Thoughts on HQ Trivia

• ~700 words • 3 minute read

Recently I tried HQ Trivia for the first time. My short take: it’s fun, because people like trivia, and bright, fun colors, and the one-in-million chance of having the host call out your username in real-time adds a layer joyful suspense.

Oh, and there’s also the allure of money. That’s the real reason people play it. And, as money has a way of doing to things, it strips away of a lot of its innocence and makes it feel a little gross.

The whole thing reminds me a little too much of Lance Boyle from the 1993 PC game MegaRace:

In this cyber-punky, futuristic racing game virtually-induced violence and mayhem was encouraged in a racing gameshow that was broadcast onto seemingly every available screen in society.

If you’re unfamiliar, HQ Trivia is a live trivia game show brought to you in an app. It’s from the makers of Vine, a now defunct app that people used to share 6-second videos. They couldn’t make money off it and black people loved it, so they shuttered it. Obviously that’s not an officially stated reason, but only one of those two things is incredibly common in “tech[^1]” so I’ll leave it to you to read between the lines[^2].

They’re doubling-down on one of those things however, as HQ Trivia almost certainly generates no revenue and they’re literally giving (somebody’s) money away.

My take is hardly novel or new:

The path to actually making money off this silly thing seems clear when you read about the tantrum the CEO threw when its host was interviewed by The Daily Beast:

In particular it’s this quote, where the CEO freaks out about Sweetgreen salads:

“He cannot say that!” Yusupov shouted. “We do not have a brand deal with Sweetgreen! Under no circumstances can he say that.”

Obviously the plan is to get a bunch of users for free by giving them money and then start introducing commercials, ads or some other kind of co-branding. Maybe it’ll work, but I’m not optimistic.

It’s interesting to learn about this and balance it against the news that one of my favorite iOS apps that I’ve actually used for work was shutdown yesterday by Panic. It’s frustrating to read all the comments there telling the company they need to change their business plans and adopt a subscription model, because I’m highly doubtful it’s based on any real evidence. The only other indie-sized, professional-quality software that I’m aware of that might be making money off their iOS line is OmniGroup, but it’s entirely conjecture.

The app store is such a fucking casino dumpster fire right now. I blame Steve Jobs (and Apple at large) when he suggested the software should be free or priced like a ringtone. I completely understand the consumer appeal but it makes non-game, non-entertainment indie software development incredibly hard on these platforms. It’s done the professionals in the industry a major disservice woefully devaluing software.

I realize this started off talking about HQ Trivia and turned into another thing. It’s all over the map. I have a lot of underdeveloped opinions about all this and just wanted to throw something out there for now.


[^1]: I use the term “tech” loosely because the lasting impact something like HQ Trivia is going to have is largely systemic and cultural and has nothing to do with any of the underlying technologies that power it. The phones in our pockets might as well be televisions, dumb receivers broadcasting whatever hot garbage multi-millionaires want to pump into it. Google, Apple and even Facebook it is not.

[^2]: Maybe that seems like a harsh indictment for pulling the plug on a money-losing venture, which sounds sane on the surface. But “tech” as it’s discussed popularly is so rife with money-losing boondoggles they deserve every bit of criticism that can be levied agains them and then some. It’s an industry of vanity machines for millionaires built out of golden gears on a borrowed dime and lubricated with snake oil.