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. The platform was founded by Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov 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 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 increase in the 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 own apps.

Leadership

Kroll and Yusupov also had a difficult time raising money because of Kroll’s time at Twitter where he was accused of indecent behavior toward women. Combined with Yusupov’s tendency to make slow decisions and his self-centered nature, this made the company vulnerable.

After Kroll died in December 2018, Yusupov was instituted as CEO where an employee petition to have him removed was 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 his role to host 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 also started to become 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. What’s more, some reported having to wait three months for the funds to land in their accounts.

Revenue decreases

HQ Trivia initially generated millions in sponsorship revenue from the likes of Nike and Google. It even partnered with television stations such as NBC and CBS to promote their 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 made attempts to increase its user base by offering a Wheel of Fortune-themed game and one based on photo challenges.

Reincarnation

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. The platform was founded by Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov 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 legitimacy of the platform and decreased the amount of money a winning entrant could receive.

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