Problems With HQ Trivia Plague Future Success

In October of 2017, an app called HQ Trivia hit the market and was quickly a growing phenomenon. It is a creative spin on the popular idea of trivia games. While most trivia games are viewed at home in front of a television with only the viewers viewing and the contestants playing, HQ Trivia connects everybody all at once to participate in correctly answering twelve questions in a row for a split prize somewhere usually between two and ten thousand dollars. On some special occasions, the prize money will rise to fifteen or twenty thousand dollars. It sounds like a great idea. At first glance, I was immediately hooked to try and win some money without risking any. However, there a myriad of reasons that HQ Trivia must improve their processes and systems to ensure they have returning participants.

I was lucky enough to win one of these games one time. I had played many times and was becoming more and more disheartened by the fact that it seemed impossible to win. I had guessed on the multiple choice answers of questions ten and eleven and somehow knew the answer to the final twelfth question as I poked my screen with confidence. I won and learned that I had to split my 2000 dollar winnings with 139 other people totaling a whopping $14.29. As I disappointedly clicked through to try and collect my enormous prize of the equivalent of a couple of burritos from Chipotle, I came to learn that HQ Trivia does not let you cash out unless you have at least twenty dollars’ worth of winning. Not only that, but if you don’t make it to at least twenty dollars’ worth of winning after a certain amount of time, they keep the money you have earned! They have what I can only understand as an unfair stipulation in their terms and conditions when someone signs up to play their game. When I researched this topic further, I learned that this was not their only problem and I am not the only person who has vowed to never play HQ Trivia again out of anger of not winning at least twenty dollars, unwillingly forfeiting the winnings after a certain amount of time.

Another problem the game has is malfunctions with their servers every day. They sometimes reach viewership of over one million people logging on to play and their servers often cannot handle that kind of workload (Vox). This should prompt them to create servers that can actually handle the capacity for more than what their expected viewership is. It is truly maddening when you have successfully answered eight problems, and then you are kicked from the game through no fault of your own.

Lastly, it has become more and more well known that the co-founders of the popular online game have had some problems with dealing with their employees in the past. They were also co-founders of Vine, a popular six second video streaming app that was later bought by Twitter. Colin Kroll developed a reputation at Vine and subsequently at Twitter as having a “’creepy’ behavior around women, as well as being a bad manager with an “abrasive” and ‘abusive’ temperament” (Vox). Furthermore, the other co-founder, Rus Yusupov, has recently had a strange and undeserving freak out on the increasingly popular host of the game show, Scott Rogowsky. It seems problematic that these things are happening within a company and makes me, as the user, even more inclined to stay as far away from re-downloading that app ever again.

Perhaps, the main investors of the company should consider new management if the co-founders’ erratic temperament persists and their servers continue to malfunction. Hopefully, they will be able to see my cause-and-effect fishbone diagram seen at the bottom of this page for why I think they are going to be losing viewership. We can deduct that HQ Trivia is having problems within their company and that is driving many viewers from wanting to use their poorly run, mismanaged systems to try and win a prize that they might not even be able to cash out on.


11 thoughts on “Problems With HQ Trivia Plague Future Success

  • February 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    I found your story very interesting as I think your experience is very relatable. The idea of “easy winnings” and getting rich quickly is so enticing to many while the odds of success are close to impossible. Understanding how consumers spend their time and the ways to monetize those opportunities is something companies, such as the one you are describing, seem to actually do quite well. While the ethical implications of their actions and debatable false claims in their advertising leave many frustrated, the practice does not seem uncommon.

  • February 1, 2018 at 8:25 am


    Thanks for bringing up such a relevant topic. Although your biggest problem with the app, the ability to collect earnings, seems to be fixed, I wonder if it is too late. In my opinion, apps and games like these half a certain shelf life. We live in a constantly-changing fast paced world, and rarely do these types of apps maintain their “hype” for significant periods of time. I would imagine that there are plenty of users, like you, who did not receive their winnings and have stopped playing the game, with no intention of continuing.

    I, like most, downloaded and played the game for some time. I deleted the app about a week ago and most of my friends have done the same. In order to be successful, these types of products need to be changing and adapting constantly, and I have not seen that out of HQ. That, coupled with what seems to be poor management, is not the recipe for success. It will be interesting to follow HQ for the next few months to see if it adapts and grows as an app.

