The Skep-Tech: This kid DIDN'T sell his game to Apple

iPhone apps, Skeptech

The Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper, has published the most bewilderingly stupid technology story. They claim that a student is “set to make a fortune” after “selling his app to computing giant Apple” – unfortunately, this is nonsense.


Here’s what they claim:

“A STUDENT who failed computing at school is set to make a fortune after launching an app on iTunes. Ben Thomson, 23, of Edinburgh, developed his Wall Street Race game in just three weeks. And now that it’s been snapped up by US computing giant Apple, he plans to launch another three apps a month – earning him a potential £468,000 a year.”

The key word there is “potential”. The piece goes on to explain that his game, Wall Street Race, was made after he quit his job to become a millionaire, and explaining some more backstory to add a little flavour. Then it ends on this:

“Initial figures from the game’s release on Friday show Ben could earn between £9000 and £13,000 a year from advertising and add-ons.”


Now, here’s why it is stupid. The whole premise of the piece is misinformed – his app hasn’t been bought by Apple. His app has been simply accepted on to the App Store. This isn’t a huge of badge of honour or a reminder to put a downpayment on a yacht in Saint Tropez, but a somewhat unremarkable achievement. At the end of last year, Apple announced that there was one million apps on the store. There’s no guarantee that anyone is actually going to give him any money now that he’s on there.

So where did they get the numbers from? It appears that Thompson picked them out of thin air. If you actually look at his app on the app store, it is listed for free but contains in-app payments. Apparently there is also advertising in the app. But even if he were to get a small fee from both of these mechanisms… what is that fee multiplied by (potentially) zero downloads? Exactly. Really the headline here should be “Man publishes app on the app store (like thousands of other people have already done)”, but I guess that isn’t quite as snappy.


What makes this even more depressing is if you take a look at Thompson’s website, in which he talks about how to “Get rich from Apps”. He clearly thinks that he is on to something – with a long post talking about potential advertising revenue – but what really intrigues me is his talking about app “flipping”. Here’s his description:

“App flipping is taking a pre-made game, changing minor functionality and the graphics. Would you download a christmas game in June? Unlikely, no offence to those who do. What we do is change santa to let’s say a block buster hit, maybe a spoof of ‘The Lion King’, and now we have an app that is appropriate for the current season.”

So not only is he merely getting newspaper coverage to promote his app (which won’t necessarily make him a penny), but he’s advocating actively making the app store worse with shovelware – does the world really need more Flappy Bird clones?

What a shame the Daily Record gave this complete non-story such glowing coverage. And they’re not the only ones: The Edinburgh Evening News fell for it too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some calls to tell people about these magic beans I’ve just found. They look just like regular beans, but could potentially grow into a giant beanstalk and lead me to great wealth.

James O’Malley
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