There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
That could be what Rus Yusupov, CEO of the new HQ trivia app, is telling himself after his “off the rails” interview with a Daily Beast reporter this week thrust him into an unwanted spotlight. Of course, Yusupov’s popular app was already earning a fair amount of buzz before this week, with some time slots for the app’s live trivia game show pulling in more than 100,000 simultaneous viewers each. The mobile trivia app has gone viral, thanks in part to the game’s popular comedian host, and it’s now looking like even some bad PR won’t slow down HQ.
Considering how much buzz the app is getting—the game has been called “addictive” and one publication even mused that the game-show app could be the “Future of TV”—Fortune thought it would be helpful to put together a handy guide to HQ for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about.
What is HQ?
Yusupov and partner Colin Kroll, both co-founders of the short-video sharing app Vine, launched a series of apps after Twitter announced it would shut down Vine last year after having acquired it four years earlier. The new apps included the live video broadcasting app Hype, which never really took off. But Yusupov told Variety recently that his team took note of the popularity of game show-type content that Hype’s users were creating, which led to the development of HQ. The quiz-show app launched in August and has steadily built a strong following of mobile users who tune in to one of the app’s twice daily (on weekdays), 15-minute game shows for the chance to win real cash prizes by answering a series of multiple-choice general trivia questions.
How do you play?
Any iOS user can download the free app and create a username, which then grants them access to any of HQ’s daily live trivia games. The shows, usually hosted by comedian Scott Rogowsky, go live at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST on weekdays, with only one show (at 9 p.m. EST) on weekends. Each show involves the host presenting about a dozen rapid-fire trivia questions on topics that cover pretty much anything under the sun (ranging from tech to sports to pop culture, etc.). If you answer every question correctly within 10 seconds each, you’ll split the cash prize pool for that given show. Users who invite friends to join the app with a referral code can also earn “extra lives” that allow them to get back into a game even if they answer a question incorrectly, thus giving them additional opportunities to win money.
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How much can you win?
The size of HQ’s prize pools tend to vary. When the app launched over the summer, the pools were about $100, but they’ve climbed into the thousands of dollars in recent weeks. Variety noted on Tuesday that the most money any individual player had won to that point was just over $500 over the course of multiple games, but the startup hopes to one day offer prize pools as big as $1 million, which would mean significantly richer payouts to players. The winnings are delivered to players by linking a PayPal account.
Is it available for Android?
At the moment, HQ is only available for download on Apple’s iOS devices, but the company says that an Android version is coming soon.
Why is everyone talking about HQ?
Aside from the app’s growing popularity with users, HQ made headlines this week after Yusupov made a failed attempt to stop the Daily Beast from publishing a profile of HQ host Rogowsky on Tuesday. Yusupov told Daily Beast reporter Taylor Lorenz that she was “putting Scott’s job in jeopardy” —i.e. he could be fired—if she published a profile on the game show host without going through HQ’s public relations operation. Lorenz went on to publish quotes from Yusupov’s mini-freakout as part of the Rogowsky story, including an exchange in which the CEO strongly objected to her inclusion in the article of a personal tidbit about the restaurant where Rogowsky prefers to buy salads (hint: it’s Sweetgreen).
After being roundly mocked online, Yusupov seemed to recognize that he’d gone too far in trying to kill the story and he apologized to Lorenz in a Twitter post featuring a picture of himself with Rogowsky, eating a Sweetgreen salad. He also told Lorenz in a follow-up interview: “I don’t want to fire Scott. Scott is our guy.”