Feb 18, 2020 - Technology

What to learn from HQ Trivia's demise

Scott Rogowsky, the former host of HQ Trivia
Scott Rogowsky, the former host of HQ Trivia on Jan. 28, 2019. Photo: Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

The death of the company behind HQ Trivia is a reminder of just how hard it is to win in the hit-driven games business.

Why it matters: Those seeking to invest in or value game startups would be wise to remember this the next time a company based upon a single premise turns briefly red-hot.

  • HQ announced Friday it was shutting down, laying off its remaining 25 employees.

Flashback: HQ Trivia was once the talk of mobile games, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to its nightly contests, luring celebrity hosts and sponsors and raising $15 million in a funding round that valued the company at $100 million.

Yes, but: The premise of a live game show with cash prizes was initially alluring. But people found victory brought only small-change rewards, and the novelty playing live wore off before the company could come up with another big hit.

  • The company suffered another blow when CEO (and co-founder of both HQ and Vine) Colin Kroll died in December 2018, at age 35, of an apparent drug overdose.

Our thought bubble: It's hard to turn a hit into a franchise, and harder still to turn a franchise into a sustainable company.

Go deeper: Digital game spending hit a record $109 billion in 2019

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