I've developed an app in a pretty contested category. It's one of the top three games in terms of quality (out of about 200 relevant games in this category; there are no large publishers with this type of game).
While I have the best ratings overall (4.92 of 5 stars; ~1000 reviews), nearly all competing games started to force their users to write 5 star reviews (including a minimum amount of characters). While these apps can't actually verify the rating afaik, most users are fulfilling their demand because of psychological reasons. They even write things like:
This app is ****, but I have to write this review... 5 stars.
Not that good, but I want to get XYZ, so I have to write this review... 5 stars.
Unfortunately the poor algorithms of Google Play will rank an app higher, the more ratings they have (My app does fine in Apples App Store, since the manual review process seems to punish these fraudulent apps).
But with Google, even if you are below a 4 star average, you'll rank better if you have a ton of reviews. Number of downloads and update frequency doesn't seem to count at all.
This all started about three years ago and since then my Play Store ranking is on a downward spiral but I refuse to join this unethical train of fake reviews. Not only that it's a huge financial loss, it's highly depressing. From rank 1-3 my app went down to about 30 for the most relevant keywords.
What I tried
I talked to multiple people from Google, but none of them feels responsible and sends me to the Developer Policy over and over again. Some of them even had the nerve to recommend Adwords to me as a counter measure.
I also reported some of these apps using Google Plays "Report App" feature. Nothing happened.
What I have already thought about
Join the train of manipulated reviews
This would work for sure, but as stated above, it's a no-go to me.
Asking the competitors to stop
This would require massive administrative work and probably wouldn't work out well. Especially since there are many profit-oriented trash developers.
Making my users aware of this issue
Since my competitors already copied multiple unique features of my game, I know for sure they are constantly checking my app for new updates. So they would quickly notice this whiny cry for help, which could lead to a massive backlash and make things even worse. Also it's nearly as dishonorable as faked reviews.
Do you have any advices how I could preserve my game without risking its, and also my personal reputation?