For some, the bottle flipping craze was a silly kid’s game. Aidan Sabourin saw it as an opportunity.
In just a few short months, with three of his friends – Justin Lam, Danny Loo and Armin Gurdic – Sabourin created an app that attracted millions of downloads, becoming the top download in nearly 20 countries.
“Creators talk about how one day, they wake up and their (creation) video exploded – that’s what happened to us,” said Lam.
The app, Bottle Flip 2k16, simple in both design and gameplay, was created based on inspiration from viral videos of people flipping bottles, in efforts to have them land on their base as many consecutive times as possible. While at the family cottage last summer, Sabourin watched bottle flip videos for the first time. The videos were quickly growing in popularity online.
“I had made apps in the past and was waiting for that one big idea, so right away a light went on in my head and I thought, I could capitalize on this trend,” Sabourin said.
He perused the app store, looking for anything related to bottle flipping.
“I had an idea of how the game would appear and function, and was relieved to see there were only two games, and they were nothing like the idea I had,” he said.
Once Sabourin returned from the cottage, he got to work right away.
“I sat at my computer for hours to get the project started on iOS (Apple’s operating system). I knew it was time sensitive because it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the Internet caught up to making it a mobile game,” he said.
At the time, Sabourin was interning at Union Gas with Lam. He showed Lam the prototype he made and asked if he wanted to code an Android version. Lam was excited and brought in his friends Loo and Gurdic for support.
The newly formed team worked non-stop in the evenings and weekends for three weeks until the game was complete and ready for release.
“We didn’t really have big plans for the game,” said Lam. “We thought it was just a fun little game that people might enjoy, and then, it just kind of exploded,” he said.
After the release in August, Bottle Flip 2k16 was slowly gaining downloads. It wasn’t until September that it took off and went viral.
“Getting the first 10 downloads, the first hundred, the first thousand – those are the hard downloads because you have to convince everyone that your game is worth downloading. But once you reach 100,000, people know it’s worth it,” said Lam.
The game has seen great success since. With more than 12 million downloads worldwide, it became the No. 1 app download (not just in terms of games – they were beating Facebook), in close to 20 countries.
“Once growth does occur and it starts to trend on the game platforms on iOS and Android, it really helps to build more traction,” said Lam.
While the bottle flip trend has fallen off and the downloads have evened out, the foursome has taken the opportunity to use their recent success as a jumping off point to form their new company, Qeue Inc. The company focuses on game development and publishing.
“We want to help other developers who have not been able to market their game or create a perfectly polished game. We want to offer them a second chance with their game,” said Lam. “Essentially, we take their game and publish it under our name, which is already an established brand, and we offer them a portion of the income that’s generated from the game,” he said.
With graduation still a year or two away, the team sees their new company as “something to try out and something to focus on” alongside their studies and work.
They credit their success with support from Propel – Western’s on campus business incubator program.
“When the game started to blow up, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We definitely needed some guidance,” said Lam.
Propel provided resources like accountants, lawyers, and general business advising.
“The team has been amazing to work with,” said Ian Haase, Director of Entrepreneurship (Propel). “We are excited to continue to assist with their impressive growth to-date. Qeue Inc. is one of the most active startups in our space, and are always keen to lend their support and advice to other entrepreneurs in the space,” said Haase.
Propel offers a Summer Incubator program Gurdic and Lam will take part in, while Sabourin and Loo continue their internships.
“We think it will be a great opportunity to improve sales. With publishing and approaching developers, it’s all about sales and becoming better entrepreneurs overall,” he said.
Lam said although there is competition and big names doing similar things, the market size is huge.
“There’s room for everyone. It’s not even close to being saturated,” he said. “In terms of competing directly with other bottle flip games, we weren’t even the first, we were the fourth or fifth. And there were games that already had thousands of downloads,” said Lam.
The team will continue to provide support for Bottle Flip 2k16, but doesn’t plan on doing any major expansions with the game. They will use the its success to target their users for any new games they publish.
“We were learning as we went when we released, so we didn’t really know how to optimize our game, how to increase our revenue and stuff like that. Basically, we spent a lot of time learning and there were some growing pains,” Lam said. “Now that we have experienced all this, we think we can do it better next time.”