In a blog post published today, Game Dev Tycoon developer Patrick Klug pointed out how Google removed 77 percent of positive reviews written by Android players from the Google Play store.
This is notable for other independent devs planning on releasing their title to Android devices, as Klug notes that this problem isn't an isolated incident. He traces it to some research that puts the blame on Google's algorithm for preventing fake reviews.
Six days after releasing Game Dev Tycoon, Klug reports over two thousand players had rated the game with a 5.0 score. An hour later, 25 percent of those positive 5 star reviews were gone. Since then, 77 percent of positive reviews have been permanently removed.
"We are not engaging in any dubious practices regarding reviews," writes Klug. "We don’t incentivize reviews, we don’t buy reviews, we don’t review the game ourselves and we don’t even tell our friends to review it." The question of "why" remained.
Klug reached out to Google, who explained that Game Dev Tycoon's ratings were purposefully removed to align with the company's Comments and Ratings policy. The policies page provided by Google is split into two parts. One section deals with preventing abuse, and the other acts as a guideline for writing a review (such as "try to include both positives and drawbacks.").
After reaching out to players and reading their deleted reviews, Klug came to the conclusion that Google must be using the same algorithm to identify fake reviews on both free-to-play games and premium games.
"Google probably invented and tuned the algorithm to remove these kind of fake reviews from free-to-play titles," he writes. "But for a premium title, where everyone pays 5$ to even be allowed to write a review, this just doesn’t make any sense."
He laments how the removal of positive reviews is disrespectful <i>Game Dev Tycoon</i> players. He goes on to criticize Google for being content to remove thousands of reviews, but lacks any safe-guards to pirate sites if one were to search "download Game Dev Tycoon APK for free".
Be sure to read the entire blog post here.