For a while, it seemed like everyone was playing HQ Trivia. The mobile trivia app let you win real cash and it was so popular, huge celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would guest host. The prizes got bigger and bigger, but at the same time, people were winning less money. Glitches plagued the game time and internal conflicts were rampant. On February 15th, anyone who still had the app got a notification: this was the last HQ. What happened? The fall of HQ Trivia demonstrates how success can’t depend only on a cool idea.
The rise of HQ Trivia
Vine creators Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll created the app with Intermedia Labs as the producer. It launched in August of 2017. A trivia app that pays out real money is a great idea. HQ Trivia upped the game by going live with a host. Scott Rogowsky was the main man and fans became attached to him very quickly. He even got a nickname: Quiz Daddy. At the game’s peak, almost 2.5 million people were playing for a piece of the jackpot, which could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. By February 2018, it was the #2 most downloaded app in the US. It also partnered with huge brands like Nike, Warner Brothers, and Wendy’s. Because of its fast rise, the fall of HQ Trivia was bound to be intense.
The format started out simple. Scott would ask a series of 10 multiple choice trivia questions. #1 was the easiest question and then they got harder. Players had 10 seconds to guess an answer. If you got it wrong or failed to answer at all, you were eliminated, but could continue to watch the game if you wanted. If there were multiple winners, which was usually the case, everyone would split the jackpot.
The format of the game got more complicated as time went on. You could win or buy extra lives to stay in the game after getting a question wrong. There were also “points” you earned by getting questions right. If you got enough points, you would “level up” and be able to skip questions. HQ Trivia also started using “seasons,” during which you could accumulate points and decide how to use them in anticipation of a big “season finale.” If you think this sounds complicated, you’re not alone. The constant changes didn’t appeal to a lot of players and the game’s popularity dropped off.
The fall of HQ Trivia
While the trivia app seemed to get off on solid footing, there were concerns right from the beginning. Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll had a reputation already and it wasn’t great. While they were at Vine, they were criticized for unprofessional management. Twitter – which bought Vine in 2012 – fired Kroll for sexual harassment and bad management. He died in December of 2018 for a drug overdose, leaving Yusupov to run HQ Trivia without him. Internal conflicts brewed. When Scott Rogowsky wanted to divide his time between hosting the app and a new job on a baseball show, Yusopov refused. Rogowsky left and was replaced by Matt Richards.
Trouble continued as download rates dropped and HQ began losing investors. It was negotiating with a buyer on February 14, 2020, but it fell through. HQ Trivia employees got an internal memo that broke the news, leaving them all without a job. Rogowsky used the phrase “sociopathic delusion” to describe why the app shut down. In the last game, Matt Richards and Anna Roisman (who hosted the spin-off HQ Words) were visibly sad. We’ll no doubt hear more about what led to the dramatic fall of HQ Trivia as time goes on.
Missing HQ Trivia? Head out to a local trivia night at a bar! Here’s how to win.