“Not gonna lie. This f*cking sucks. This is the last HQ ever!” yelled host Matt Richards . And it just got crazier from there.The farewell game of HQ Trivia before it shut down last night was a beautiful disaster. The hosts cursed, sprayed champagne, threatened to defecate on the homes of trolls in the chat window, and begged for new jobs. Imagine Jeopardy but Trebek is hyped-up and blacked-out.
Yesterday HQ Trivia ran out of money, laid off its 25 employees, and shut down. It was in talks to be acquired, but the buyer pulled out last minute and investors weren’t willing to pour any money into the sagging game show. It had paid out $ 6 million in prizes from its $ 15 million-plus in venture capital since launching in late 2017.
But HQ was in steady decline since February 2018 when it peaked at over 2.3 million concurrent players to just tens of thousands recently. The games grew repetitive, prize money was split between too many winners, co-founder Colin Kroll passed away, original host and quiz daddy Scott Rogowsky was let go, the startup’s staff failed in an attempt to mutiny and oust the CEO, and layoffs ensued. You can read how it all went down here.
But rather than wither away, the momentary cultural phenemenon went out with a bang. “Should HQ trivia shut down? No? Yes? Or f*ck no!” Richards cackled.
You can watch the final show here, and we’ve laid out some of Richards’ and co-host Anna Roisman’s choicest quotes from HQ’s last game:
- “If you just got here, this is HQ Trivia. It’s a live mobile gameshow. We’re gonna read about 34 questions and then you’re gonna win about 2 cents and you’re gonna fucking loooooove it” -Roisman
- “This $ 5 prize is coming out of my own pocket. We ran out of money. We just kept giving it away. We gave it all to the players, to you, you loyal HQties” -Richards
- “Take this time now to buy some extra lives. You never know when you’re going to need them. I wish we had an extra life for the company. I’m sorry. I f*cking can’t. I’m gonna cry. My dogs eat $ 200 worth of food a day. My dogs are gonna starve” -Richards
- “Why are we shutting down? I don’t know. Ask our investors. What am I going to do with my fish tank? I think our investors ran out of money” -Richards
- “Who likes healthy snacks! That’s why the investors stopped giving us money, because there wasn’t any f*cking snacks in this b*tch. We were snackless. Who the fuck can work in a place without snacks!” -Richards
- “I met a couple who told me HQ is part of their foreplay” -Richards
- “Who’s going to miss the HQ chat? I’m going to miss all those people telling me I don’t have eyebrows or to do the Carlton” -Richards
- “Maybe we should close every night. These are the nicest f*cking comments I’ve ever seen. Wow, you’re finally telling me I look hot. I tried for a year and a half -Roisman
- [Reading comments] “‘Won’t miss you at all, good riddance’” -Roisman. “Who said that? Let’s find that mothef*cker and sh*t on his porch” -Richards
- “Hire everyone! All the people who don’t have jobs they f*cking rock!” -Richards
- [While doing a headstand] “Someone hire me! I’m f*cking talented” -Roisman
- “We should have unionized a long time ago” -Richards
- [To his girlfriend] “Hello baby! I don’t got a job, you still love me?” -Richards
- “We bought this giant bottle of champagne for when we hit 3 million players” -Richards (HQ never got there)
- [Shakening up the champagne and opening it to a disappointing trickle] “It wasn’t as big as I thought it was gonna be” -Richards. “That’s what she said. It was anti-climactic” -Roisman. “Much like this episode” -Richards. “Much like this app” -Roisman
- “They gave me like two double shots of tequila” -Richards, on why he was drunk
Then things really went off the rails at 41 minutes in, cued up here:
- [Upon a bunch of people getting a question wrong] “Y’all fucking fucked up! You are dumb! I’m kidding, you’re not dumb. You fucked up. It happens” -Richards
- [Reading the final question together] “What does Subway call it’s employees? Ham hands, sandwich artists, or beef sculptors?”
- “520 people are splitting $ 5. Send me your Venmo requests and I’ll send you your fraction of a penny” -Richards
Farewell, HQ Trivia, you glorious beast.
