HQties come for the cash but stay for the live engagement

There’s no disputing that app-based live trivia games have become a global phenomenon, and HQ Trivia sits at the forefront of this revolution with over a million players tuning in each game. But why exactly are live trivia games exploding in popularity? The answer seems simple: cash money; because as Wu-Tang Clan so eloquently put it, “cash rules everything around me.”

With that logic, it’s no surprise that HQ has been giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money each month. In fact, there’s now a slew of similar trivia games like Live.me’s QuizBiz. They are the latest HQ competitor that made a splash with a $1 million prize pool for February. It’s raining dollars like never before in the world of mobile gaming.

But the draw of cash prizes only scratches the surface of what drives our cult-like obsession with live trivia games and their love ’em or hate ’em hosts. In a recent episode of HQ, I witnessed close to 1.2 million players answer the first question. That figure dropped to several hundred by the final question, yet there were still roughly 300,000 people left watching the game until the very end.

If cash was the sole attraction then why were there still so many eliminated players with their eyes glued to their phones?

Not only that, but why play if your chances of winning are so slim? You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out that there’s only a fraction of a percentage chance of winning. And even if you manage to make it to the end, it’ll only amount to a few bucks. The chances of winning enough times to rack up any real money are next to none. (You’re much better off answering online surveys for cash.)

Courtesy: Forbes

The real reason we’re drawn to live trivia is the immediacy of the “live” format. In an on-demand world where we’re used to getting anything we want according to our schedule, from movies to groceries to taxis, there’s something we subconsciously miss about the comfort of a daily routine. Humans by nature are creatures of habit. So every weekday when HQ goes live at 3 PM EST and 9 PM EST, we’re not only ready for it to begin, we crave the daily ritual. It provides relaxation and anchors our busy lives.

The secret — people want real-time engagement, immediate feedback, and instant gratification. HQties get excited every time they see a notification that a new game is about to begin. They experience instant gratification when they answer a question correctly while others flunk out. And even when the app is experiencing issues, they can voice their frustrations (and even poke fun at the game’s charming host) using the in-game chat. In other words, players can join a game, compete, and provide feedback in the span of a few moments. Their desire to be heard is met in real-time.

So, if users play HQ for the live engagement, should the app and its many competitors continue upping the cash prizes? I would argue not. No matter how big or small the winnings, people will come back in droves to satisfy their need for live interaction. What do you think?