Ever wonder how some newly released apps manage to get thousands of 5-star reviews within days? If so, then wonder no more, as this video gives us a rare inside look at one of these click farms in China, where humans and machines mix to create fake reviews 24/7. The work flow is basically: download, install, review, uninstall, and repeat under a new account. Continue reading for more pictures and information.
“At that time, Tech in Asia reported that China media surmised that the image showed a woman manipulating App Store rankings by downloading, installing, and then uninstalling apps over and over again to bump up its rankings. This certainly wouldn’t be unheard of, because Tech in Asia also reports that on popular Chinese e-commerce sites, there are ads for ‘App Store ranking manipulation’ services,” reports Kotaku.
Remember FarmVille, the social game that put Zynga on the map? That was pretty much ripped off from a Chinese game named Happy Farm, made by the startup studio Five Minutes. At the height of Happy Farm’s popularity in 2009 (after being released in the summer of ’08), the game had 23 million daily active users in China across three social gaming platforms; the game became a huge fad, talked about by students and young professionals, cited in divorces, and pontificated over by state-run TV as it worried that the addictive game would be distracting kids from their homework.
Social network games (SNG or social games), the online games played through social network sites (SNS) or mobile devices, began to grow in 2008, after SNS such as Facebook opened up for developers to make video games in 2007. SNG distinguish themselves from other types of online games in that they are embedded in SNS, where people usually connect to real-life friends and family members with real-life identities. SNG are often casual, easy-to-pick-up, multiplayer experiences that allow interactions between players even when they are not online at the same time. Some game tasks cannot be accomplished by the player without interacting with one’s “neighbors” (in-game friends who are from one’s SNS network); and the more “neighbors” one has, the more likely for one’s success in the game. Players extensively add or invite friends from their SNS network into the game play, enabling the game to spread fast and creating active communication (framed in game play) between SNS contacts. The explosive growth of SNG accompanied the development of several extremely popular game genres, such as farm simulation. Since the first farm SNG hit, Happy Farm (2008), developed by Shanghai-based company Five Minutes, farm SNG have developed into a global cult phenomenon, played by over 100 million people worldwide.
Farm simulation dates back to early video games such as Harvest Moon (1996) and simFarm(1993). In farm SNG, players usually grow crops and plants, raise animals, sell farm products to make money, expand and decorate their farms, and interact with their farm neighbors. Some farm SNG have an agricultural-industrial theme (eg, growing crops to feed cows to produce milk and cheese for sale) or an agricultural-commercial theme (such as the Qzone-produced trilogy of QQ Farm, QQ Ranch, and QQ Restaurant). Five Minutes’ CEO Gao Shaofei attributes the success of the farming genre to the universality of farming itself: “In order to achieve a success like Happy Farm, you’ll need a very suitable marketing opportunity and a very good theme. You can create stories and make stories enticing, but you cannot create the theme itself. The theme of farming is not created by anyone, but is already there in human societies.”1 In fact, Happy Farm can serve as a good example for us to take a glimpse into global SNG cultures.
Happy Farm: From China to the World
The earliest farm SNG rage occurred in the People’s Republic of China in November 2008 with Happy Farm, which immediately swept the nation. In March 2009, the Chinese farming SNG craze spread to Russia. On Facebook, though the earliest farm simulation game myFarmappeared in November 2008, a farm SNG rage didn’t break out until 2009 with the release of two new titles: Farm Town and FarmVille. In the meantime, China-originated clones of Happy Farm penetrated world SNS networks throughout 2009, bringing SNG hits into other countries. Today, farming SNG still have millions of players, and new innovations of the genre continue to appear. The virtual farming phenomenon, eye-catching in the global new media cultures, implies multiple interactive processes across boundaries of language, culture, geographical region, and technology. Chinese farm SNG have played a very active role in the popularization of the genre and transcultural interactions in the global gaming culture.