Let’s be honest, the writing’s been on the wall for a while now.
HQ Trivia announced its shuttering Friday in a notification to users that seems to imply the company gives precisely zero fucks at this point: “HQ is live. Just kidding. We’re off-air indefinitely.” Not even a “Thanks for playing,” as the notification goes on to say, makes up for that burn.
It’s an abrupt end for the once-viral live trivia app, formerly valued at more than $100 million while boasting millions of concurrent players that competed for its daily prize pools. That was back in ye olden days of 2018, though, HQ Trivia’s heyday. Mounting complaints about rampant cheating via bots and delayed payouts for winners have dogged the company since, and its viewer numbers only continued to spiral with the addition of an unpopular points-based system that left fans questioning whether HQ was struggling to maintain its cash flow.
On Friday, CEO Rus Yusupov told employees that “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution,” per a company-wide email obtained by CNN Business. In a last-ditch effort, the email continues, HQ previously hired a banker “to help find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company” and they’d even “received an offer from an established business” projected to be finalized Saturday. But those plans ultimately fell through, he said per the report. Leaving HQ Trivia, and its now-former 25 full-time employees, SOL.
“With HQ we showed the world the future of TV,” Yusupov tweeted Friday, commenting on the company’s shuttering. “We didn’t get to where we hoped but we did stretch the world’s imagination for what’s possible on our smartphones. Thanks to everyone who helped build this and thanks for playing.”
And while thanking fans for playing is nice, one glaring question Yusupov and HQ Trivia have failed to touch on, however, is what happens to any winnings players haven’t cashed out yet. Well, sad to say, it’s looking like they may well be SOL too.
While HQ Trivia did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for inquiry, several fans have already reported encountering problems when trying to obtain their earnings. Some users said they received an error message when they tried to access their account balance, while others claimed their balance had inexplicably dropped to zero, erasing its previous total. A few said they managed to successfully navigate to the page and request a payout, but, though the app asked for their PayPal information in order to transfer the winnings, they’ve yet to receive any cash.
To really get a sense of the company’s precipitous nosedive in just a few short years, let me snag you for a stroll down memory lane.
Developed by Vine creators Yusupov and Colin Kroll, HQ Trivia enjoyed ridiculously viral success—to the point where its mushrooming viewership practically rendered the app unusable from lag—after its launch in 2017. At its zenith in March 2018, the app reportedly hosted 2.38 million concurrent players. Long-established heavy hitters like General Motors, ABC, and NBC were vying for partnership deals, Time magazine ranked it the number one app of the year, and it was even nominated for an Emmy for its partnership with Warner Bros. to promote The Lego Movie 2.
By the summer of 2018, though, things were already beginning to spiral. As public interest waned (and complaints didn’t) its viewership and app store ranking continued to fall month after month. In a now-deleted tweet, Yusupov tried to assuage concerns about the company at the time, saying “Games are a hits business and don’t grow exponentially forever.” The company also battled with internal turmoil, including the death of its co-founder, Kroll, in December 2018 from a drug overdose and, later, a full-fledged employee mutiny to oust Yusupov, who staffers claimed was driving HQ Trivia into the ground (looks like they were right on that one). Heavy layoffs last July that cut a quarter of its employees also signaled HQ Trivia’s finances had taken a turn for the worse.
However, for most HQ Trivia players, the company’s death knell came with the departure of fan-favorite host Scott Rogowsky early last year.
See what happens when you leave, “quiz daddy”? Everything goes to hell.