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My Colony Suspended from Google Play

Update (20191016): Google Play has accepted my appeal and My Colony is back in the store! Thanks to all who contacted them to help them "see the light." Original post follows.

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.

https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/7100415?hl=en&ref_topic=3364260

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.

Next Steps

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.

Regards,

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!
Owner of Ape Apps
Posted by
2019-10-14 16:15:24
Edited by bastecklein on 2019-10-16 14:10:07
#2 2019-10-14 16:36:57
Maybe Premium file causes it?
It is linked to Ape Apps account, not to Google.

I hope Google will unblock You soon.
#3 2019-10-14 16:46:22
It shouldn't be @Golan0 since the only way to purchase premium on the Play Store version is by going through Google Play. I hope they unblock it as well!
Owner of Ape Apps
#4 2019-10-14 18:57:19
Just so everyone knows im currently fighting google about this issue im now fighting there google support team manager about it.
#5 2019-10-14 19:13:35
Sounds to me like your already messed on googleplay. Even reinstating my colony by tgere own atatment means renaming tge rile - game
#6 2019-10-14 21:40:02
Hey bast Helios file manager is also removed so I cant back up my files anymore.😑 google is freaking stupid.
Play My Colony with charter id: WAst4IOO- That's me! Go ahead and Join the mighty nation of Crystal Plains! See you there •{}•
#7 2019-10-14 22:06:29
This...this hurts my heart...I've been playing my colony since it was in the initial versions...it was already scary when you had an issue similar to this before due to the crashing issues causing google to get upset...but with drone stacking and everything...there should be next to no crashing anymore...and this isn't the first time that a google subcompany has done something like this either...the issues with the minecraft youtuber Mumbo Jumbo and his copyright strike issues come to mind too...I really hope google gets it's act together, because I love the game and I don't want to see it die...none of us do. We all support you bast, and if there's anything you need from us, just tell us. Hell, if revenue loss is an issue, just make a 10 hour video of advertisements or something, I'm willing to play it in the background if that's what you need :P. But in all seriousness, I wish you the best and I hope that if we rally hard enough, we can get My Colony back up and ready for version 1.0...heck, maybe getting it back up would be a sign that it's time for full release ;P
Sorry...I like to use humor to diffuse tension...maybe it isn't helping, but I tried. And I am serious, whatever you need us to do, we are here for you.
#8 2019-10-15 07:58:33
I have my fingers crossed. Hoping for a positive response from Google.
#9 2019-10-15 14:52:41
You know Antiq game is the same platform you may try using tgat game to show my colony is fine.
#10 2019-10-15 14:57:51
So just an update, I have gotten a reply from Google and My Colony has been upgraded from "Suspended" to just "Removed," which gives me access to publish an update. I think the issue was related to the version of the game from the Ape Market being able to auto-update itself. The auto-update code is not accessible from the Google Play edition of the game .apk, but the actual code is still in there. Google must decompile and scan the .apk's for certain lines of code. I am going to try to publish an updated version of the .apk to the Play Store and see what happens.

If they accept it, the only difference going forward is that the version downloaded from the Ape Market will no longer be able to auto-update itself, which is only a minor inconvenience as only a handful of people use that edition. It will instead open a browser to the download page where they can download the .apk manually. I think it is an acceptable tradeoff though.
Owner of Ape Apps
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Ape Apps is an independent software development company founded in 2010 by Brandon Stecklein. Over the years, Ape Apps has published over 400 apps and games across various platforms. You can get in touch with Brandon on Twitter or by leaving a post on his wall @bastecklein
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