Without warning, Google has taken the extreme step of removing My Colony from the Google Play store for violating their malicious behavior policy, while offering no explanation or examples as to the reason for their decision. You can see further information related to this removal on this thread. Please feel free to contact Google Play regarding this decision.
The following e-mail is all of the information they sent me regarding the takedown:
Hi Developers at Brandon Stecklein,
After review, My Colony, com.ape.games.mycolony (Version Code 149), has been suspended and removed from Google Play as a policy strike because it violates the malicious behavior policy.
Apps that cause users to download or install applications from unknown sources outside of Google Play are prohibited.
1. Read through the Malicious Behavior policy for more details and examples of policy violations.
2. If possible, make changes to bring your app into compliance. Remember your app must comply with all policies listed in the Developer Program Policies and additional enforcement could occur if there are further policy issues with your apps.
3. Sign in to your Play Console and submit the policy compliant app using a new package name and a new app name.
Additional suspensions of any nature may result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and/or the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and transaction fees) from you.
If you’ve reviewed the policy and feel this suspension may have been in error, please reach out to our policy support team. One of my colleagues will get back to you within 2 business days.
The Google Play Review Team
To me, this is insane. Anybody who has played My Colony on Android knows that it does not cause users to download or install applications from unknown sources outside of Google Play. The only app it asks users to download is the Helios File Manager app if they want to export a game file, and this links directly to the Google Play store listing, which is not an unknown source.
If they are referring to a download link from an ad inside the game, that is equally insane, as the game uses Google's own AdMob ad network, and any third party apps advertised in the ads come directly from them.
I have sent an appeal request to Google Play, but have yet to hear back. Just going from prior experience of dealing with Google and from experiences I have read from other developers, the odds of a successful appeal are somewhat low. I can re-upload the game using a different package name, but it would lose all downloads and ranks, would not carry over existing Premium purchases, existing users can not update without reinstalling, and if Google bans it again for the same reason, they are likely to close my entire account, as each suspension adds a "policy strike" to your account.
As I showed in a chart on this thread, Google Play accounts for over half of the My Colony downloads, so this action would be a significant blow to the My Colony community, so any contact or pressure sent Google Play's way probably wouldn't hurt.
In the event that the game is not able to be reinstated, Android users still have options to play the game. The My Colony web app can now be installed to your homescreen as a Progressive Web App, and given the new filesystem limitations in Android 10 which block saving data directly to the external storage anyway, you really missing much by using the PWA vs the Native App.
To install the Progressive Web App, go to https://www.apewebapps.com/my-colony/ on Chrome, open the "three dots" menu from the top-right corner of the screen, and select "Add to Homescreen." The only primary limitation is that in the PWA version, the back button does not work as it does in the native app.
Anyway, the loss of Google Play is really a significant blow to the game. As I indicated, I have started the appeals process, but any help from the community on this issue, whether getting the word out or contacting Google Play, would be welcomed. I don't really see why they shouldn't reinstate the game, as their reason for taking it down is entirely bogus. Although it's also possible that they just prefer to have IAP-diamond festival games on their app store, since that it what it is filled with currently, and those probably make them way more money.
I will keep you all posted with any information that comes forward on this front!