Nintendo Knock-off is Major Rip-off

26 Apr 2013
by Reggie Pierce
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Nintendo Knock-off is Major Rip-off

A deceitful app developer is using Nintendo content to scam kids

Yesterday, IGN.com released this humorous video reviewing an app they call “iPhone Garbage”. A few minutes into their demo of this seemingly harmless mobile game, the folks at IGN were asking, “where are the app police?”

At first glance, the app in question appears to be a legitimate, licensed product from Nintendo. Both the title of the app, “Super Monster Bros by by Adventure Time Pocket Free Games”, and the characters in the app are strikingly similar to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros and Pokemon franchises. The app is free for download, further encouraging an unsuspecting iPad user to install the app and share with their child.

However, when loading this “free” app, users are presented with a screen asking if they would like to unlock what appears to be a Pokemon character; for $99.99 USD.

Will your 7 year old know not to click buy to accept the purchase?

This tactic isn’t new, but IP Lasso has yet to see such a blatant attempt to extract money from app users using recognized brand names. The app has little functionality, contains both Nintendo sound clips and Pokemon characters, and bombards users with pricey upgrades.

Fraudulent app developers use knock-off brands to “get in the door” with mobile app consumers. The average consumer, and especially children, often associate enjoyment and entertainment with brands like Nintendo, and don’t think twice before downloading apps. To date, Nintendo has not released a single app on any of the major app marketplaces, instead preferring to stay within the Nintendo ecosystem. Does this mean that there are no Nintendo based apps out there? Not quite.

IP Lasso’s AppGuard software monitors the major app marketplaces for unlicensed mobile apps. The graph below was generated using our software and shows apps that contain three of Nintendo’s most popular brands in the title:

Nintendo Blog

These fraudulent apps can mean big money for developers. Revenue can be generated from the sale of an app, in-app advertisements, in-app upgrade purchases, reselling consumer email addresses, and excess data charges related to premium text messages initiated by the app. For example, we estimate that this Pokemon countdown app has been installed over 30,000 times at $0.99 per download. We also discovered an ad supported Android app called “The legend of Zelda”, with an estimated 200,000 installs. The developer used the Nintendo franchise to sell ad space in front of users, which led one reviewer to call it “crap”.

The burgeoning mobile marketplace is full of opportunity and intrigue, but also laced with scammers and deceit. Be sure to carefully read descriptions and permissions associated with apps before you click the download button. A watchful eye in the app marketplace will not only protect your phone from potentially malicious software, but it will also save you some hard-earned cash.

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