  • January 31, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Connor, this is really enlightening. I, as I am sure many of my other classmates have, downloaded HQ and was initially excited to be competing on the app and laughing along to Scott as the nightly game developed and ultimately eliminated me around question 5. This app raised some initial legitimacy questions for me, but those have since passed. I recently upgraded my phone, and have been meaning to download HQ, but these issues you discuss are restricting me from doing so. I had no idea HQ is so troubled in terms of their processes. It seems as if there is little structure within the operations, and they are more inclined to boast the cash prize and quirky brand image as opposed to focusing on the player experience and making sure their processes aid in a smooth platform to engage with. The fact that their servers are failing due to overwhelming amounts of volume is worrisome. I’m not sure if I will be downloading this again! Thanks for the insight!

  • January 31, 2018 at 7:09 pm


    Thanks for posting. Though it would appear that your primary concern with the app had been fixed already, I agree that “lag” as Andrew mentioned, is frustrating. However, the chance to win any amount of money for absolutely no cost will always attract large enough numbers of people for a system to experience infrastructure problems. I like that you drew up a Fishbone chart, which is a great tool for management to visualize causes and effects and hopefully resolve their issues.

    Largely to HQ’s credit, the app works well in most cases. Such a dramatic increase in DAUs will necessitate swift and sweeping change. I hope that Rus and Colin can work out their people problems and get down to the hearts of the issues, which are fixing the bugs and making the app profitable for the VC firms that are counting on them.

  • January 31, 2018 at 4:43 pm


    I think you’ve brought up several great points in your brief post. For the purposes of this reply, I’d like to focus on HQ’s IT issues

    In many ways, the IT problems, or “lag,” that many users have experienced while playing HQ is a blessing and a curse. In HQ’s earliest days, ten thousand users could easily, and reliably connect to the game (The Verge). However, the explosive growth that has drawn over one million players at times (the blessing) has resulted in immense pressure on HQ’s servers (the curse). I’m not sure if you have taken info systems yet, but my biggest takeaway from the course is that IT systems have three primary dimensions: infrastructure, platforms, and applications. The complexity and investment needed is the highest for infrastructure; platforms are less complex and require less investment than infrastructure; finally, applications are the least complex and expensive to implement as the previous two dimensions. For the purposes of HQ, servers are the infrastructure that their IT platform and mobile application are built on. For the apps founders, estimating the popularity of (i.e. demand for) their application was likely one of the most important project management decisions that they made because that estimate informed other crucial decisions concerning IT investment. I would imagine that the book would classify this IT investment as a form of resource allocation, or the assignment of resources (cash) to the most important activities.

    Words: 238

  • January 31, 2018 at 1:15 pm


    As someone who has also played HQ before and deleted the app after a few weeks, I share in your frustration. I also agree that they have many bugs they need to get worked out before they continue to lose players. In order for HQ to have continued success, they will have to deal with the same issues Twitter and Facebook had to address as they were growing: continuous increases in daily users. As it relates to HQ’s processes, they also have an interesting road ahead as it relates to their investors. When I first started playing, I was interested in where exactly the prize money comes from. What I found could spell trouble down the road.

    I was initially so interested because there are no ads on the game, not even product placement or sponsored questions. As it turns out, the prize money is actually coming from the Silicon Valley investors that have put money into the firm. As of December 8th, 2017, HQ had raised $8 million, while valuing their company at $80 to $100 million. Right now, they are not focused on profitability, but instead on building usership. However, as indicated by your reaction to the app, as well as many others that agree with you, they are struggling to keep the app functioning well. In order to become profitable, they want to grow large enough to a point where companies will pay to be associated with the app. If HQ does not figure out the basic issues now, they are not going to be in a strong position to grow their daily participant figures.

    To read more about this, read this Time article that I used to gather my information:

    • January 31, 2018 at 7:15 pm


      I think your discussion about HQ’s prize money funding is very interesting. I too was very confused as to where HQ was getting the funding to distribute cash prizes twice a day, every day. I think HQ is at a crucial position at the moment. They have the opportunity to rework their process and evaluate their management if they want to be successful in the future. Because they currently have no revenue stream, I agree in that they need to grow large enough and manage their PR well enough to ensure that other companies will want to be associated with the app. Once they reach this point, they will be able to run advertisements while the game is playing, thus will be able to begin earning revenue of their own and continue running the game. If HQ does not reevaluate their management, server bandwidth, and PR then soon enough they will run out of money from venture capitalist.

