cursed with the same preposterous head shape. Poor chap.

  23. Tom Feilding says:

    Maybe I should stop marking my meetup games as 5-stars then?

  24. Mr Me says:

    I think people are forgetting just how important Alan Part… Bruce Everiss is
     
    http://www.pr.com/press-release/437415

  25. Someguy says:

    "This has the potential to be very interesting indeed."

  26. RevStu says:

    Oh my word. So desperate to plug your awful blog you publish your home address and landline phone number openly on the internet. We all like to get a few hits, but that's… wow.

    Wonderfully, if you type the address into Google Maps, it appears that Bruce's house is the HQ of Burben Pest Control.

  27. petrolgirls says:

    This is like the rllmuk thread all over again. Brucie makes an ill-informed idiotic post which gets shredded by other posters, Bruce can't muster a sensible retort so sends in this unfortunate Joe creature to play the chummy 'neutral'  – "Hey guys! Sure Brucie is a bit of a tool but you know what's worse? Contracting syphilis during thermonuclear war!".
     
    Repulsive group of people.

  28. Mentazm says:

    So… this is actually hilarious.

  29. Someguy says:

    https://twitter.com/Bruciebabe/status/243260731053711360
    "There really are some very nasty people on the internet. A pity that some of them are interested in games."

  30. Mr Me says:

    The Touch Arcade thread makes for interesting reading http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=150971

  31. Someguy says:

    Also fun that out of twenty staff, four of them are Darlings (David, Jim, Jessica and John).
    Still, they won't mind. They're off go-karting today. Beats making a third game.

  32. RFT says:

    There's no way that's actually Bruce's house.

  33. RevStu says:

    “https://twitter.com/Bruciebabe/status/243260731053711360
    “There really are some very nasty people on the internet. A pity that some of them are interested in games.”"

    BatBruce has a disturbing commotion going on in his trunks. I’m a bit frightened now.

  34. RevStu says:

    “There’s no way that’s actually Bruce’s house.”

    Actually, from previous information I’m fairly confident it is.

  35. DG says:

    Ok here's the thread. It's a bit of a mess because it's mostly off google cache and it displays a little funny in some browsers but it's basically there.
    It starts with the release of Gobang and moves on, Bruce is missing from a lot of it and it appears he's managed to delete a post or two of his but it'll do. If you can find anything actionable in there, do say.
    And obviously, if anyone can make this tidier/easier to browse go right ahead.
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/13311540/bruce.zip

  36. DG says:

    Sorry when I say "Bruce is missing from a lot of it" it's because he was suspended at the time, I can't remember what for.

  37. RFT says:

    Really? I thought he lived in one of the villages between leam and southam…

  38. RevStu says:

    I love that the sixth comment on the GoBang Social thread is "I think I`ll improve it by adding some cats (drawn on graph paper first, natch) and get it on the app store pronto…"

  39. DG says:

    Well Bruce had spent a lot of time before that teasing a game with cats. They then laughed Gobang supposedly as a test before theier actual "big original awesome game" which was the cat one.
    Of course it then turned out that "the big original game" was fucking Othello.
    I may have got slightly lost in the middle of this.

  40. Someguy says:

    I think the 'big original awesome game' is still missing in action, and that GoBang / Pussy Flip are both network tests. Which'd make sense, as the GUI on them both is pretty much identical.

  41. Someguy says:

    This is who replaced Lizzie.
    https://twitter.com/kanekwalee/status/243260806878343168
    Spelling ability is optional for Brand Evangelism.

  42. X201 says:

    The author of this article might want to check Wikipedia edit histories for the last couple of weeks.
    Just saying :)

  43. RevStu says:

    Want to narrow that down for us just a wee bit?

  44. Mr Me says:

    Someone has been editing in links to Bruce's blogspot blog into the page on Imagine. Looks like they've been removed. It's in the page history

  45. DG says:

    A quick hunch led me to Imagine's page where a man known simply as "86.20.9.166" has been spamming Bruce's blog in for no apparent reason.  X201 has also edited that page recently.

