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Changes to Google Play's average ratings: what to expect and how to prepare

At I/O 2019, Google announced that there will be some changes regarding how an app's average rating is calculated. In this post I will talk about why it is both good and bad news and what to do not to get the rating drop for you mobile game.

At I/O 2019, Google announced that there will be some changes regarding how an app's average rating is calculated. This news is both good and bad for developers. The good news? The new rating will display the app's current ranking and will rely less on unsuccessful past releases. (It’s happened to us all) )The bad news?  Many apps will see their average rating drop as well as the number of downloads.

How will the new rating be calculated?

The previous average rating took into account ratings for all app versions. If the app received a lot of low ratings in the past, it was impossible for the app to hit a high average rating. Some developers even republished their apps to improve their average rating.

This will all change in August. The new average rating will be based on recent releases. If developers have gradually improved their product in new versions, it'll be easier for them to get a higher average rating.

ASO experts believe the ratio for ratings will now be based 90% on ratings from the past 30 days and 10% on all-time ratings.

What's changing?

You can already find the new Google Play rating in the Google Play Console:

If the app or game previously had high rankings but has hit a rough patch recently, the new rating in the console will be disappointing. For example, in a big marketplace:


If several recent releases have been hits, the new rating can go up. Remember that the app rating will occur in August.

What you can do today to avoid problems with a lower rating

There may not be much time until the change occurs, but there's still enough time for you to fix the situation. According to data by AppFollow, the app rating must be higher than 4.5* to avoid losing downloads. Apptentive's research confirms this.

The sooner you work on improving your rating, the fewer downloads you'll lose. Here are two ways to do that.

The quick approach

Replying to current reviews can help immediately alleviate the situation. Here's what you can do:

  1. Set up rating requests to remind users to rate your game.

  2. Update your replies to critical or negative reviews. For example, if you have resolved bugs in an update, reply to all the users that have complained about bugs. Yes, it's a time-consuming process, but this kind of personal approach will give users a reason to update their rating. And don't forget to ask them to re-rate your app. 

The thorough approach

Google suggests taking a more thorough approach to working on ratings. This approach is longer and more complicated, but you'll definitely impact user loyalty and retention. To that end, Google's experts suggest rating your own app on a few criteria:

  1. How intuitive are the navigation, controls, and menu access? You can do this by tracking user behavior in the product by using any analytics service.
  2. Is your product easy to understand for new users? In addition to tracking retention and user behavior during onboarding, pay attention to specific phrases in reviews. For example, if a new user can't find a function in the game, they'll most likely leave a review with a phrase along the lines of "how-to"? You can filter and analyze reviews using these phrases.

Searching for the phrase "how to" yielded a list of reviews with these words. You can filter them further by rating or the review's sentiment. Source:

  1. How well thought-out is the design? Users often complain about the app's design or inconvenient user experience (UX), especially after updates. These kinds of complaints are easy to track by studying user reviews or filtering by topics where complaints about the design are present. You can analyze these reviews and compile a backlog of improvements for the next release. 

Clicking on a topic takes us to a list of relevant reviews. Source:

  1. Does the app have enough content to hold your user’s interest for a long time? Often users take the initiative to write to you if they don't like the content or want you to update it. For most categories, conducting another retention analysis will help. Push notifications will help remind users about your app.
  2. How stable is your app? For 42% of reviews with 1*, users complain about app crashes and bugs. These reviews really hit Android developers hard since Google Play can rank an app with complaints about crashes lower in the search results. 
    There are different ways to explore the root causes of stability issues and crashes. The quick solution is to analyze the topics and semantics of reviews with 1* to find the bugs that users most frequently complain about.
    The long, complicated approach is to dive into user sessions or invite them to participate in an interview. If there aren't too many complaints, it's easier to explore what the problem is and find cases that stand out. 
  3. How attractive is the app page to users in Google Play? When Google Play users start finding your app or game in search results or featured selections, it's crucial to know how to convert them to users. That's why the way the app page looks is important. Does it have attractive screenshots, positive helpful reviews, and a high average rating? 
    If you attract users with a paid advertisement or ASO but haven't updated your screenshots or videos, users may not download the app, meaning your advertising budget goes down the drain. 

Obviously, the second approach won't yield fast results, but it will help you maintain and increase your rating in future releases. Just asking users to rate your app can result in immediate growth. But if nothing changes in your product, users will update their reviews with a negative rating.  

The average rating is an important part of user acquisition. For better user conversion rates, it needs to remain above 4.5*. An update in Google Play is a chance to break free from past mistakes and attract new users to your awesome product. Start working on your average rating so you don't lose any new users starting in August.


This post originally appeared on the AppFollow blog

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