Soapbox

Why I removed my video game collecting apps from Google Play

Posted: 2014-03-30

After much internal debate I've decided to pull all my game collecting applications from the Google Play store. There are a couple reasons for this. The main one is that I received a warning from Google that my Sega CD Collector was in violation of their developer policy for impersonating another application.

Google Play warning

I have no clue what application I was supposedly impersonating and there's no way to find out either. There are other game collecting applications but mine predates all of them. I'm not being a blowhard with that statement, I posted mine all way back in the Android 1.1 days and went through a lot of effort to verify someone hadn't thought of it first. It's more likely the word "Sega" in the title is what triggered it even though I never claimed any affiliation with Sega.

I went out and investigated what my options were. I read many, many blog posts from other developers who fell afoul of Google's policies and also couldn't figure out why. The consistent theme I found is that once Google has issued a warning it's already game over for your application. No amount of changes will appease them and your app will eventually be removed.

The appeal process is non-existent and it's common for Google to terminate all your Google accounts for a violation of their developer policy. That seems overly harsh but it's apparently their standard practice. It wouldn't be the end of the world for me to lose my Google account but it would be awful inconvenient to create a fake ID just to use my Android phone again.

Google's motto used to be something about not doing any evil. I don't know if they still use it today but it no longer jives with their actions toward small developers. Maybe I should create that fake ID anyway to separate my Android apps from all other Google services.

Assuming I was somehow able to change Google's mind about my collecting apps there's a second reason why I was already thinking about pulling them: it's just not worth the headache of dealing with scammy or incredibly idiotic feedback.

All of my collector apps received weird 1-star reviews from 3rd world countries claiming they either don't work or contain a virus. From time to time I receive emails, also from 3rd world countries, saying "we have noticed your app have been received bad reviews, for only $100 USD we can be giving your app 1000 5-star reviews". It's obvious what's going on here, funny how Google is more interested in cracking down on me than on these sleazy characters.

As for the feedback... the other half of comments I received are something to the effect of "Stupid app, how do I play the games?" despite the description clearly stating they're not emulators. I can take the time to respond to each one but I have better things to do. The fraudulent and irrelevant feedback harms my reputation because most people only look at the aggregate feedback score. It's one headache I don't need.

Ultimately I wrote these applications for personal use and hoped others might find them handy too. I'm glad some have and they can continue to use them by installing the APKs directly. I can only offer my word as the guarantee that they don't contain a virus or access any personal information.

All the source code is publicly available so you can determine for yourself whether I'm telling the truth.

I'm not bitter about having to pull these apps or anti-Google because of it, moderately annoyed at worst. Whether Google knows it or not they are turning into the type of company they've claimed not to be. I think Android is a preferable platform to iOS so I'll continue to develop on it, all while waiting for someone to catch Google off-guard and deliver the true open market that they claim to have.