Google Play now considers user engagement, not just downloads, in ranking games

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Google is making a significant change to how its app store, Google Play, will work in terms of making the best games more easily discoverable by end users. At the Game Developers Conference, the company announced that it recently tuned its app store algorithms to take into account user engagement, and not just downloads in order to better reward quality titles, as opposed to those that are just being installed in large numbers.

For the gaming industry, this shift could have a serious impact on how games are marketed, as many publishers often focus on ad campaigns aimed solely at getting games onto users’ devices as a means of getting their titles ranked higher in Google Play’s charts.

In some cases, those app installs aren’t even legitimate – that is, they’re not organic downloads from end users, but are instead fraudulent downloads designed to boost the app’s ranking. With the update to the ranking algorithm, this could change, making it more difficult to game the charts.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-9-09-43-amExplains Google in a blog post out this week:

“…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.”

The post itself didn’t detail where the algorithm would come into play, given that Google had also simultaneously announced the launch of new editorial pages on the Play store, launching later in the month. Here, editors will hand-select titles to be promoted to users, much like Apple does today.

However, Google confirmed with us that the algorithm change is indeed aimed at the Play Store’s Top Charts, as well as the individual lists by genre.

While neither Google – nor its rival Apple – detail how the ranking algorithms work, both stores have focused heavily on factors like downloads and velocity to determine an app’s placement. Apple is also said to take into account other metrics, like ratings and reviews, and usage statistics. Google is now making similar improvements, it seems.

The changes were announced alongside a host of other updates for Android app developers, including the launch of strikethrough pricing for running promotions, as well as the new editorial pages.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

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