What happened to HQ Trivia?

HQ Trivia is a trivia video game first released in 2017 where users can win prize money by participating in live trivia games.

Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov founded the platform after they sold the social media platform Vine to Twitter.

HQ Trivia was a near-instant success, with the mobile app boasting more than 700,000 players connected to a single trivia game in December of that same year.

While the platform was valued at $100 million in March 2018, users started to decline a few months later at an alarming rate. 

After just three years in operation, CEO Yusupov noted in a company memo that “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ Trivia will cease operations and move to dissolution.

Novelty factor and increased competition

The game lost its novelty factor rather quickly because the company did not consider it important to introduce new features or make the game more exciting.

To some extent, the lack of innovation was facilitated by Yusupov, who was a slow decision-maker and, in some cases, avoided making decisions entirely.

The game instead relied on increasing the cash prize to keep players interested, but this became difficult over time because the prize money had to be split between more and more winners.

Exacerbating the lack of novelty was the increased popularity of trivia as a business model.

Two online competitors were launched around the same time as HQ Trivia, and, to make matters worse, several American television studios also created their apps.


Kroll and Yusupov also had difficulty raising money because of Kroll’s time on Twitter, where he was accused of indecent behavior toward women.

Yusupov’s tendency to make slow decisions and his self-centered nature made the company vulnerable.

After Kroll died in December 2018, Yusupov was appointed CEO, and an employee petition to have him removed soon passed around.

The initiative ultimately failed, so many employees chose to resign instead. This further hindered the company’s ability to release new products or respond to technical issues.

Trivia host and platform stalwart Scott Rogowsky then resigned from hosting a show about Major League Baseball.

He left HQ Trivia with a few choice words about its leadership, noting on Twitter that it was “poisoned with a lethal cocktail of incompetence, arrogance, short-sightedness & sociopathic delusion.

Technical issues

Trivia streams frequently lagged, and many games had to be restarted from the beginning.

Users became enraged after they were eliminated from games for no reason.

As early as 2018, software programs such as the HQ Trivia Assistant became prevalent on the platform.

These programs could answer questions with up to 90% accuracy, which caused more people to win games and take an ever-smaller share of the prize money.

For example, there were more than 9,000 winners at the end of a game held in February 2018, with each winner receiving the paltry sum of 23 cents in prize money.

Moreover, some reported waiting three months for the funds to land in their accounts.

Revenue decreases

HQ Trivia initially generated millions in sponsorship revenue from Nike and Google.

It even partnered with television stations such as NBC and CBS to promote its programs. 

However, revenue declined because of the factors mentioned above.

In response, the platform moved to a model where game winners were compensated with credits that could be redeemed for merchandise.

It also attempted to increase its user base by offering a Wheel of Fortune-themed game and one based on photo challenges.


In February 2020, Yusupov stated that the company had run out of cash after a potential acquisition deal failed.

Four days later, however, he noted that he had secured a deal to maintain the operation of the platform, including the 25 staff that were recently made redundant.

On March 30, 2020, HQ Trivia once again held trivia competitions.

Key takeaways:

  • HQ Trivia is a trivia video game first released in 2017 where users can win prize money by participating in live trivia games. Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov founded the platform after they sold the social media platform Vine to Twitter.
  • The novelty of HQ Trivia wore off quickly for consumers because leadership avoided introducing new features. The lack of novelty was exacerbated by new competitors and a style of leadership that did not favor decisive action.
  • HQ Trivia was also beset with technical issues. Games frequently lagged, and some players were eliminated from games for no reason. Automated software programs also reduced the platform’s legitimacy and decreased the amount of money a winning entrant could receive.

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Play-to-Earn Business Model

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Free-to-Play Business Model

A free-to-play is a model that became particularly popular in gaming. Free-to-play is also commonly referred to as free-to-start. For instance, companies like Epic Games have launched popular games like Fortnite’s Battle Royale, which had ingrained a free-to-play model. This is a model that has become extremely popular in the digital age of gaming.

Epic Games Business Model

Epic Games is a gaming company that develops, publishes, and distributes games. It comprises the Unreal Engine, making money through licensing agreements with developers and creators. Its games (like Fortnite) mostly follow a free-to-play model on PC and an in-app purchase model on the digital marketplace. And its storefront Epic Games Store, taking a 12% cut on games’ sales.

Who Owns Fortnite

Epic Games owns Fortnite; Tim Sweeney, co-founder and CEO, is the major shareholder, with more than 50% of the company. And Tencent with a stake of over 40% of the company. Epic Games develops, publishes, and distributes games. It comprises the Unreal Engine, making money through licensing agreements with developers and creators. While Fortnite primarily follows a free-to-play model with up-sells and digital in-app purchases.

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