Two years ago I released Cherry Chaser Slot Machine on to Google Play. Within a few days it climbed near the top of the "New Releases" chart which led to lots of downloads and a good ranking in the overall charts. When I released Super Snake Slot Machine later that year my target was to get another good ranking on the "New Releases" chart, to help this I cross promoted the game in Cherry Chaser. The strategy was again successful with Super Snake also achieved a good position in the overall charts.
Just over a week ago, I released my third game on the Google Play store. Plasma Duel is an air hockey game and so fell into the more congested "Arcade games" category on the site. Even so I felt that with cross promotion in the other games and by experimenting with buying Admob banner ads in other apps I could at least get some exposure in "New Releases". Last weekend I showed sixty thousand adverts for Plasma Duel in my other two games and during the past week so far I've purchased over five hundred thousand adverts in other applications that show banner adverts. The net result from these advertising campaigns so far is about a hundred additional installations of Plasma Duel. The total number of downloads of Plasma Duel is now just over three hundred. It's been reviewed thirteen times with an average rating of four and a half stars.
The result of these efforts so far is that Plasma Duel is currently sitting at position three hundred and fourteen in the top new free "Arcade and Action" games on Google Play. A "New Release" on Google Play is regarded as being any game released in the past thirty days and Plasma Duel is only ten days old, so there is still time for improvement. What interests me is how the games that feature more highly on the chart have achieved their better ranking. This is where things start to look a bit... odd.
The top "New Release" in the "Arcade and Action" category on Google Play right now is a game called "Temple Run Bunny". It's been downloaded over a million times and is a nearly fifty megabyte download. Let's be clear, this has no relation to Temple Run apart from being an almost exact clone. it's basically game using stolen intellectual property, The top reviews on the game are quite revealing about where all these downloads are coming from:
"Temple run for kids. It seems nice 5 stars for now until I play it may not be what I think it is lolz ;3"
"Good. I said three stars because I did not play it but I am going to I think it is going to be like temple run by the looks of it"
"Temple Bunny Run. Well I give it a star because its the lowest it will go for an app that cant even be allowed to be downloaded to begin with, just like temple run 2. fix that problem and i'll change it to five stars"
Those are just the top featured reviews, there are hundreds more by other players who haven't played or can't play the game. All down the charts there are similar examples of games that either the reviewer seems to have been forced to download and review or the review is obviously auto-generated junk text.
This problem has been getting attention elsewhere as well. Just take a look at this mammoth Reddit thread on the topic: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/1vmjsl/holy_cow_look_at_all_these_fake_appsgames_on_the/
Google really need to do something about this. It's the one thing that could push me away from developing for Android first.