Charging Developers for Reviews is Bad. Mm’kay?

EDIT: We’re changing the format of this list, to… well, a list. Less screenshots, more links to avoid clicking. We’re going to keep updating this list, even though we think we’ve found most of the culprits.

We all know the internet is a wild and interesting place. Endlessly exciting and wondrous. But it also has its dark corners.

No, we’re not talking about those corners (our ISP blocks them, anyway), but rather the practice of websites and blogs charging for reviews. All credit goes to the delightful Charley Grafton-Chuck for sparking this off. As she so rightly points out (and I’m sure anyone with a sense of decency agrees), it is not journalism, they can’t be objective, it takes credibility away from the app and doesn’t give consumers all the info.

Charging for reviews (or  for ‘consideration’, or to cover ‘administration’ fees) is a tactic that raises our hackles, gets our goat, boils our blood and generally makes us want to shout. So, rather than shouting, we thought we’d create a permanent (and often updated) list of these websites. And for anyone wondering, we’ve linked to them so that a) you can see they’re real and b) their advert revenues go up and they can stop charging for reviews. Sneaky, huh?

THE NAUGHTY LIST (alphabetical order):

Alpha Digits
Offers a “featured review service for a small fee.”

Android Apps Review
An expedited review sets you back $59 for iOS or Android separately, while both at the same time cost $89. A video review is $99.

Android Headlines
$149.99 currently, normal price $249.99.

Android Tapp
they offer free reviews, but it costs $149 to get an expedited review.

They do normal reviews. But expedited reviews for $150.

Appdictions iOS & Appdictions Android
Review prices start at $25, end at $60.

No apparent way to get them to review a game for free, and while there are 2 options – $10 & $25 – the more expensive one adds ‘ads’.

App Eggs
they offer a free review service, but it’s between $50 and $129 for any other kind of review.

This site offers text reviews for $25 and video reviews for $39.

Appstore Arcade
There seem to be many ways to give them your money, but I can’t find any details of these various options.

AppStore Reviewer
A YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing mobile games that’s been running since 2008, apparently. They emailed us specifying that to get a video review from them will cost us “simply $350” – thanks but no thanks.

Best 10 Apps
They do offer free reviews, but if you want a ‘hands-on’ text review (or video, or both combined) then prices start at $50.

Best Apps for Kids
They offer an expedited review for $35.

Daily App Show
Video reviews seems to start at $55, and go up to $280.

Digital Storytime
You have to register via email to see the ‘submit your app’ page, and it’s $150 for a priority review, or $50 for a ‘rating’.

Fresh Apps
Pay $100 for a review. No other option at time of writing.

Hot Mac Apps
Basic reviews start at $2, expedited start at $35.

They do offer a way for you to submit a game for review for free, that they may or may not review. A .pdf for you to peruse with the pricing plan on it ($149). They do call these reviews out as ‘sponsored’ when they post them.

iPhone AppReviewsSite
Free reviews are available with no guarantee of coverage, a ‘small fee’ charged for expedited.

iPhone Footprint
Free reviews are an option, but expedited reviews cost $29.

There’s a free option, true. Costs for guaranteed reviews start at $15.

iPhone Toolbox
This site claims to charge $5 for a basic submission, but the only payment options are $25 and $50.  (note: opens lots of ads, be careful!).

Mobi Apps Review
For $15 you get your app or game promoted, but for $30 you get that plus a review.

Another site that offers normal reviews, and then charges $89 for an Expedited Reviews.

The iMum
Expedited review for AUS$75 at time of writing (brochure link here).

The iPhone App  Review
There is no guarantee you’ll get a free review. An ‘expedited’ review starts at $59.

The Smartphone App Review
An expedited review for $39.


A list of sites that have changed their ways! Hopefully this will grow over time… and the owners qualify for Christmas presents now, too!

Indie Game Mag
This site has done something remarkable – moving from a ‘normal’ review site to one which then charged, and then back again! Amazing! There’s also a full statement from the new owner here about the initial change, but now it’s back to normal as detailed here.

EDITED: 5th October 2012

The new owner of the site got in touch and, without wanting to quote them directly, they have taken the ‘paid reviews’ option off the site, and even refunded a developer who had paid recently – we’re assuming during the transfer. They don’t believe there’s any sense in having them as they erode the audience’s confidence. This is great news!

(Original post: A very long advertising page that eventually leads to, at the bottom, the revelation that an expedited review will set you back $150. That’s an awful lot of money even just compared to the rest of this list.)

Moving Forward.

If any of the sites or organisations we call out here would like to engage in some discussion about the practices, then please do not hesitate to contact us. Similarly, if you can show us that you’ve stopped these practices, then we’ll happily remove you from this list.

Any developers, journalists or PR people out there know of any we’ve missed? Fire us an email and let us know – we’ll add them as long as we’ve got the proof!

Please do share this list, as we feel like a lot of people who maybe don’t know any better might get tricked into falling for their schemes.

And we don’t want that.

So what websites are known for treating developers fairly? What should a developer do to see a positive result from games sites? We’re going balance the karma by writing a sister article about good things to do and happy websites. And we’ll do it soon.