How did it all begin?
Aftabe started in the spring of 2014 in Tehran. A bunch of kids who studied in one of the best high schools in Iran, just took Konkoor exam (a standardized test widely used for college admissions in Iran) and instead of playing around or just studying their courses, they wanted to start a project and do something real not just studying.
They began to search for an idea to start their project. At first it was confusing because they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for but one night while they were all just hanging around an idea came to them. At that time there was a page on Facebook named “Ghalatnameye Kadkhoda” (rough translation means Errata of Kadkhoda) which was popular. The posts on this page contained pictures of some objects or famous people and by combining people’s or objects’ names (Or maybe some parts of the names) you should come up with a new word or phrase. The similar game would be Guess The Emoji. They thought why not make an android game out of it? Many people would come to that page and comment their answers. But they had no idea about how to make a game in Android platform or any other platform for that matter.
Forming the team
They formed a team of three people named: Mohammad Amin Moradi, Amir Ala Masoomi and Hamed Valizadeh. They were all under 20 so you can imagine it’s somehow hard to believe they could pull it off. The research and learning process began, everyone started to learn specific aspect of the game development. So Mohammad Amin began to learn project management, Amir Ala began to learn design and Hamed began to learn coding in Java.
The interesting thing was that Mohammad Amin’s father was pushing him to get him out of the country to pursue his education with his brothers. “You can imagine, you don’t expect a kid who was just accepted in university and know nothing about developing an Android game to develop a popular one. But I insisted to finish this game project with my friends to see the outcome. I told my dad I would think about going abroad after this project,” he said.
Cool weird naming
In 3 months the game was developed, and named Aftabeh which is a very weird cool name. The name has two different meanings: one meaning is “it’s a sunny day” and the other one is the name of an object used in Iranian bathrooms in old times. In Iran we’re not used to these names for apps or anything that is supposed to be released to public. Actually this kind of naming was a little weird in our culture. But the impact of the name and its coolness should be accounted for the success of Aftabeh.
It’s interesting to know, they developed Aftabe just for making people happy, they didn’t have any intention to make money out of it. But few weeks before launching the game, they decided to implement in-app purchase in the game by providing some hints for users to reach the answers.
Before launching the game they had no idea how many download and revenue they would have. “I’ve invested 1.2 million Rial (40 dollars) in this project and I thought to myself at least I should make that money from Aftabe. First day we made 1.5 million Rial (47 dollars), more than I invested in this project. And in terms of downloads, in two weeks, Aftabe had 100k of downloads.” Mohammad Amin said. Of course the original Facebook page that they have used its idea, help them too because it was a popular page in Iran. Today 1.2 million smartphones have Aftabe installed on their smartphone. Aftabe had 500k hits simultaneously in some occasions. Even now without any advertisement or new updates, Aftabe has 7k downloads per day.
Aftabe generated a good revenue for some time. Aftabe in its peak generated 22 million Rial (nearly 700 dollars per day). This amount of money is the monthly minimum wage in Iran right now and they were making that kind of money in just one day. As you can see in diagram we estimated their revenue per quarter with the information that they provide us. The first quarter in persian calendar (last year) they nearly made 1200 million Rial which is about 37 thousand dollars.
The down fall
Like many young talents, they wanted to do more and run other projects. They were so excited that their app became a hit in Bazaar so they thought, why not do it again in other areas? The team rented an office but without any research on Feasibility of their ideas they just burned money in months without any output. Focus was another issue for them, They didn’t focus on their goal and project. So updates weren’t delivered on time, so there were no new levels or changes in the game to keep the users interested. And the last issue was the vision. Imagine different people with different visions and set of goals, they can’t be in the same project for long time, because basically they have different visions. So in middle of the way one of the founders left the team to pursue his vision.
With this experience they are now up and running again. Today they are doing a confidential project that they love to do. And apart from that, Aftabe+ the next version of Aftabe would be release in few weeks.
Cafe Bazaar role
However, we shouldn’t forget the role of first Android market place in Iran named Cafe Bazaar. Because without it, developing an android app and releasing it in google play would have been so hard. After sanctions, many companies like Google, Apple closed down their app store to Iranian. The only way to use these markets was using VPNs and manually changing the location of jailbreaked or rooted devices through some special apps. This was only on users’ side, you can imagine when you can’t download an app through App Store or Google Play, and surely you can’t submit your app to google to release it on google play. So Bazaar played an important role by providing a platform for users in Iran to download apps and for developers to easily release their apps on their android market.
Today you can download apps from google play (not all of them though, some apps are not available for download in Iran) but still something important is missing and that is payment. We don’t have international payment services in Iran so we can’t buy an app or use in-app purchase in games. That’s where Cafe Bazaar play an important role in this market, by providing implementing payment, they enabled new era for android games in iran. Developers could also have a revenue from their add platform in their games. So without Cafe Bazaar none of this would have happened.
Today Bazaar has:
17 million active installs
4 million users with activated payment accounts
90 million app page views per week
8 million total comments and rates, 52 thousand per day
20 million page views of the first page
120 billion Rial (nearly 3.8 million dollars) revenue for developers, 400 billion Rial expected in next year
25 thousands apps which 31% are paid app, 13% are in-app purchase, 56% are free, 70% are Iranian