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.