What happened to QuizUp?

  • QuizUp was a mobile trivia game not dissimilar in style to the popular board game Trivial Pursuit. The app was created by Icelandic company Plain Vanilla Games, itself the brainchild of entrepreneur Thor Fridriksson.
  • QuizUp had difficulty generating sufficient revenue and was bootstrapped for many years despite a user base of 70 million. A last-ditch attempt to secure sustainable revenue in a TV deal fell through, which forced Fridriksson to close his offices and terminate 36 staff.
  • Glu Mobile acquired QuizUp in 2016 and ran the game for almost five years without making significant improvements. It was eventually shut down after Glu Mobile itself was acquired by Electric Arts in 2021.

The story of QuizUp

QuizUp was a mobile trivia game not dissimilar in style to the popular board game Trivial Pursuit. The app was created by Icelandic company Plain Vanilla Games, itself the brainchild of entrepreneur Thor Fridriksson.

QuizUp was launched in November 2013 and, like most trivia-based apps, became an instant success. In the first six months of operation, it passed 20 million users and 1 billion matches between users in 197 countries. Such was the popularity of QuizUp that it entered into talks with NBC to produce a television show based on the app. 

However, the success was not to last. Several rounds of employee terminations followed thereafter and the game was formally discontinued in March 2021.

So what happened to QuizUp?

Monetization issues

Monetizing mobile-based games is notoriously problematic, and, for QuizUp, it was no different. The company was bootstrapped for many years with the only way to drive revenue coming from users who could pay to receive more attempts.

A corporation version of the game was then launched in August 2015, with a web-based version enabling players to write their own questions following soon after. Despite these measures and with 70 million users, the company continued to find revenue generation difficult.

Failed television deal

In 2016 QuizUp penned a deal with NBC Television to produce a show with a 10-episode run. A pilot episode was planned for March 2017 and it was hoped the partnership would increase user numbers and make the company sustainable. In a vote of confidence, NBC also sold the rights for the show to British broadcaster ITV.

With interest in QuizUp starting to wane, however, the series was canceled before the show aired on either network. Without a critical source of capital, the writing was on the wall for Fridriksson.

Plain Vanilla Games shutdown

In August 2016, Plain Vanilla Games announced it would be ceasing operations in Iceland and that all 36 employees would be terminated. 

While the company admitted that revenue had increased appreciably, the cost of maintaining a user base of 80 million in the face of the canceled TV deal proved to be too great.  

Glu Mobile acquisition and shutdown

With dwindling user interest and in need of a new owner, Fridriksson sold QuizUp to Glu Mobile for $7.5 million in December 2016. The total sale amount stemmed from a prior round of investment funding from Glu Mobile that included an option to acquire Plain Vanilla Games at a pre-determined price.

After Glu Mobile also acquired the rights to QuizUp, the game ran more or less in maintenance mode for almost five years before an announcement in early 2021 that it would be shut down. While many were surprised by the move, history will show that the developers failed to adequately monetize the game with effective incentivization. 

Many also posit that after Glu Mobile was acquired by Electric Arts a month later, it cut the game from its balance sheet to improve its acquisition price.

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