Remember HQ Trivia? In late 2017, the streaming mobile trivia game show was red hot. Twice each weekday (once on the weekends), those who installed the app and signed in to play would compete for cash prizes. The contestants left standing after answering 12 trivia questions correctly would split that particular game’s jackpot. At its peak, HQ Trivia drew large audiences for its games. One HQ Trivia contest held in January 2018 with a jackpot of $15,000, drew 1.6 million people. The record was set in March 2018 when 2.38 million users joined the live stream as contestants.
Each question had three possible answers and those playing the game had 10 seconds to answer. Answering a question correctly would keep a player alive to answer the next question; a wrong answer meant that the player was eliminated from the game. However, as an in-app purchase, HQ players could buy extra lives.
The average HQ Trivia winner received only $10 to $20 after splitting the jackpot
The main host of HQ Trivia, Scott Rogowsky, achieved celebrity status from his job. He even appeared on NBC’s “Today” morning show and was the subject of many profiles as the trivia game started gaining national attention. The shows were streamed from a New York City studio.
HQ Trivia became a mobile phenomenon back in 2017-2018
After courting some big-name partners like Google and Nike, and promoting television shows and movies for NBC, CBS, ABC, and Warner Brothers, the jackpots rose to as high as $400,000, but there were some issues that eventually damaged the popularity of the game. One big $20,000 winner had to wait two months to receive his winnings and the quality of the livestream was poor at times. In December 2018, HQ Trivia suffered a big blow when co-founder Colin Kroll died from an overdose at age 34. Additionally, most winners ended up splitting $10 to $20 for their efforts and players started to feel that their time was better spent doing something else like having dinner at Chipotle.
As the number of HQ Trivia players started to decline, the company tried to recapture interest by offering prizes to those who answered a specific question correctly. It also started a different word game similar to Wheel of Fortune. But it all was too little, too late. Yesterday, HQ Trivia’s parent announced that it is shutting down. CNN reports that 25 full-time employees have been given a pink slip. An internal email sent by HQ CEO Rus Yusupov said, “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution.”
Yusupov said that the company had hired an investment banker to “to help find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company.” And HQ did receive an offer from “an established business.” The transaction was supposed to close today, but that deal fell through. The company originally raised $8 million and another $15 million (at a valuation of $100 million) in March 2018. HQ Trivia won three awards including the Webby Award for best Word and Trivia game. It also was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of “Outstanding Original Interactive Program.”
While HQ Trivia did generate revenue (in 2018 it had ad sales of $10 million), it was not enough. And the company couldn’t partner with more movie studios even after three Warner Brothers’ films it promoted all debuted at number one at the box office. Infighting at HQ was one of the reasons why it ended up closing its doors. If another company tries to pick up the pieces and launches a new live streaming trivia contest, they must make the prizes worth the time and effort it takes players to install the app and play the game.
As for HQ Trivia, it joins the list of now-departed mobile apps that streaked across mobile screens like a shooting star, but eventually fell back to earth. That list includes Draw Something; the game attracted 50 million installs in just 50 days before it was acquired by Zynga for $180 million. Almost immediately following the transaction, the app started falling back to earth.