The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia; Review of CNN Films HQ Trivia Documentary

Brandon Level

In 2017, the mobile game HQ Trivia made its debut and became an instant sensation. The live trivia game, where players competed for real money, attracted millions of users from around the world. However, the breakout game was short-lived when it was eventually shut down. What happened to HQ Trivia, and why did it fail?

The mobile game disappeared just as quickly as it appeared; without a real explanation, the app stopped live streaming on February 17th, 2020, and it became history. CNN Films announced in 2022 that it would release a documentary on the infamous app, releasing two trailers prior to the March 5th, 2023 release of ‘Glitch: the Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia.’

One of the key reasons for HQ Trivia’s success was its unique format. Players would tune in at a set time, most commonly 9 p.m., to participate in a live game show, answering multiple-choice questions within 10 seconds in real time. If they answered all the questions correctly, they would split a cash prize with the other winners. The game was addictive, and the potential for real money made it all the more exciting, gathering millions of players live at some points. Peaking at over 2.3 million players at once, and growing rapidly, HQ was a success story that would change the industry forever.

However, as time went on, HQ Trivia’s popularity began to decline. The game faced several issues, such as technical glitches and cheating. Some players would use bots or search engines to find the answers to questions, which took away from the integrity and fun of the game. Additionally, the game had several outages and glitches that caused frustration among the players.

Another factor that contributed to HQ Trivia’s fall was the competition. Other apps began to offer similar games, such as The Q and Cash Show. These games offered cash prizes and had a similar format, which drew users away from HQ Trivia. While HQ Trivia was the first of its kind, it failed to adapt to the changing landscape and innovate quickly enough due to internal issues between the two founders who previously worked together at Vine, prior to selling it to Twitter.

The company behind HQ Trivia, Intermedia Labs, also struggled with internal issues.

The company’s co-founder, described as anxious and socially awkward, Colin Kroll, passed away in 2018 due to drugs, which was a significant blow to the company. Kroll was a key figure in the company’s success, and his absence left a void that the company was unable to fill.

Kroll, however, was reported to have been let go from Twitter at least in part over managerial performance issues, including verbally abusing staffers. Recode, by Vox, also interviewed former colleagues who described Kroll’s behavior towards women as “creepy,” which also drew away investors.

Intermedia Labs also faced financial issues. The company struggled to secure additional funding and was unable to monetize the app effectively. The company relied heavily on advertising, but as the app’s popularity declined, so did advertising revenue.

In early 2020, HQ Trivia announced that it would shut down. The company cited financial issues as the reason for the closure. While the game had a dedicated fanbase, tuning in almost every night at 9 p.m., it was no longer profitable.

The game’s decline shows that even the most popular apps can fall from grace if they fail to innovate and adapt. Now, apps like Facebook, Tiktok, and other individual apps, are testing ways to replicate HQ’s success. Meanwhile, developer Rus Yusupov is looking for a new project.

The story of HQ was brought to life in a way that hadn’t been done before in a CNN Films documentary. It was shocking that internal affairs were taking place, previously unknown to the general public. From the death of co-founder Colin Kroll to the verbal fights that happened, the sexual assault claims, and the sneaky business calls, HQ is a story to remember and learn from.