Google Play Account Ban – A nice reason to hate Google

Edit: All of this happened in the long forgotten year – 2014


It is time for me to tell you a nice story. It is a long one so you can directly go to the middle of this article, which I expect to be long, so you can get the main point.

We are a team of several developers working together under the name of NaSp. We are trying for 2-3 years to reach more people in the Google Play market with our apps. We tried it in different ways with many different kinds of apps and one day we released that one app.

That app was a camera editor, using the Aviary SDK, with a better look and feel and some other optimizations. We called it RetroSelfie. Selfies were very popular and still are and a lot of applications and people were using the word “Retro” in apps, pictures etc.

The app was not so popular in the beginning. It had around 50-100 downloads per day for 2 months may be. We couldn’t get any revenue at all from it even though we had ads using the AppNext mobile advertising network. We had even some live wallpapers which were generating more revenue than this app.

But suddenly one day the app just blew up. It was like 2000 downloads for one day, 2000 the next day and 20 000 per day by the end of that same month. We still don’t know how it happened but our mouths and eyes were opened every day watching the success of the app. In the next 4 months the app began to make 60-70 thousand downloads per day resulting in 6 million+ downloads, 1,400 000+ active users and a big revenue per day.

That was awesome. We even began to build our own advertising network, so we could keep up the traffic and use the existing one for our other apps. We even tried to integrate  some Live Camera effects into the app using GPUImage android ported library, fixing bugs for over 4 weeks, making a new design for it and removing some of the ads in the app. We had a lot of issues with the library which resulted in 5 release builds in 2 weeks with a lot of fights with a lot of Samsung phones. I feel like an OpenGL, memory leak, heap and memory cache guru.

So we reached that period of time where we gave up from the “Live Effects” update and we started to think how to make it even better after the failure with the 4 weeks bug fixing. We saw that there was so many work to do and we started it. We even bought a lot of Samsung phones just to start fixing the whole thing and implement some new “amazing” effects for us and for the people who didn’t have any issues with it and were very happy.

We got Crashlytics and Flurry in for the help. We started doing statistics. Previously the app had translations in Google Play in over 30+ languages and we were thinking of adding different screenshots for each country. We were also going to personalize the app using A/B testing.

And while ideas like Christmas photo frames and Halloween photo frames were filling our minds something very unexpected happened. BAN! Suddenly, without any notification, without a single app in our account violating Google Play policies. We unpublished every our app which had orange sign next to it months before. You know: We cannot afford to lose the app!

And what we got as a response from Google? Well, nothing. The email contained this:

REASON FOR TERMINATION: Prior violations of the Content Policy and Developer Distribution Agreement by this or associated accounts as outlined in previous emails sent to the registered email address(es) of the Publisher account(s).”

And that is all. Not any specific point of the policy, nor anything specific in the mail. With only one receiver – us. And the first thing we did was sent an email back with a question “Why us?”. What is the answer?

“We reviewed your appeal and will not remove the ban from your developer account. Check your REASON FOR TERMINATION in the previous mail.”.

That was all, nothing specific. I feel like the 25$ for my account just gave me the right to be a slave to Google without the right of any questions.

And I really hate the way Google bans people. They send you the email with the notification of the problem you have in your account 30 seconds before the email with the ban notification. They just don’t give you any time to react. It’s like we got our “REASON FOR TERMINATION: Prior violations…” in 9 am and in 9:01 am the account was banned and the next email was received.

And we are still wondering what should we do and every time I read Google’s answer I just remind myself that I am a slave to Google while I am using their market. So they can remove my app from 1.4 million people, remove months of hard work spent in coding, hiring people on oDesk for translations, screenshots, code, bugfixing some old libraries and reviewing user reviews just to make that final touch which the user will like. And all of that was deleted with that single email message which does not contain a simple more detailed piece of information. Just a big NOTHING.

I am waiting for Google’s answer. And I will probably write another post. I don’t have any answers. We removed so many of our apps within the account just to keep our biggest hit going. This whole ban thing happened before a day or two.

I would suggest to all of you starting developing in the Google Play market to first review how many bans Google give, how many apps reach the 50 thousand+ downloads per day and how many of them receive bans. And when you see that no more than 5-7 percent of the apps reach over 5 million downloads in 4 months just remember our case and decide if you want to take the risk.

Yesterday we bought MACs. Now we will go to the Apple Store. At least if they don’t like something there they will reject the app even before the approval process. And we can be sure that for 100$ per year we will not lose a single user because of Apple. Or at least I hope so. Changing “Content Policy” every few months and adding some foggy rules is I think not part of Apple’s “Kill the developers” plan.

But I feel sad and I like android. I like the freedom I have there even fighting million of devices, screens, OS versions, APIs, hardware and others. And I was feeling really good at it. But I cannot fight Google any more. I cannot pay, tolerate and receive ban just because “That says Google”.

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