Understanding Google Play Store, and how to make it work for you

Of all the smartphones in the world, 80% is running the Android platform. Apple’s iOS is second, but far behind at 13%. You could think releasing something to the Google Play Store would set you up for life in terms of getting bucket loads of downloads and eventually getting rich. Well, it does not necessarily work that way.

Google do what they do best; searching and filtering data. If you take a quick visit to the Google Play Store you’ll see the front page consists of several lists. Mainly there are lists for top apps of all time, top lists for new apps, top lists for what your friends like and Google Play editors' pick.

You probably noticed that there is no list for new apps, you have to be new and get massive downloads during your first month if you want to be in the list for top new apps.

If you were to compare Google Play Store to Windows Phone Marketplace they are quite comparable, but there are lists for new apps and games. So unlike Google Play Store, you will by developing and publishing an app to the Windows Phone Marketplace get on top of a list for a short time.

The key is getting on a list. If you are not in a list, you will drown along with all the other apps. We at Glacial Labs really think Territory Wars is a great game, but what frustrates us the most is that people have not discovered our great game yet! In 2013 Google Play Store got over 200 000 new apps, that’s over 547 apps every day! So by looking at these numbers it’s easy to understand you have to do something to get noticed.

This is a key piece of information that you have to assess when you want to develop an app. Google Play has over 1 million apps and games, and unless you are the next Facebook, Snapchat or Candy Crush, it is likely you will be forgotten.

But there are steps you can take to improve the number of downloads for your app. Having a crowd even before your app is released, is great. It ensures that you will have some downloads instead of a glaring 0 and that people are talking about it. But when it comes down to acing one or several of Google Play Stores lists it’s almost pure math.

Every app has a rating and this little, but powerful thing “g+”. You see it when you visit an app, Territory Wars for instance. So how to get on a list? Get a ton of “g+” and good ratings. It’s OK to ask for an (honest) rating so ensure all your friends rate it and click “g+”. It’s also OK to ask for a rating from your users, but don’t ask the first time they launch the app – they have not used it yet. For Territory Wars our delay was around 10 launches, but we quickly realized that was too little when you often launch and exit the game between each move.

The last bit is getting reviews, and again; if you can get your friends to write up good reviews for your app it helps a lot. But don’t cry over a bad review. Address what the reviewer points out and try to solve it. Sometimes you will get negative review from people that do not like the game at all. If you have a delay before your app asks for ratings, chances are that people getting asked like the app and will write something positive, so waiting a while is better. But don’t wait too long, as you need the review to get noticed by the mighty algorithms of Google as well as attracting other users.