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HQ Trivia was a blockbuster hit — but it's now pushed it to the brink

By recode

A boardroom battle and more alleged management issues have raised new questions about HQ’s futureRead full story

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  • Whether or not HQ Trivia succeeds, I think it’s interesting to look at how we process the information signal of rapid success, and how often we’re right or wrong after time passes. The narratives we create range from ‘everything is different now’ to ‘this is the future’ to ‘this is a fad’ or ‘this can’t work long term.’ (One can easily think of examples for each of these and other dynamics.) Even when things do have meaningful, substantial impact, it’s not always in the way (or at the speed) that

    Whether or not HQ Trivia succeeds, I think it’s interesting to look at how we process the information signal of rapid success, and how often we’re right or wrong after time passes. The narratives we create range from ‘everything is different now’ to ‘this is the future’ to ‘this is a fad’ or ‘this can’t work long term.’ (One can easily think of examples for each of these and other dynamics.) Even when things do have meaningful, substantial impact, it’s not always in the way (or at the speed) that we think it will. (The internet itself is perhaps the best example of this dynamic.)

    While I think about possible futures, I’m skeptical of forecasting and initial assessments about the long-term success of things. (Even after things happen, we usually make mistakes in our understanding of why they happened. I’ve mentioned Duncan Watts’ book Everything is Obvious in a previous post; it’s relevant here, too.)

    With those caveats about predicting specific outcomes, I wonder if perhaps due to the access to both creation tools and markets of consumers (e.g., app stores), as well as the marketing enabled by social media, more trajectories like those of HQ Trivia are likely; the flash sale companies come to mind.

  • I am a loyal player. Won $2.63 on Sat! Can I get a hell ya? My teenagers who introduced me to HQ are moved on to new things 10X over and think it’s quaint and anachronistic that I still play. Maybe, like Facebook, it will have a second life among us olds?

  • Casey Aitken
    Casey AitkenCreative Director at JWT INSIDE

    It’s no surprise that a straight up and down trivia format didn’t sustain people’s attention.

    They’re building a wheel of fortune style game? Maybe if they spent more time developing a novel game format they’d have more sustained attention from folks.

  • I played a few times in the past and from my perspective, the winnings are so small compared to the valuable time spent playing. Play all rounds and win only $0.50 or at absolute most....$5.00.

    I think HQ has had a great run but suffers from hosts that have way too much weird hype and from a platform that eliminates users too easily eventually culminating with lack of long term interest in winning only small amounts.

    No issues if you play it still, bigger chances at actually winning something as

    I played a few times in the past and from my perspective, the winnings are so small compared to the valuable time spent playing. Play all rounds and win only $0.50 or at absolute most....$5.00.

    I think HQ has had a great run but suffers from hosts that have way too much weird hype and from a platform that eliminates users too easily eventually culminating with lack of long term interest in winning only small amounts.

    No issues if you play it still, bigger chances at actually winning something as the audience declines! HQ, to succeed long term needs to reinvent itself. I'd like to see data on what percentage of users are long term versus have played ten games or fewer since they downloaded the app. Have to have something to really pull people back. How about partnering with United for a free domestic flight for the top 1% of winners one night? How about $250 in Uber or Lyft credit for the winners?

    Incentives beyond pure money would help. Plus when they advertise potential winnings of $25,000 or even $100,000 before it sounds amazing, just completely unrealistic and underwhelming when you do win and it is split and walk away with a dollar.

  • Ian Myers
    Ian MyersFounder at Country House Enterprises

    Several quick rounds last year drew attention (and speculation)--far and away the most prominent were Bird and Lime, the scooter companies. Second to that was HQ Trivia, becoming viral rapidly, and the VC money wasn't far away.

    With all these things (Vine included), there are two possible outcomes: the fad disappears and people stop playing, or it continues to hold the audience over the longterm. It looks like HQ is probably

    the former. The jury is still out on Fortnite.

  • Yusuke Umeda
    Yusuke UmedaFounder and CEO at Uzabase

    This is a big decline from their peak(more than 2M) but is still a great number. If they can rebuild the management team and come out strong, I believe they still have a chance to recover.

    “A large part of that audience has vanished. A recent Sunday night contest with a $25,000 prize drew 580,000 players. Last Sunday, a Disney-themed contest drew a more sizable 818,000 players, but mid-week shows have been in the 200,000 to 400,000 player range.”

  • Sumeet Shah
    Sumeet ShahBacking brands at Swiftarc Ventures

    Lots of points have already been made here on HQ's early fundraising rounds (over $15MM at an over $100MM valuation, which a projected $10MM revenue for 2018 sets the multiple at a very very high 10x).

    While audience has definitely gone down significantly, so many other factors worry me more, such as:

    - Kroll's past with Twitter and future with the company,

    - Bannister's indirect removal from the board, and

    - How much is left in the bank.

    Could the story be different if the amount raised and

    Lots of points have already been made here on HQ's early fundraising rounds (over $15MM at an over $100MM valuation, which a projected $10MM revenue for 2018 sets the multiple at a very very high 10x).

    While audience has definitely gone down significantly, so many other factors worry me more, such as:

    - Kroll's past with Twitter and future with the company,

    - Bannister's indirect removal from the board, and

    - How much is left in the bank.

    Could the story be different if the amount raised and valuation were, for example, 1/3rd of the total? Absolutely. This is, as mentioned in the commentary here, another example on why overfundraising isn't the best idea even if it's available.

    Failing fast doesn't remove previous failures.

  • Max Lockie
    Max LockiePlatform Editor at Quartz

    Audiences are definitely down. I think they need something other than a trivia game to get them back in the conversation. Not everyone is good at trivia. Maybe some sort of brain teaser game or digital escape room?

  • Anthony Duignan-Cabrera
    Anthony Duignan-CabreraCEO at ADC Strategy

    Candy Crush? Angry Birds? Words with Friends? Now HQ Trivia. Are memories really this short in Silicon Valley? If an investment is a strategic gamble, investing in mobile gaming companies must be the equivalent of going on a bender in Vegas and hoping for the best.

  • They should merge with Pokemon Go and create a super pointless app.

  • Lynn McGraw
    Lynn McGrawIndependent Paralegal

    Well, I played last night with more than a half million others. I’ll be bummed if they shut down. It’s fun and I play with family far and wide. And I always learn something.

  • Georgene Bernatz
    Georgene Bernatz

    Way too easy to get disqualified. Lost interest quickly.

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