It would seem that the Google Play Top Developer program is now coming to an end. The information has come from emails that are reportedly being sent out to developers from the Google Play team confirming the closure of the program. According to the email, the program will officially cease to be within the next 30 days and at which point, the Top Developer icon/badge that is present on app listings will be removed. No further details on the closing process were provided in the email.
When it comes to why Google Play is doing this, there seems to be two tangents of thinking behind the closing of the service. On the one hand, the email talks on how the quality of the apps on Google Play overall have increased so much, that the bar has essentially changed and being a 'Top Developer' presumably offers less than it did before. In other words, there is probably too many top developers now that the term has become somewhat saturated. The other reasoning is that the email states Google Play wants to start placing a greater focus on apps as a singular. Instead of recognizing a developer who is rated as a good developer of apps, the email suggests that Google Play wants to place a greater focus on the apps themselves. A point which the email also states is a result of conducted research where the Google Play team found that an emphasis on apps, and not developers, would be more welcomed by (and beneficial to) both consumers and developers.
Unfortunately, the email does not go into any further specifics on the plans that Google Play will be rolling out to highlight individual apps in the future. Instead the details merely note that Google Play has “exciting plans” and that more information on these plans will come through “soon”. In either case, and after that 30 day period, if you are looking for an app and the app listing does not come from a listed ‘Top Developer,’ that will not mean that it is not actually a top developer. It will just mean that Google Play is no longer highlighting such tags.