  46. X201 says:

    The Bruce Everiss external link in the Imagine article has now been removed by someone with an IP address that belongs to
    MASTERTRONIC-GROUP-LTD

    curiouser and curiouser.

  47. Colman says:

    Jesus Christ — I just checked out Mr. Everiss's twitter feed, and this monstrosity was his most recent tweet:
     
    https://twitter.com/BruceKwalee/status/243303442838347777
     
    In sum: the words "Pussy Flip trailer on Gamespot", followed by a link to that trailer, followed by an "@" mention of the Pussy Flip twitter account, followed by the hashtag "#Kwalee", followed by the hashtag "#Apple", followed by the hashtag "#Game", followed by the hashtag "#Games", followed by the hashtag "Reversi", followed by the hashtag "#iPhone", followed by the hashtag "#iPad", followed by a link to the Pussy Flip website, and then the whole thing re-tweeted by Mr. Everiss from his second account
     
    Is it possible that "Bruce Everiss" doesn't actually exist? That he is, himself, a bot of some kind?

  48. League Against Internet Mentalists says:

    Fucking hell, Bruce's personal views are absolutely abhorrent. And based on notions disproven back in the 19h century.
    http://twitter.com/BruceKwalee/status/243395833909878784

  49. jpb says:

    his new personal blog is a half-assed attempt to take control of search results for his name, hence the everiss, everiss, everiss repetition. it cannot be good for you, personally or professionally, if the second hit for your full name says "cunt". it also speaks volumes for your marketing ability. 

  50. DG says:

    What also speaks volumes about your inability to market is when you start tweeting your personal, political views from your professional work account.

  51. Someguy says:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/darrenwall/sensible-software-19861999-by-read-only-memory
    Our confirmed interviewees include:

    David Darling (Co-founder of Codemasters)
    Stuart Campbell (Ex-writer for Amiga Power and unstoppable force of nature)

    Play nice, you two.

  52. League Against Internet Mentalists says:

    Good point, Mr DG sir. I know if I owned a business, I wouldn't want its brand name being publicly associated with extremists who believe that the vast majority of the population who don't attend private school are the genetic untermensch.

  53. Um, no? Because it's dishonest, unhelpful to genuine customers, and against the T&C of the shop you're selling it on.

    Man, am I glad you fielded this one instead of me.  I'd have had wasted at least half a paragraph on it.
    it cannot be good for you, personally or professionally, if the second hit for your full name says "cunt".
    I dunno, I think at least part of me would be oddly proud.
    It's just another little cherry on the cake that Bruce is so hopeless that he thinks 25,000 fake followers on twitter isn't enormous overstretching for some nobody in marketing whose only claim to fame this century is making a fool of himself on some forums.  But then I suppose a heap of bullshit and ten heaps of bullshit are indistinguishable when you live in the stuff.

  54. Mike says:

    Fucking comedy gold. Love it when the Rev goes head to head with Bruce.  Everiss is such an unbelievable fuckwit I almost sorry for him, but then I remember how he blamed the demise of Imagine on me and my peers for copying shite like Ah Diddums in the playground when the real reason imagine went tits up is cos they made shite like Ah Diddums in the first place.

  55. Someguy says:

    Good to see they continue to spend their money wisely.
    https://twitter.com/GinRinkusu/status/246192259542945793/photo/1

  56. Someguy says:

    Elsewhere, Bruce remains oblivious to becoming a parody of himself.
    https://twitter.com/JPickford/status/246189974385463296
    http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3qw0o8/

  57. Kwalee Guy says:

    Yeh, sorry for the whole 'Bruce being a monumental dick' thing. 

  58. DavidO says:

    well it looks like Kwalee has parted ways with Bruce. Wonder how much was due to his mentalist twittering and forum posting? Bet its a hilarious story.



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