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September 19, 2019
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Google Warns Developers That All New Android Apps Require Three Days for Approval

by Dan Fabulich on 08/16/19 10:33:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

In conversation with Google Play Store developer support today, they confirmed to me that all new Android apps now require at least three days for approval.

When releasing today’s newest game, Psy High 2: High Summer, our app was greeted with a warning banner, saying, “To help better protect our users, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app. Learn More

In a chat with Google support, they confirmed: 

  • All new apps are getting the “we’ll take more time” banner. “We’re taking more time to thoroughly review every app.”
  • Plan for at least three days between submitting your app and going live.
  • Google offers no way to expedite review. “Unfortunately, there is no escalation path, and there is nothing that can be done to expedite the review process. I completely understand your frustration, and I would love to be able to help you get your app approved immediately, but there is nothing I or my team can do.”
  • There is now no way to schedule the release of a new app. When you submit an app for review, it will automatically go live whenever it’s approved, even if the app is approved days before the planned release date. Google offers a “timed publishing” feature, but it only works for app updates. (We discussed using the “closed alpha” process, which also undergoes Google review, but closed alphas go through a separate review process; you still have to plan for three days buffer when promoting a release from closed alpha to production.)
  • Developers were not notified of this change. The “we’ll take more time” banner appears only after you submit your app to go live in production.

That last point is a huge failure on Google’s part. Back in April, Google announced on their Android Developer Blog that they were planning to take more time to review certain apps.

Separately, we will soon be taking more time (days, not weeks) to review apps by developers that don’t yet have a track record with us. This will allow us to do more thorough checks before approving apps to go live in the store and will help us make even fewer inaccurate decisions on developer accounts.

We’ve been a developer on the Google Play Store since 2010, so we didn’t think this would impact us. We were wrong.

If you click “Learn More” on the banner, Google doesn’t provide much additional detail; it’s the all-purpose documentation for publishing apps in general. But it does include this note near the top:

Note: For certain developer accounts, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app(s) to help better protect users. You’ll receive a notification on your app’s Dashboard about how long this should take. We recommend that you adjust your planning to include a buffer period of at least three days between submitting your app and going live.

“Certain developer accounts?” That didn’t sound like us. We have dozens of games published on the Google Play Store; we’re a developer in good standing.

It turns out that instead of just “developers that don’t yet have a track record,” all new apps are undergoing additional review. App updates may go through quickly if the app itself has earned Google’s trust, but each new app starts with an empty track record.

Luckily, we did submit Psy High 2: High Summer in time to get it approved today. Next time, we’ll have to submit to Google a few days in advance and “soft launch” our app, not announcing the release until the official release day.

Here’s the transcript with Google Play Store developer support.

Dan Fabulich: Our app release for Psy High 2 com.choiceofgames.psyhigh2 seems to be held up in extra delay. We’ve scheduled marketing for today’s release. Please help!

Liz: Thank you for waiting.

I apologize for the delay. Please note that we’re currently still reviewing your app. Due to recent changes, we’re taking more time to thoroughly review every app to help better protect users.

I see your app was updated yesterday, and moving forward, we recommend that you adjust your planning to include a buffer period of at least three days between submitting your app and going live. You can learn more about these changes here: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/6334282.

We do take developer feedback very seriously and I will be happy to pass any you may have regarding this process to the appropriate team for you. Please note you can also learn about new features in our blog here: https://android-developers.googleblog.com/.

Dan Fabulich: Will this delay apply to app updates as well?

Liz: The delay should be less than 3 days, but recommend still planning for 3 days for the review process to complete

Dan Fabulich: Is it possible to request expedited review for Psy High 2?

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no way to expedite the review process

Dan Fabulich: When did this change roll out? Were developers notified that we needed to add a three day buffer?

Liz: I am not sure exactly when the changed rolled out except that it happened a few weeks ago. I do not believe developers were notified, but the Play Console has been updated to reflect this information. I apologize for the inconvenience and the lack of clear communication

Dan Fabulich: Where has the Play Console been updated? The only information I see about this is in the documentation site and a banner on the app we’re trying to release. I just checked a few of our other apps and there’s no sign that we need to add a buffer.

Liz: Yes, there is a banner on the Play Console that states “To help better protect our users, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app. Learn more.” Also, if you hover on the question mark next to Processing update, it states “We’re currently reviewing your app. This usually takes a few hours, but can occasionally take more. Learn more”

Dan Fabulich: That banner only appears (only appeared) after submitting the app for review.

Dan Fabulich: There was no way to know that we needed to add a buffer until it was already too late.

Liz: I apologize again for the inconvenience. I will be sure to let our engineering team know that there needs to be more notification given beforehand

Liz: Do you have any other questions for me today?

Dan Fabulich: Liz, I’m sorry to do this, but are you able to escalate me to the next tier of support? It was impossible for us to add buffer without being notified, and we need someone to take action to get our app approved in a timely manner.

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no escalation path, and there is nothing that can be done to expedite the review process. I completely understand your frustration, and I would love to be able to help you get your app approved immediately, but there is nothing I or my team can do

Dan Fabulich: Can you clarify for me how to submit apps without making them go live immediately upon approval? I see that it’s possible to use timed publishing for app updates, but that doesn’t seem to be possible for new apps.

Liz: You could submit your app to a closed Alpha track first, and once everything looks good to go, you could promote it to the Production track

Dan Fabulich: Do closed Alpha tracks undergo submission review? (I’m pretty sure they don’t/didn’t last time I used alpha tracks.)

Liz: Yes, closed Alpha tracks undergo a submission review. We again recommend having a three day buffer. There is also a review once promoting to the Production track

Dan Fabulich: Will we need a three-day buffer when promoting to the production track?

Liz: It should be slightly quicker, but again we recommend three days just to be safe

Dan Fabulich: Well, that’s my question: we want to undergo production-track review before going live, without automatically going live after review, so we can control the date of our release. How can we do that?

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no functionality available for that. As you mentioned previously, we do have the timed publishing feature, but that only applies to updates. I will be sure to also let our engineering team know that developers would like this type of feature

Liz: Do you have any other questions for me today?

Dan Fabulich: Do you have any recommendations for how to submit new apps and release them on a particular calendar day?

Liz: Unfortunately, I do not have any recommendations on how to submit new apps and release them on a specific calendar date.

Dan Fabulich: When you communicate with the engineering team, please mention that we used to be able to release apps on a day of our choosing, but now, due to these changes, that’s impossible.

Liz: Yes, I will definitely be sure to let them know. I am very sorry again for the inconvenience, and thank you very for the feedback

Liz: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Dan Fabulich: That’s all, thank you.

Liz: You’re very welcome!

Liz: Thanks for supporting Google Play. Have a nice day!

This post was originally published at the Choice of Games blog.


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