Ken Jennings is teaming up with the creator of *Magic* to launch *Half-Truth*, a game that will “make you feel smart when you play.”
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HQ Trivia is struggling after a mutiny failed to oust its CEO. Downloads per month are down 92% versus last June according to Sensor Tower. And now four sources confirm that HQ laid off staff members this week. One said about 20% of staff was let go, and another said six to seven employees were departing. That aligns with Digiday reporter Kerry Flynn’s tweet that 7 employees were let go bringing HQ to under 30 (shrinking from 35 to 28 staffers would be a 20% drop).
That will leave the company short-handed as it attempts to diversify revenue with the upcoming launch of monthly subscriptions. “HQ Words Everyday. Coming next month . . . Bigger prizes . . . More ways to win. $ 9.99/mo. subscription” the company tweeted from the account for its second game, the Wheel Of Fortune-style HQ Words. The company has been trying to regain momentum with new hosts since the departure of Quiz Daddy aka Scott Rogowsky, HQ Trivia’s original host.
The cuts hit HQ’s HR, marketing, and product engineering teams, according to LinkedIn profiles of employees let go. The cuts could further hamper morale at the startup following a tough first half of the year. HQ Trivia and co-founder Rus Yusupov did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Following the tragic death of co-founder and CEO Colin Kroll, Yusupov retook control. But staff found him difficult to work with as he’d allowed the product to stagnate and popularity to decline. Yusupov was slow to make changes to the app, and “no one wanted to work under Rus” a source told me.
That led 20 of 35 staffers to sign a letter to HQ Trivia’s board asking them to remove Yusupov, though it was never formally sent. Yusupov caught wind of the plot and fired two of the leaders of the petition. That further sunk morale, leading to the exit of HQ Trivia’s SVP of brand partnerships and its marketing manager. The board began a search for a new CEO, though it’s unclear how that’s panned out.
Since then, new games HQ teased in April haven’t materialized as its download rate continued to suffer. It’s dropped to the #731 US game on iOS according to AppAnnie. HQ Trivia saw just 827,000 downloads from January through June 2019, down 92% from the 10.2 million it saw in the same time frame in 2018 according to Sensor Tower. That’s the same percentage drop in downloads from June 2019 versus June 2018, indicating Rogowsky’s replacements that started in April couldn’t turn things around.
Interest in the live game show format seems to be waning as a whole. HQ Trivia fan site HQTrivia.fan shut down this week fearing the end was near for the official game, and the (Business) INSIDER-run clone of the game on Facebook Watch called Confetti stopped airing at the end of June.
HQ Words Everyday. Coming next month.
Play HQ Words every day.
More ways to win.
$ 9.99/mo. subscription.
RT and reply with your username for a chance to win a free year. #wordseveryday
— HQ Words (@hqwords) June 26, 2019
Rather than solely monetizing a waning audience via in-app purchases and sponsorships, HQ Words announced it would debut a $ 9.99 monthly subscription sometime this month that would grant access to winning “bigger prizes”. This could be a smart way to squeeze more dollars out of a smaller but more diehard audience.
While HQ Trivia was an inspiring approach to mobile gaming, its twice-daily games didn’t fit the always-on nature of mobile. It’s failed build a proper onboarding experience that gives users a taste of it games right away rather than forcing them to wait for the next scheduled match as we suggested over a year ago. Gamers are fickle, craving instant gratification, and HQ hasn’t tried to meet them in middle.
Perhaps there’s a future for HQ on cable television, or as a small but steady business on mobile catering to loyalists. But all the unfortunate events and mismanagement may make it difficult to exceed the $ 100 million valuation it raised money at during its peak.
HQ, the live trivia game that is now seeing up to 2 million players per game, is introducing some new social features, including answer sharing with friends.
The company has been testing this feature across a small group of users already, but on Friday the feature will roll out to all HQ users.
