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.
Founding and Early SuccessQuizUp was founded in Iceland by Thor Fridriksson in 2012. It quickly gained popularity as a trivia quiz app, allowing users to challenge friends or random opponents in a wide range of topics and categories. The app’s social and competitive nature made it a hit among trivia enthusiasts.
Rapid Growth and InvestmentQuizUp experienced rapid growth and attracted substantial venture capital investment. Its user base grew to millions of players worldwide, and the app was available on both iOS and Android platforms.
Monetization and In-App PurchasesQuizUp monetized its platform through in-app advertising and microtransactions, allowing users to purchase power-ups and premium features. The freemium model helped generate revenue while keeping the game accessible to a wide audience.
International ExpansionQuizUp’s success led to international expansion, with localized versions and quizzes in multiple languages. The app’s broad appeal crossed cultural and language boundaries.
Challenges and DeclineDespite its initial success, QuizUp faced challenges related to user retention and monetization. Some users reported a decline in the quality of the user experience due to intrusive ads and a focus on monetization over gameplay. This led to a decline in active users over time.
Redesign and RelaunchIn 2017, QuizUp underwent a major redesign and relaunch in an attempt to address user concerns and revitalize the platform. The update aimed to simplify the user interface, improve performance, and make the app more engaging.
Rebranding as Glu Mobile PropertyIn 2018, the game development company Glu Mobile acquired QuizUp. The acquisition marked a new phase for the trivia app as it became part of Glu’s portfolio of mobile games.
Transition to Synchronous GameplayUnder Glu Mobile’s ownership, QuizUp transitioned from asynchronous gameplay (where players could respond at their own pace) to synchronous gameplay, focusing on real-time trivia matches. This change aimed to enhance the competitive aspect of the game.
Legacy and Ongoing DevelopmentQuizUp continued to be available on mobile platforms, and Glu Mobile worked on maintaining and updating the app. While it faced challenges in retaining its initial user base, QuizUp’s legacy as a popular trivia quiz app remained.

The story of QuizUp

QuizUp was a mobile trivia game not dissimilar in style to the popular board game Trivial Pursuit.

Icelandic company Plain Vanilla Games created the app, itself the brainchild of entrepreneur Thor Fridriksson.

QuizUp was launched in November 2013 and became an instant success like most trivia-based apps.

The first six months of operation passed 20 million users and 1 billion matches between users in 197 countries.

Such was the popularity of QuizUp, which 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 after that, 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, and the only way to drive revenue was through 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 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, 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 cease 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 needing 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, including 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 shows that the developers failed to monetize the game with effective incentivization adequately. 

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.


QuizUp Creation and Success:

  • QuizUp was a mobile trivia game created by Icelandic company Plain Vanilla Games, similar to Trivial Pursuit.
  • It was launched in November 2013 and quickly gained popularity, amassing 20 million users and 1 billion matches within the first six months of operation.

Monetization Challenges:

  • Despite having a user base of 70 million, QuizUp struggled to generate sufficient revenue.
  • The company was bootstrapped for many years, and its main revenue source was users paying for more attempts in the game.
  • A corporate version and web-based variant were introduced, but revenue generation remained difficult.

Failed Television Deal:

  • In 2016, QuizUp signed a deal with NBC Television to produce a 10-episode TV show based on the game.
  • The partnership was expected to boost user numbers and make the company sustainable, but the show was canceled before airing due to waning interest in the game.

Plain Vanilla Games Shutdown:

  • In August 2016, Plain Vanilla Games announced the shutdown of its operations in Iceland.
  • All 36 employees were terminated, as maintaining the large user base of 80 million after the canceled TV deal proved financially unsustainable.

Acquisition by Glu Mobile:

  • In December 2016, Glu Mobile acquired QuizUp for $7.5 million, including an option from a prior investment funding round.
  • The game was run in maintenance mode by Glu Mobile for almost five years, without significant improvements.

Shutdown by Glu Mobile and EA Acquisition:

  • In early 2021, Glu Mobile announced the shutdown of QuizUp.
  • Many believe that the developers’ failure to monetize the game effectively and Glu Mobile’s subsequent acquisition by Electronic Arts contributed to the decision.

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