I got this ability to reply about a month or two back - at that time someone posted about it and no one replied - so I thought it was enabled for everyone.
So maybe I was part of the last test batch.
This is a much needed feature that only the big app developers used to have - for one thing it will reduce some developer anxiety at not being able to reply to some often-repeated issue with the app (only way possible earlier was to put the reply in the description).
Regarding guerilla marketing - yes, I seem to recall that comments are part of it and even that developer comments may help in that - though one would THINK that developer comments should not be part of it, my gut feeling is that in the early stage Google WOULD use that (why exclude info). And they may prune it later. Or maybe they will prune it by revoking the privilege if developers are using it to game the system.
As someone pointed out before, the risk of losing comment privilege and/or getting the developer account closed have been mentioned as risks - or google requests developers to act like an agent of the company basically (instead of a developer with “attitude”). Given Google lack of appeals process (or awareness of such processes), the “rumored” behavior of Google as a check on developer behavior is essentially a “terror tactic” i.e. where the retribution could be anything or arbitrary.
Google should set up an arbitration center - or perhaps related to the recent EU anti-trust settlement, perhaps a developer group should have been party to the restrictions on the company. These companies are getting so big that they no longer can arguably be called “one of many” - as it stands developers have a choice of 2-3 app stores - and they are not interchangeable - each one is a monopoly in it’s own niche (i.e. Google, Apple, Amazon).
Adding this in later:
Looking at the comments at:
“Users receive an email notification when you reply and can either reply to you directly by email, or update their review if they choose to do so – though keep in mind that users are not obligated to update their reviews. You can also update your reply at any time.”
That seems to answer how some of the commenters replied immediately to my comments - so there is definitely an immediate communication to the commenter.
This of course assumes that their Google Play account is tied to some e-mail app - which they are monitoring (i.e. they are using their Google Play ID for their regular e-mail - or they monitor their GP e-mail just because they left it on by default).
Some users may not use the same ID for their e-mail (or may not be monitoring the e-mail) - even though they maybe able to comment using their ID on Google Play.