Back in August, Google revealed a deceptively large change to its Play Store review system, which will make sure that the scores received by apps will only display in their country of origin. Put another way, an American review will have no bearing at all on whether an Indian player decides to download a game. Later, Google will roll out another amendment that will restrict reviews made on certain devices to other users on the same Android version or type of device, such as smartwatch or phone.
The first question is why?
A Global OpinionAs mentioned, localization can be a make-or-break process for any business with a global reach. For this reason, localization services often come bundled in with other pieces of software or hardware. Gaming tech company Pronet Gaming claims that fully localized software can help businesses meet the needs of their target markets and accelerate the process of getting started in new countries. Mistakes in this area aren’t always forgotten. KFC once mistranslated its slogan in Chinese to “eat your fingers off”, after all.
The problem with reviews on the Play Store is that they tend to represent the global opinion of products, which means that area-specific problems are glossed over. A game doesn’t work at all in China? It’ll still be a five-star app due to the influence of the US. Servers being wound down in Brazil? It could still be considered a great up-and-comer according to reviewers, who may be from Europe or Asia. These perks aside, though, Google’s localized scoring system could produce some awkward downsides.
Fragmentary ReviewingFor one, there’s the question of whether it’s worth bothering with for free apps, as the impact for users who cannot get the software to work is usually zero - and Google already warns visitors to the Play Store if their device is not compatible with the product they are looking at. Paid apps are a different story, of course, as the experiences of people in general with refunds are far from universal, even from trusted payment providers. This fragmentary reviewing could lower trust in user reviews, too.
The obvious benefit of collecting global opinions is that they are diverse, numerous, and (eventually) useful. In this new localized Play Store, even well-established apps could struggle to gain a foothold in a country where, suddenly, there are no relevant reviews at all. Worse, concepts like review-bombing are easily offset by hordes of truthful, positive comments, meaning that unfairly negative posts could come to dominate in some regions and/or languages.
Overall, Google’s new rules for the Play Store seem like they could produce a mixed bag of good and bad results.