Bad news for quiz lovers everywhere: HQ Trivia, the live mobile trivia game, is shutting down and laying off its remaining 25 full-time employees, according to CNN. On Friday, users were scrambling to claim leftover prize money — and facing error messages when they try to cash out.
The app launched in 2017 and gained a massive following the next year by summoning users twice a day for 15-minute video segments and the chance to win cash prizes by correctly answering questions. Paired with an eccentric comedic host, Scott Rogowsky, the addictive trivia game easily topped the App Store charts.
However, the company’s internal troubles made headlines just one year after it launched. Complaints of delayed payouts, plus an explosive CEO shuffle, made its millions of once die-hard users quickly drop off. (Co-founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll also founded 6-second streaming platform Vine. Kroll died of an overdose in December 2018.) One of HQ Trivia’s more notable public relation nightmares came after controversial entrepreneur Peter Thiel was revealed as a financial backer.
In a company-wide email, obtained by CNN, Yusupov said “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution.”
HQ CEO Rus Yusupov just sent a note to staffers (25 full-time employees): "This is one of the hardest things to do in my life, and I'm really sorry for any disruption this may cause you and our players." https://t.co/xmVWdVIFv7 pic.twitter.com/MOWfs434m1
— Kerry Flynn ???? (@kerrymflynn) February 14, 2020
At the beginning of 2019, HQ Trivia announced it received $10 million in ad revenue. Sponsorships with General Motors, Nike, and Warner Bros. followed.
But later that same year, in July, it laid off 20% of its staff, leading other employees to walk out, too. Reports of “low morale” and cash shortages made HQ Trivia shift its business model to include more in-app purchases. As users became increasingly uninterested in the game, revenues began to decline, and executives started looking to develop other gaming apps, like HQX, to retain viewer attention.
Ultimately, all efforts failed despite Yusupov’s incentive to “find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company,” according to CNN.
After learning the news, some social media users wondered if they would still be able to receive payouts from past winnings. A few tried to cash out their earnings using the app and ran into error messages.
Hey @hqtrivia sorry y’all are shut down now but does this mean I can’t cash out my last winnings?? Just tried for the last few minutes and no luck. Bummed to see that Mighty Ducks knowledge and @hqwords prowess will be lost to the ether without my cash prize pic.twitter.com/pBFDyRVEys
— Jen Smith (@supercommonname) February 15, 2020
It’s just over?? What about the prize money we accrued?
— Melissa Barngrover (@MelissaB425) February 14, 2020
When Jean Henegan tried to cash out Friday afternoon, she was faced with an error message.
“I’m stuck with $13.85 [and] I can’t cash out,” Henegan told Digital Trends. “I got notifications over the last two days about cashing out, but assumed it would be fine.”
Henegan added she never received a notification about cashing out before.
HQ Trivia did not immediately return request for comment from Digital Trends on whether players will still awarded the cash prizes they accrued in the game.
At its peak, HQ Trivia had 15 million all-time installations. This past month, it only had 67,000, according to a spokesperson from Sensor Tower.
At least it will be remembered as a great way to make it to 3 p.m. on a weekday.