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Google Play's Address Policy: Bad for Indie Devs, Bad for Android

Google recently announced a new policy for Google Play Developers, and it doesn't seem like anybody is talking about it. I think we should.

Hi. So, this is my first attempt at a blog post on Gamasutra, so it's probably going to be a bit rough. I've commented from time to time, but something happened that doesn't seem to be getting much coverage, and I think it maybe needs it.

In the last 48 hours (at the time I'm writing this), registered Google Play developers and publishers were greeted with the following announcement:

Image credit to Arthur Ward Jr (@EdibleToaster)

At the end of this month, all of us will be required to provide a physical address, which will be publicly visible in the detail page for every app we publish.

This is a terrible, terrible new policy. The badness of this policy can barely be put into words, especially given what's been going on in the indie game development community for the past few weeks.

I haven't yet published anything to the Google Play store, but I'm hoping to have something out in the next couple of months. And I'm going to guess that many indie devs publishing to Google Play work on their games and apps in much the same way I do: out of their homes, in their spare time.

I don't know that I'm going to be comfortable providing my home address to anyone who looks at my game in the store. What happens if they don't like my game? Or they find me on twitter and decide they don't like me, or my friends, or something innocuous I said two years ago?

We've seen in the GamerGate fiasco the insane lengths that some people will go to harass and abuse game developers and critics that they don't agree with. Threats of physical and sexual violence, bomb threats, harassment of friends, family members, former co-workers, etc. Now imagine how much worse that would've been for Zoe Quinn if she had to put her address on the Steam Store page for Depression Quest?

Of the few stories I've seen about this policy change, many have suggested using a P.O. Box, but Google doesn't allow P.O. Boxes for Google Wallet Merchant accounts.

More frequently, I have seen comments to the effect of 'so much for that Android port I was working on.' And that's both the sanest and worst response I've seen. If the choice is between A. Releasing your game and B. retaining your privacy, and possibly your safety, most sane people will choose B.

But choosing B means losing a platform that, despite it's well documented discoverability issues as well as the oft demonized 'fragmentation' problem, is also a pretty good entry point for releasing a game, both due to the easy availability of development tools and hardware, but also ease of use on the publishing side.

And that loss isn't good for anybody.

 

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