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Vanity, Greed, Trivia, and Platforms

Recently I started playing a trivia game called IQ Trivia on Twitter. This game is structurally very similar to the wildly popular HQ Trivia in that it has 12 questions and if you answer all 12 correctly, you split a cash prize with all the other winners. Now, I used to play HQ trivia religiously but gradually lost the drive to tune in every day, despite an upward momentum in their cash prize. I also played Cash Show and several other similar quiz formats to satiate my desire for competition.

However, recently when I restarted playing IQ Trivia, I spent some time thinking deeply about consumer behavior around these trivia games.

First, why do we play these games? There are three forces at play here - the allure of winning cash prizes, the self-imposed sense of smartness, intelligence, or accomplishment, and an elevation of social status due to money/intelligence.

Cash is king. No matter how much money you have in your bank account, you always want to compete hard when there is money on the line, partly because it has a real-world tangible value. I remember when I won Cash Show for $2.13, and just a couple days ago, when I won IQ trivia for $11.11, I was ecstatic, not because I needed the ~13 dollars but because my accomplishment was elevated by attaching a monetary value to it (no matter how small).

I have several personal examples to illustrate my point. I won two national quiz contests in high school - one where I won a PS2 (remember the days?) and another where I got a trophy and a certificate. Sure trophies are great but can you guess which win I cherish more?

Second, everyone wants to feel smart and accomplished. These game shows involve a synchronous battle of wits where technically you aren't competing against each other, but against the 'house'. At the same time, the cash prize is split among winners so not only do you want to win, but you want everyone else to lose. As a result, it feels better when you are simultaneously proving your smartness while defeating hordes of other people to win the cash prize.

I would attribute the success of Fortnite, and the battle royale genre in general, to this factor (a topic for another blog post).

Finally, social validation has led the social media revolution. As a result, HQ trivia was quick to add a 'friends' feature where you could see your performance compared to that of your friend for real world 'bragging rights'. Back in middle school, the number of Facebook friends was the main metric of popularity and IRL bragging rights. Over time, it evolved to become Twitter and Instagram followers. For a lot of people now, it is the number of Fortnite wins and HQ wins.

Now here is where IQ Trivia stood out for me. While HQ and other trivia platforms make it easy to share wins on social media, IQ Trivia is native to Twitter. I recently wrote about platforms and distribution and IQ trivia is using Twitter as their platform while HQ and Cash Show have their own Android and iOS applications.

I love Twitter and I spend a lot of time on the Twitter app. As a result, IQTrivia can easily acquire customers like me who are already on their platform by simply tagging me in a tweet, DMing me, or simply popping up on my feed. In contrast, HQ and Cash Show need me to specifically go to their app just to play their game, exactly when they are live. Therefore, customer acquisition is harder which is why HQ depends on push notifications.

On the other hand, IQTrivia is entirely reliant on Twitter. If Twitter bans their backend engine/bot, suspends their account, or even simply discontinues the ability to one-touch DM from a tweet like this (image), IQTrivia would cease to exist. In contrast, HQ Trivia's mobile app is immune to such threats. They still face platform risks since they could get banned from the Google Play Store but their threats are smaller than those faced by IQ Trivia.

Despite have a SIGNIFICANTLY smaller cash prize, I love playing IQ Trivia because it is on my favorite platform - Twitter. Thus, it feels natural for me to be on Twitter at 12:30pm every day, just in time for IQ Trivia.

I truly believe HQ and Cash Show have a revolutionary format. However, I don't think the live video format itself is what makes these apps special. Its the feeling of competition, becoming smarter, feeling smarter, elevating your social status, and getting your hands on cold hard cash that is driving the growth of these applications.

Do you play any of these games? Why do you play?


  1. Awesome writeup!
    I'm inspired to attempt these 'smart games'.

  2. Great! Whats your motivation to play? Which platform do you prefer?


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