by Ryan Cox ’18
The mobile app HQ Trivia has taken the world by storm, attracting over one million “HQties” who log on almost daily to play. The new, free-to-play quiz show app is revolutionary to some, while simply another fad to others. Regardless, it has workplaces coming to a screeching halt during the week.
The premise is simple: every weekday at 3 and 9 p.m. the app hosts a live trivia game open to anybody who has downloaded the app. The host, usually comedian Scott Rogowsky, asks 12 questions ranging from easy to difficult. If you get a question wrong, you are eliminated. Those left standing at the end of 12 questions split a cash jackpot of $2,000, although some special games have jackpots at $10,000 or higher.
It sounds too good to be true, especially since HQ has no way to make a profit off the app itself. The founders, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, also founded the now-defunct app Vine. So in addition to their profits from Vine, the app is funded through venture capital.
Yusupov stated in an interview with Time that he received “a ton of interests from brands and agencies who want to collaborate,” but the app has yet to include sponsored questions or ads. A $20 minimum on cashing out any winnings, the high number of winners splitting the pot, and a low chance of repeating victory also help to save HQ money.
The cash, flashy graphics, and quick pace of the game has made it wildly popular over the last several months. A record 1.2 million players competed for a $10,000 prize on Jan. 3, although the game averages about 400,000 to 600,000 players. It remains popular despite constant technical difficulties.
“Players are regularly booted from the game without explanation. The live host’s face is frequently obscured by the wheel of death. Sometimes, the whole game is scrapped for mysterious technical reasons,” said the New York Times, “and yet, as many as half a million people are tuning in for each session.” Recent updates to the app seem to have quelled many of these issues as recent games have been running without crashing.
These difficulties are in addition to Yusupov’s meltdown with The Daily Beast in response to a profile being run on Rogowsky. According to The Daily Beast, “[Yusupov] said that we were ‘completely unauthorized’ to write about Scott or HQ without his approval…even after The Daily Beast explained that the story was framed around Scott’s daily life and that he revealed no corporate information.” Yusupov later denied to The Daily Beast ever having such a conversation.
Rogowsky’s quirky sense of humor earned him a cult following, and players either love him or love to hate him. Despite all the negative press, HQ seems stronger than ever. It recently launched on Android phones, driving up daily viewership. Coworkers frequently take a collective break at 3 p.m. to play together. Families on Christmas and New Year’s teamed up to try to take down the 12-question gauntlet. In a world where phones are attacked for wrecking human interaction, HQ seems to be a step in the right direction.