Sure, we're primarily an iOS games site, but that doesn't stop us from tipping our hats at Google when they do something that could have a great impact on the overall mobile app scene. Per a report by TechCrunch, Google is now starting to downrank apps and games that perform poorly. The idea here is that Google has access to all sorts of analytics for things on the Play store. They know how often an app or game crashes, how much battery it uses, what percentage of people who download it delete it, and more. Plugging all these data points into their new Google Play algorithm penalizes games or apps that crash a lot, use loads of battery, and/or get deleted a ton. In theory, this means that higher quality apps should eventually float to the surface.

Who knows how this will actually work in practice, but on paper, I love this idea. It's no secret that mobile platforms are absolutely jam packed with junk, clones, and scams. Even using something as simple as how many people delete a game, you learn tons of valuable data for how good something actually is. For example, when a bad clone gets released, people will inevitably download it, say "Hey, this isn't what I thought it was," and delete it. Google then deranks that particular game, as if it was any good, people wouldn't be deleting it so much.

Similarly, it encourages developers to really test their apps to make sure they're stable. The only metric cited here that I'm not super sure on is battery usage, as depending on how something like that is implemented it could unfairly penalize visually intensive 3D games because of their battery impact. It'd seem kind of whack to penalize the Infinity Blade series for taxing your GPU (and causing battery burn in the process) when that's sort of the whole idea behind those sorts of showpiece games.

But, much like how Google's actual web search algorithms work, they never put all their cards on the table with how all of these individual factors are actually calculated. Presumably (like in the case of Infinity Blade) if a game doesn't crash, isn't deleted often, and is ranked high, those things will outweigh any penalties for battery usage? Or, at least, that's how it should work if it doesn't?

As mobile app stores become more and more flooded with software, these sorts of solutions become increasingly necessary. Once Google gets this algorithm in full swing and the new iOS 11 App Store launches, it will be fascinating to see which wins out for more relevant feature picks: Google's AI or Apple's hand-picked editorial. I'm leaning more towards Google's approach, as it seems to hinge more on just making a great app or game rather than knowing the right people at Apple, but, again, we'll see.

[via TechCrunch]

  • dancingcrane

    I can add one caveat to app deletions. On an emergency basis, when for example, an event has made me take tons of pics and/or I need an app that needs more space to download than I have room, I'll chose for temporary deletion games I love but that are huge, to give me the immediate space I need. I'll generally re-download at my first opportunity. Would that be taken into account? SW:KOTOR for example.

  • Calleg

    In general true, but as there are only 200 slots in the top list (and again 200 for each category) everything "below" 200 is not really existing and therefore can't be penalized... And the top 200 apps normally are not realy suffering from the mentioned problems so much (or will loose their rank anyways very soon)

    • Akesycu

      give this man a cookie...

    • dancj

      Well Pokémon Go will barely run for ten minutes without crashing on my iPhone 6 - but that's just one example.

      • Calleg

        I use the app store now intensively for years and crashing apps are really not a significantproblem for me. I would prefer if google (and apple) would penalize addictive F2P instead, a much bigger issue

      • Eli Hodapp

        They should penalize successful games? 🤔

      • Calleg

        Kids should not be allowed to enter a casino? 🤔

      • Eli Hodapp

        Parents should probably watch what their kids are doing on their phones? 🤔

        It's also incorrect to say that kids are the driving force behind F2P games being so wildly successful. Children are not freemium whales.

      • Calleg

        hopefully not 😬 Just saying that for me as "traditional" gamer these manipulative f2p tricks and mechanis are firstly somehow dangerous for some user groups (let's face it: loot boxes are gambling) and are secondly replacing skill by money. no real news I guess, but these things are more strongly destroying my gaming experience than crashing apps. You could say "calm down, there is something for everybody in the app store". And that's true. Still, the desease is spreading and therfore pay2win mechanics are for me a non-penalized crime

  • darkfyra

    I hope it kill automated(self called ios mmos),fake rts,other automated crap,gatcha system...all the crap we must endure on the app store

  • forceofhabit

    You're right - battery drain as a metric doesn't sound very sensible... but I guess we'll see!

  • dancj

    Surely refund requests has to have the harshest penalty.