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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

Go deeper

Trump bump: NYT and WaPo digital subscriptions tripled since 2016

Data: Axios reporting and public filings; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Times and The Washington Post have very different strategies for building the subscription news company of the future.

The big picture: Sources tell Axios that the Post is nearing 3 million digital subscribers, a 50% year-over-year growth in subscriptions and more than 3x the number of digital-only subscribers it had in 2016. The New York Times now has more than 6 million digital-only subscribers, nearly 3x its number from 2016.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Biden's emerging climate orbit

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

As of Tuesday morning, we know a lot more about President-elect Joe Biden climate personnel orbit, even as picks for agencies like EPA and DOE are outstanding, so here are a few early conclusions.

Why it matters: They're the highest-level names yet announced who will have a role in what Biden is promising will be a far-reaching climate and energy agenda.

Janet Yellen is back

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

A face familiar to Wall Street is back as a central player that this time will need to steer the country out of a deep economic crisis.

Driving the news: President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary.