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HQ Trivia, the once-popular mobile game, is shutting down

CNN logo CNN 3 days ago By Kerry Flynn, CNN Business
BRAZIL - 2019/07/08: In this photo illustration an HQ Trivia logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) © Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images BRAZIL - 2019/07/08: In this photo illustration an HQ Trivia logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It's over for HQ Trivia.

The company behind the once-popular live mobile trivia game is shutting down, CNN Business has learned. HQ will part ways with 25 full-time employees.

When HQ launched in 2017, its first game HQ Trivia quickly attracted millions of people across the world who stopped whatever they were doing twice a day to play the game on their smartphones. The company was profiled by The New York Times and its original host Scott Rogowsky became a household name, appearing on programs like NBC's "Today" show.

But over the next year, the game's popularity faded and its parent company was hit with a series of setbacks. The company grappled with internal turmoil, including the death of HQ cofounder Colin Kroll, who died in December 2018 from a drug overdose.

CEO Rus Yusupov said in a company-wide email on Friday that "lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution."

In the email, which was obtained by CNN Business, Yusupov also disclosed that the company had hired a banker "to help find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company." He said the company had "received an offer from an established business" and was expected to close the deal on Saturday, but the potential acquisition fell through.

In recent months, HQ tried to expand its audience by launching new products, including a photo challenge game in December called HQX.

"Since Colin and I founded the company, we really set out to develop this network of live interactive shows on mobile phones," Yusupov told CNN Business at the time.

HQ generated millions in revenue through brand partnerships and in-app purchases — a feat few young consumer tech companies could boast of in their early years. It worked with big-name brands such as Nike and Google and partnered with NBC, ABC and CBS to promote their programs. HQ's sponsored show for Warner Bros' "The Lego Movie 2" was nominated for an Emmy. (Warner Bros. and CNN are both owned by WarnerMedia.)

But HQ wasn't immune from financial woes. The company laid off employees in July 2019 and other staffers left.

HQ raised $15 million at a $100 million valuation in March 2018. The company had previously raised $8 million.

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