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iRejected! How Apple took nine weeks to arbitrarily reject our app

Has the iPhone App craze reached its peak? Probably. But we feel the “iPhone App submission horror story” craze is still going strong.

Here’s ours.

The game

We’re in the business of making parody games. Our premiere title is an RPG parody that takes place on the Internet. With that spirit, here’s the pitch for our app, called iCapitalism:

“When I was young, I had all the time in the world to play video games, but no money to buy them. As an adult, I have all the money in the world to buy games, but no time to play them.”

Are you tired of games that require time, effort and (worst of all) skill to play? If so, iCapitalism is the game for you!

iCapitalism is the world’s first game entirely driven by microtransactions. There is literally no gameplay outside of the ability to upgrade your character using real money.

We also had a FAQ explaining it in more detail:

How do I play?

Click on the Play tab. Then click Increase Your Level. You will be presented with a list of level upgrades you can purchase with real money.

So there’s really no skill involved?

None at all! The person who pays us the most wins. The rest are displayed on a leaderboard in descending order.

Does my money get me anything besides a higher spot on the leaderboard?

When you increase your level you can enter a custom message. All other players can see this when you’re on leaderboard. The top payer player becomes the “Head Honcho,” and their (inevitably more important) message will be the first thing everyone sees when they boot the app.

Who are you, and why would you create something like this?

iCapitalism was created by the people behind Forumwarz, the browser RPG based on Internet culture. A long time ago, we promised our audience that it wouldn’t be possible to gain a competitive advantage by paying more than another player. What could be worse than grinding for weeks and building up your stats, only to find that some jerk-off kid paid $20 and surpassed you?

However, we’ve seen that there are other web games where you can simply purchase a competitive advantage…we’re looking at you, popular Facebook farm simulator! Having tried said games, we were stunned to discover that not only do they allow people to surpass you with microtransactions, but it’s almost impossible to play competitively without it!

We’re going to keep our word about not doing this to Forumwarz. But there’s nothing stopping us from doing it in a new game! And if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. Hence, iCapitalism.

The submission process

We built an iPhone game in just under two days and submitted it to Apple for approval. The concept was a little iffy, but we figured it was worth the gamble. If nothing else, it could attract some attention to our web RPG, Forumwarz.

Two weeks after submitting, we received an email from Apple: “The review process will require additional time.” Fair enough. These things take time. Our previous application took 12 days to approve.

Two more weeks passed. We decided to put a little more pressure on them — politely, of course. We sent Apple an email asking why we hadn’t heard anything yet, and whether there was anything we could do to expedite the process. We received a reply a day later, saying, “Your application is still in review but is requiring unexpected additional time.” Fair enough. These things take…a great deal of time.

Two more weeks went by. Apple still hadn’t contacted us. We sent another email, this time directly to Steve Jobs. No, we never expected Mr. Jobs to read it, but we’d heard some developers have had some luck going directly to the man himself.

Surprisingly, our Hail Mary play seemed to work. A few days later, we were treated to a short phone conversation with an actual live person. We were told that everything with our App was fine, except we had some in-app purchases that they felt were too expensive. They kindly asked if we’d remove them, and we agreed to do it on the spot. We built the game very closely to their specifications for in-app purchases, so re-submitting it would not be necessary. We were left with the impression that the game would be approved shortly.

Another week passed and our game was still “In Review.” Another email was sent. A few days later, another phone call. Again, we were asked to remove some overly expensive in-app purchases — the same ones we’d already removed over a week ago. The man on the phone didn’t seem to believe that it was already done. After we insisted we did what they’d asked, we were told we’d get a call back shortly.

Another week went by. Again, nothing. The situation had officially gone from “absurd” to “Kafkaesque.” Fearing that it wouldn’t be long before we were inexplicably metamorphosed into dung beetles, we sent them yet another email. One full week later, we received our third call — informing us that our application was rejected. We were informed, strangely enough, that the nature of our application violated their “policies.”

We pointed out that we never saw anything in their policies that prohibited our content. Where we were supposed to obtain these policies? The response: “We are informing you of them on the phone right now.” In other words, after nine long weeks, Apple invented a policy to reject our game.

Our game did not use any hidden APIs. It featured no adult content or copyrighted images. It did not duplicate any functionality in the iPhone’s core software.

Why was it rejected? Because, apparently, Apple can’t take a joke.

So you’re upset that Apple wouldn’t approve your money-grubbing stupid idea? Give me a break.

Is that what you’re thinking? If it is, then you’re missing the point.

Yes, our game is cheeky and gimmicky and money-grubbing. But so are games like iFlatulence. It’s not like your fart money’s going to colon cancer charities, folks.

The point here is that the App Store submission process is horribly broken. As a developer, you have to invest all your time and money developing your app before you even know if it can be sold. And, as we’ve demonstrated, even if your App is built in accordance to every policy, Apple can still reject it.

Yes, you could say we pushed the envelope. And of course it’s within Apple’s rights to make up rules as they go along. But for God’s sake, if you’re going to be like that, make it a quick and painless death. Don’t string us along for nine weeks before glibly claiming that we violated some imaginary policy.

Of course, we’re not going to go broke because we spent a couple of days of development time and a few bucks on stock photography. But it still stinks. Sure, it was a silly idea for a game. But what are they going to reject next? What poor development shop are they going to starve of potential profits for months before they get approval?

The current system is untenable. Something’s got to give eventually. In the meantime, we hope will serve as a cautionary tale — or a wake-up call.


Written by eviltrout

February 1, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

We’ve fixed our blog!

After about a month of downtime, we’ve decided to move our blog off our server to WordPress. It was previously running on Mephisto which seems to be a dead project now, and meant keeping two complete Ruby environments running at the same time because we run 1.9.1 for Forumwarz.

It should be a lot more stable and permanent at this address.

Sorry for the downtime!

Soon, I’ll post a new blog entry, I promise!

Written by eviltrout

August 22, 2010 at 6:46 PM

Posted in Uncategorized