  • January 30, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Connor, I never realized HQ could be so problematic. I’ve never played the game and have heard a lot about it, so I just assumed the game to be nothing but fun. As you mentioned, there seems to be a lot of problems with the app, from the poor servers to the even poorer management. With their current positioning and performance, it seems like a mix of process reengineering and improvement is necessary. In terms of reengineering, HQ needs new management. For as popular as Vine was, and believe me, I loved Vine, it failed and is no longer available. It’s certainly possible that Kroll and Yusupov left Twitter with a mess of a business, causing Vine to be taken off the market. Unless they bring in more levelheaded, empathetic, and skilled managers, HQ could be facing a similar fate.

    While management is certainly a big problem, HQ will also need to utilize process improvements to remedy the other issues you mentioned. The biggest problem that needs process improvement seems to be the constant server crashing. In my Business Information Systems course, we are currently learning about the pros and cons of technology, and one of the biggest pros today is cloud computing. Cloud computing consists of business applications, platforms, and infrastructure that all work together to change the landscape of technology. Instead of managing servers in-house, and I’m not sure if they do, HQ should absolutely be contracting out their technology needs to companies like Microsoft or Google. By doing this, HQ will only pay for what they use, completely cut in-house maintenance costs, and receive professional advice and help through the service. By taking advantage of cloud computing and entrusting their servers to a company who can handle it, HQ can begin to work on even more of the issues currently plaguing the app.

  • January 30, 2018 at 7:30 pm


    I really like how you used HQ Trivia as an example of an organization where processes can be improved. I too play HQ Trivia sometimes. I have not yet won but if I ever do I will be excited despite likely only winning around $10-$20. When playing a few days ago I learned that HQ Trivia has changed their cash out policy.
    This means if a player wins they are no longer subject to the $20 cash out minimum and can receive their money immediately. I look at this change as a process improvement to avoid loss of viewership.

    I agree with your assessment of the other process issues within HQ Trivia as well. The servers cannot handle the capacity of the number of players causing players to not be able to answer questions. The company could analyze data on server performance to see if there are ways to maximize performance. This issue could be improved by server expansion and development, but this is likely a costly issue.

    An issue then arrises looking at the revenue of the company. At the moment HQ Trivia is not running advertisements or charging money from players. They simply have no revenue stream. The cost of their host, app, servers, and cash prizes are all being funded through venture capital. (Vox) This is an issue because for businesses to succeed they either need to be profitable or in the case of businesses like Amazon, investing in research and development that can lead to increased process efficiency and revenue. The management of the company also leaves me feeling uneasy. Given the prevalence of the #metoo movement and the popularity of the app it is likely that the company will receive bad publicity for the behavior of their founder. The company will likely need to evaluate their management and see how they can better handle their public relations.


    • January 31, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Kate, thank you for your insightful comments. The largest issue I see with HQ Trivia is that they have no revenue stream, putting them in an interesting situation going forward. In order to afford the cost of their host, app, servers, and cash prizes, HQ Trivia has two options. First, they could charge users money to use the app through either a monthly or yearly fee with auto-renewal. The second option would be to start running in-app advertisements, which I think is the best option. Vine, a video sharing social media platform, ultimately failed after they were in this same situation as HQ Trivia without a way to generate revenue. On the other hand, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat all started out with no advisements but slowly incorporated in-app advertising into their platforms, which has proven to be very successful and a large revenue generator. HQ Trivia must soon decide how they will continue to fund their app in order to be successful.

      • January 31, 2018 at 9:36 pm


        HQ Trivia is definitely a current topic since so many people are playing it and it is interesting to look at the app from a supply chain perspective. I previously did not know that it is funded by venture capital. While that is working for now, it won’t last forever. The investors are expecting a profit sometime in the future. I agree with Lily that HQ has two options and I see them going with the second. However, they face an issue with this because they need to make the incorporation of advertisements as seamless as possible. As someone who as played the game, it would deter me from playing if I had to sit though an advertisement as some point in the game. Rus Yusupov has the same concerns. He has been quotes as saying, “If we do any brand integrations or sponsors, the focus will be on making it enhance the gameplay. For a user, the worst thing is feeling like, ‘I’m being optimized – I’m the product now.’ We want to make a great game, and make it grow and become something really special.” He has also said that they have gotten a lot of interest from brands to work with HQ. It will be interesting to see how they will incorporate advertising, but it does seem like it is only a matter of time before it starts.


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