Pokemon iPhone Scam Means Apple Needs to Do More to Protect the Video Game Industry

This week, a Pokemon Yellow app appeared on the Apple iPhone/iPad App Store for $0.99, leading to millions of purchases resulting in the app taking out the Number 2 spot for most popular paid apps this week.

The app, it turned out, was a scam. The “game” didn’t work at all, and because it’s on Apple’s App store, those who downloaded it are unable to seek a refund. The incident brings to light Apple’s involvement in promoting, selling and profiting off illegal rip offs of established companies IP (intelectual properties).

In fact, a quick search for “Pokemon” in the Australian iTunes App store returned over 70 results of Pokemon apps – none of which are officially endorsed. Mario, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and even Angry Birds are among the titles being thrown up on the App store.

The question is, though; how? How is Apple approving these obvious fakes and, in the Pokemon Yellow case, scams? If Apple can ban themes such as pornography, surely they can ban copyright infringements?

The Pokemon Yellow scam also brings up the question of app classification – how is Apple classifying these games if they don’t even work? How, then, does this “game” get approved for sale when it clearly does not even work at all?

This hap-hazard excuse for quality control has a damaging effect on the video game industry as a whole. This week, thousands of people who probably don’t know better and wouldn’t assume that the Pokemon Yellow app was malicious in intent or otherwise will now look at Nintendo’s Pokemon series with wonder; “your iPhone app didn’t work, you expect me to shell out $40 – $70 on a DS game?”, they will ponder the next time they go game shopping for their kids.

Sadly, IP rip-offs is only the tip of a very large iceberg. Apps that track your browsing habits unknowingly, those that share your contact list on the web to games that secretly charge your credit card by not being upfront about in-game purchases all make up the service that seems like a good idea at first.

Steve Jobs may have been right in the first place; the App store needs to be a closed system. It needs to be a publishing platform that is both indie and corporate friendly. What it doesn’t need to be is a platform where any 12 year old can upload ripped off crap and charge unsuspecting consumers real money.

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