Google has made an important change to how its Play Store ranks games. The company will now take user engagement into account as well. So basically, the number of downloads will no longer be the sole determining factor while ranking game and how engage a user is after installing the game, will also have a role in Google’s ranking of the said game.
The company announced this change at the ongoing Game Developers Conference, stating that the intent behind rolling out this change was to ensure that quality titles reap the benefit as well, as opposed to only titles that get downloaded in large numbers. Google has already rolled out changes to its algorithm that will enforce this policy and changes brought on by the policy would be visible soon.
Meanwhile, the new policy could bring about a paradigm shift in the Android gaming industry. How? Allow me to illustrate with an example. Say you are a big shot game studio with deep pockets. You launch a game and then, you embark upon a campaign to get your app to the top of Play Store rankings. Under the old system of doing things, all you had to do was to ensure that people downloaded your game a lot of times to achieve your goal.
Since downloads were the only major way of ranking games, publishers often focused more of their resources on advertising their game than on the quality of the same. What’s more, many publishers engaged into shady tactics that involved getting user to anyhow download the game to his/her device. Since every download counted, it did not matter if the user un-installed the game a couple of minutes after installing it.
However, the new algorithm will take all these things into account. The greater the engagement and retention of the game, the more likely it will be to reach the top of the rankings. That is not to say that downloads will cease to be a factor. However, Google’s algorithms will now consider other things except downloads as well.
Speaking on the topic, Google said:
there are many instances when great games don’t get the visibility and attention they deserve…This is one of our ways to reward quality, which for games means promoting titles with stickiness (strong engagement and retention metrics) as well as a more traditional measure like a high star rating.
Google’s isn’t reinventing the wheel here. While both Google and Apple are close mouthed about how they rank stuff on their respective stores (due to fear of exploitation by unscrupulous developers), the latter is already said to take engagement and retention into account. And now, Google is walking down the same path as well.