Over the past year, people have been receiving daily push notifications to participate in a live trivia game full of pop culture questions, quirky host commentary and, most importantly, cash prizes. Those prizes, since HQ Trivia launched in August 2017, have always fallen somewhere between $5,000 on the low end and $400,000 at the game’s peak.
The free-to-play mobile app has garnered a lot of buzz in its brief history, onboarding roughly 2.4 million people to play the game simultaneously on its best day, on March 28. It is attracting a large following, but spending a great amount of money in the process, as the prize pools are guaranteed ahead of competition.
However, the big spend is not stopping the HQ Trivia team from expanding. Founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, who also founded the once popular short video clip service Vine (may it rest in peace), have been busy taking HQ Trivia to the United Kingdom with a U.K. based game that launched in January as well as a more recently launched game for Germany. Yet, what really excites them is the potential for new verticals within the main game, and the first one to test the market is HQ Sports.
“For us, the number one goal is to create a new community around sports and to build that audience,” says Yusupov. “We’ve been able to create a community around HQ Trivia with a lot of interest from brands and sponsor interest, and successfully work with brands and sponsors that makes the gameplay more interesting and exciting.”
An example of a prior partnership that would lend well to the new HQ Sports vertical is the partnership with Nike that was executed on Air Max Day. HQ Trivia gave away a total of $100,000 and four pairs of limited-edition HQ Air Max 270 sneakers to winners of the competition on that day.
Another example of a sponsorship that HQ Trivia has brokered is with Warner Bros., which guaranteed a $250,000 prize pool and netted the trivia game $3 million. As HQ Trivia focuses on boosting its new HQ Sports vertical, promising more and more prize pools, these types of sponsorships will be vital for growth, longevity and ultimately turning a profit.
HQ Trivia is a venture-backed firm that has received financing from a few high-profile venture capital firms. Founders Fund led a $15 million round in HQ Trivia in early 2018, giving the company roughly a $100 million post-money valuation. That money has given HQ Trivia the flexibility to play with the size of the prizes and continue to build features, such as a new HQ Sports game with a dedicated host and team of content creators.
Eventually, more sponsors with open wallets will be needed.
“Because we’ve been able to aggregate audiences in the millions, playing live in the same time, we are able to offer sponsors something different than traditional advertising products out there,” says Yusupov with confidence.
The HQ Sports vertical is still very new. It officially launched with a special $10,000 World Cup-themed game that received roughly 500,000 players. Users can expect to see many more of these themed games, surrounding popularized sporting events, to pop up in the future. However, HQ Sports will also have a weekly Tuesday and Friday 10 p.m. et game that may include a variety of questions from different areas in the world of sport.
Thus far, HQ Sports has grown from 106,000 peak concurrent users when it started testing the new game, to more than 156,000 peak concurrent users during its July 20 game, an increase of 47% in a very short time span.
Others are looking at the success that HQ Trivia has achieved and would like to duplicate same. One competitor that only recently launched is called That’s Right!, another live quiz show premised on giving away cash prizes with free gameplay. Just like the founders of HQ Trivia, That’s Right says it is gearing up for a sports-centric offering.
“Not only we are emphasizing sports questions in our first show, but we also plan to launch other shows and create a game show network,” says That’s Right! CEO Orkan Arat. “One of the plans is to start creating specific shows for specific sports. For instance, the football show would appeal directly to fantasy football players all over the nation. Sports have created the opportunity for business to entertain fans while testing their knowledge. There is no greater pleasure than beating your buddies when it comes to sports trivia.”