Last fall, the world was introduced to the hit app, HQ Trivia. If you’re not familiar with the name, the premise is simple: players answer live trivia questions for the opportunity to win real money.

In less than a year, the app has already accumulated an average of 2 million players per game. HQ’s immense popularity has led other app developers to analyze the factors that contributed to its overnight success. What makes HQ special? How did it acquire its large fanbase so quickly? Why do players keep coming back?

That’s why we’re taking a closer look at what makes the app such a hit, and what core strategies other developers can emulate in hopes of making it big. Here are our top 7 takeaways:


Tip #1: Develop a Routine


Before DVR and Netflix, audiences had to make an effort to be home in time to watch their favorite TV shows. HQ has replicated this “only time to watch” strategy with an “only time to play” parallel to help gain and incentivize more new players.

Think of it as appointment viewing for the mobile age.


Tip #2: Stir Up A Sense of FOMO


HQ Trivia’s live stream is one of its key differentiators. The app goes live every day at 3 pm and 9 pm ET, which creates a sense of urgency and #FOMO (fear of missing out) among players.

In the age of social media, it’s hard to miss a beat. People are acutely aware of what others are doing at all times, and if everyone is playing the same hot game together, nobody wants to be the only one missing out on the big trend.


Tip #3: Money Is Universal


In most risk/reward scenarios, more people will be willing to throw their hat into the ring when there’s cold hard cash at stake.

While it makes sense for some apps to offer up real money (take eCommerce sales and special travel offers for example), other genres may not be such a seamless fit. But, with a little creative thinking, any app can find some great giveaways to incentive users – even small wins like earning badges or extra lives can go a long way.

For any vertical, the takeaway here is the same; real, tangible rewards will help to attract and retain a wider audience.


Tip #4: Make It All-Inclusive


HQ Trivia is fun for the whole family. Data shows that HQ is most popular on Sundays and when it coincides with a holiday, awards show, or major sporting event.

Rather than talk about politics around the dinner table, families and friends can agree to come together and play a harmless game of trivia for the chance to win big together


Tip #5: Encourage Community


In addition to being inclusive, the app seamlessly promotes community. At first, early adopters talked about the app with others because of its “cool factor”. The game was live, there was a fun host, and you could actually win a real prize.

But as word spread, more and more people stared telling their friends and family about HQ so they could play together. With every new person by your side, the odds of someone knowing the right answer increase – and so do your chances of winning. Like this, HQ offers an all new way to use our mobile devices to get social together, live and in person.


Tip #6: Tap into Psychological Motivations


While HQ promotes community among friends and family, it also incorporates a Darwinian approach — only the strongest and the smartest survive. After each question, you see how many people answered correctly versus incorrectly.

Players feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when they discover they’re one of thousands who answered the question right to move on to the next round, while thousands of others are out of the game.


Tip #7: You’ll Get ‘Em Next Time!


Lastly, HQ Trivia always keeps you coming back for more. Whether you get out on the first question or the last, or even want to add to your previous winnings, HQ incentivizes people to keep engaging for another chance to win at the same familiar time and place.

And, with the occasional celebrity guest host or special jackpot prize, they always find a way to keep the game fresh and keep people wanting more.


If you’re still not sure how these tips apply to your app, then hear this: just keep it simple.

HQ didn’t pull out all the bells and whistles at once. In fact, it only recently began partnering with online advertisers like Warner Bros and giving players the option to connect with friends. One of the most important takeaways for any app is to start small, listen to what your audience likes and dislikes, and work up from there.