Popular game Threes! removed temporarily from Play Store, supposedly violated policies


Yesterday, the popular puzzle disappeared for a few hours from the Play Store as Google suddenly decided to remove it because of a policy violation. Apparently, the game was automatically removed because its developer, Asher Vollmer, used “2048” as a keyword and there’s a well known Threes clone with the same name.

Vollmer was trying to make his game – the original – appear as a search result when someone would look up the clone, which is why he used the clone’s name as a keyword. Threes was reinstated – likely by a human this time – after several hours.

The irony in all this, is 2048 and other Threes clones remained available in the Play Store, before, during and after the Threes blackout. Vollmer says this happens a lot in the Play Store as Google’s bots are automatically crawling the store and when they find an instance of ‘keyword stuffing’, the related app is taken down right away.

This is a strong indicator, that Google’s store policies could use some improvements, and perhaps if they could become less permissive regarding clones, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

THREES trailer

Vollmer used the keyword strategy because they’ve been fighting a ridiculous number of Threes clones that started to appear a few weeks after the game was released. 2048 however, is something entirely different. According to Vollmer, 2048’s creator didn’t even know Threes existed when he made the game – which does not include any graphic elements from the original title – and he practically created a clone without being aware he was doing it.

In this case, technicalities are more important than the moral component – which in theory lets us define 2048 as a Threes clone, regardless if it was intended or not. Even so, both games remain available in the Play Store and things will probably remain the same for the foreseeable future.

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