Is it 3pm or 9pm EST yet? Are you plugged into a power source? Are your fingers flexed? Are you on fast wifi? Are you chill in the chat? Is it Scott — or some special guest? If you know what I’m talking about already then you’re in the know about HQ.
For those that don’t know HQ:
"HQ is a trivia game, not wholly dissimilar from TV game shows like Jeopardy! or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, except minus the studio audience and having to answer in the form of a question. Every day at 3pm and 9pm US eastern time, a host walks everyone watching through a series of 12 multiple-choice questions on a range of topics. Get all 12 right, and you win a share of the prize pot for that day; on New Year’s Eve, HQ gave away $18,000. Get a single question wrong, and you’re out.”
Why it's interesting
HQ is an app that you can only use for two proscribed 10-minute sessions a day, and is otherwise useless. Unlike other games that try all kinds of tricks to keep you playing (or make in-app purchases), you cannot spend money on HQ, there are no ads, and you can’t pick it up anytime you want.
The most fascinating piece of this puzzle is that HQ is a scheduled shared experience. You can be alone, looking at a single phone with a couple of people, all on your own phones sitting around a table, or yelling your answer across the studio. It’s a limited time commitment of 10 minutes. You know that during those 10 minutes, a million people have just paused their day to play. As so much of the past 10 years has moved to on-demand media, being bound to the clock is certainly novel.
While I wasn’t anything more than curious, the Pokemon craze last year had a similar quality of bringing people together in both the physical and digital worlds.
My prediction is they will add different hosts speaking in other languages, but still playing the same game at the same time, to truly move this worldwide quickly. I also would bet they add 2 more games a day: 3am and 9am to cover the whole world.
Even if they keep raising the prize money, the more people play, the more the math says the actual winning amount per person will remain roughly the same. I do believe a $10,000 prize for every game will be the tipping point in popularity though.
I give it 2 more months of fame — then they’ll wreck it somehow. They’ll add special sponsored games, or have grand championships, or something that might seem like a good idea, but in the end will detract from the current simple format that is already a winner. Many articles online already say it already jumped the shark back in mid December. I disagree as the format has remained the same, only its user base has exploded. The shark jump will come with the format.
What will really be interesting is what comes after HQ. I think we’ll see more and more of these “online competition” apps springing up. Things like "where in the world is ____” or “here’s your code for today — find and join up with 5 people who have the same code and win". It’s not hard to draw parallels between these and Black Mirror episodes, or the final scene in “The Circle” (a mediocre movie at best) where crowdsourcing and collaborative missions take on a dark tone. This Atlantic writer calls the game a harbinger of dystopia. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
The Verge published 7 ideas for improvement back in December which I’d love to see implemented.
On a lighter note, I’ll leave you with one final tip. Swipe right and hide that chat! It’s the worst of the worst, making some YouTube comments look like prose.
Now — is it 3pm yet? My phone is charged.