Here’s how it works: Users can connect their address book to HQ and add their friends. Once they have added friends, they can see which of their friends are playing the game alongside them. Users can put their own avatar on the answer to a question to share their choice, which is viewable by friends.
The idea is that answer sharing mimics what many people do while playing HQ IRL, yelling out answers to their coworkers in the office or sharing with their friends and family in a bar or at home.
“We understand the power of the crowd and playing together,” said HQ product manager James Ruben. “That doesn’t necessarily exist everywhere. Our goal is to spread that power to people who maybe aren’t playing in the office together.”
This comes on the heels of HQ’s introduction of “Friends on HQ” from April, which let users see friends playing in the same quiz and see their progress through the game. Answer sharing simply takes that a step further.
Interestingly, answer sharing won’t be available on each HQ Trivia quiz. Instead, the feature will debut on Friday of this week, and continue to be available on Friday games.
“We understand that it’s a change to the game play,” said Ruben. “Friday is an interesting time to experiment and try out answer sharing because Fridays tend to be a bit more social than other days.”
Alongside answer sharing, HQ is also adding yet another social layer to the game with Nearby Friends. The feature will allow HQ players to see other people (not in their address book) who are in the same quiz as them and physically nearby, perhaps in the same office building or in the same bar or restaurant.
Finally, HQ is making it easier to upload the address book and connect with friends on the app.
HQ is an interesting business in that it’s taking an almost old-school approach to advertising/sponsorship. As opposed to social networks like Facebook, which collect as much data as possible about users to sell advertisements against that data, HQ is focused more on getting as many engaged eyeballs in the same place as possible, a bit like television advertising.
HQ doesn’t have that much information on users beyond their phone number, device type, username, and other basic information commonly gleaned by app developers. With the introduction of Friends on HQ, the company gets a bit more insight into users. But that’s not necessarily the reason for the update.
Instead, HQ wants to make these games as engaging as possible, and what’s more engaging than competing with or cheering along your friends and family.
The company is also taking a measured approach to advertising and sponsorship, working with partners that make sense for the HQ community and making those sponsorships as native as possible.
For example, HQ recently ran a $ 250,000 game with Warner Brothers as a sponsor, plugging the film Ready Player One within the graphics and even in some of the questions. The company also had Duane “The Rock” Johnson host a $ 300,000 game as part of the actor’s promotion of his upcoming movie Rampage.
Answer sharing will be available to everyone on Friday, but easier address book upload and Nearby Friends are soon to come for Android users.
HQ is redefining mobile, creating through its twice-daily trivia games a sense of urgency that pierces the monotony of our social feeds. Now it’s raised a big round of funding to turn its scrappy operation into the Jeopardy from tomorrow. But just like its 12-round games, we’ve got 12 questions (and some answers) for HQ. Read More
Social – TechCrunch
HQ Trivia, the No. 1 trivia app in the Apple App Store, has removed the minimum $ 20 balance to cash out. The company made the announcement earlier today on Twitter. Because the prize money is divvied out among sometimes hundreds of winners, people don’t often walk away with much money from a single game. Up until now, that has meant people were left with less than $ 20 in their total… Read More
Startups – TechCrunch
App-based trivia sensation HQ Trivia is on its way to Android, as the company previously revealed, but a special group of users can access it right now — Canadians. The app is now live in the Canadian Google Play Store, though it’s an “Unreleased” beta version of the live trivia game (via MobileSyrup). HQ Trivia debuted on iOS earlier this year, featuring a twice… Read More
Happy Easter, Search Engine Watch readers!
In honour of the season – and a bit of spring-like weather finally starting to creep into the air (well, at least here in the UK…) – we have put together a light-hearted search trivia quiz to test your knowledge.
What was the name of the project launched by Sergey Brin and Larry King at Stanford, which eventually became Google? What does the name of the Chinese search engine “Baidu” translate to in English? What year did mobile web traffic finally overtake desktop traffic globally – or hasn’t it yet?
Test your knowledge of all these questions and more in the Search Engine Watch Easter quiz. And don’t forget to share your score with us in the comments or on social media!