In the four months that HQ has existed, it has given us many things: thousands of dollars in prizes; a loquacious, bearded “quiz daddy”; and a dystopian twice-a-day ritual. Now, thanks to the opportunism of our hyperaccelerated internet economy, it has also spurred the beginning of what is sure to be a trivia-app boom. Introducing The Q, — short for “The Question” — a knockoff version of HQ available for both iPhone and Android. My condolences to whoever’s job it is to deliver this news to the notoriously short-tempered HQ CEO Rus Yusupov.
If you’re thinking, “This looks like someone played HQ a few times and then copy-pasted it into an app that’s also available on Android,” then, congratulations, you have just guessed the origin story of The Q. CEO Will Jamieson, who is also the CEO of a video platform company called Stream and a cofounder of the now defunct anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, said he first had the idea to collaborate with HQ when he experienced lag during a Sunday night game. “They were having video scale issues at 9,000 concurrent viewers,” he wrote to me via Twitter DM on Sunday night, while we were both attempting to play HQ. “Thought they would be a perfect fit for our enterprise video offering at Stream. Tried to get in touch with the CEO and had no success and decided we were primed to compete in the space if we innovated quickly. That’s how it all got started.” (The Ringer reached out to HQ for comment, but did not hear back.)
Jamieson said the first line of code for The Q was written October 24. Within two weeks, the team had a functional app in private beta, and last week it opened up the app to the public due to “constant beta access requests.” On Tuesday, Stream will debut a new-and-improved public version of The Q that it says will offer superior streaming quality — an issue that has plagued HQ and earned its host Scott Rogowsky the nickname “lag daddy.”
400k people watching HQ. Not me! Freezes every damn time— Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) December 11, 2017
Just as there’s a cover artist on Spotify ready to game the system when someone mistakenly types “ray semmand and gocci mode,” The Q is clearly hoping to be the app someone accidentally downloads while searching for “that one game their kids keep talking about — Q something?” Aesthetically, The Q appears to have strategically adopted all the traits of its competitor — from a blocky Helvetica logo to the overall user experience.
The Q’s most important differentiator is that it’s available on Android. (HQ has advertised that an Android version of its app will debut on Christmas.) But Jamieson insists that his app will also set itself apart in tone and in format. The number of questions changes per game, ranging from 11 to 13. (HQ always asks 12.) Occasionally, predetermined games will be organized into something Jamieson calls “survivor mode,” in which users will play until there’s only one person left. (HQ currently splits its prize among whatever number of people answer all of its questions correctly.) Despite sample images in the App Store that show The Q will be airing at the exact same times HQ has traditionally aired (Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. ET and every day at 9 p.m. ET), Jamieson said initial games will go live 30 minutes after the traditional start time of its competitor. While HQ typically offers cash prizes between $1,000 and $10,000 per game paid via PayPal, The Q’s current offering averages at a modest $150, paid via Paypal or Bitcoin. The most it has offered is $500.
“Users have their app preferences and we hope that people on HQ will also answer trivia questions on our app,” Jamieson wrote. “Our goal is to bring an interactive video experience to everyone with a smartphone and reach audiences that HQ has yet to attain.”
Most importantly, Jamieson says that The Q’s host, Joseph Monahan, has “a totally different vibe than Scott.” Rogowsky, who is beloved by fans and refers to himself ironically as “Trap Trebek,” maintains an air of professionalism by wearing the exact same suit for every trivia session. In one beta screenshot of The Q provided to me by Jamieson, Monahan is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a striped bucket hat. A self-described “Professional Business Development and Sales Consultant,” Monahan lucked into the position.
“I asked who in the office wanted to host a game show and Joseph Monahan raised his hand,” Jamieson wrote.
Rogowsky may have already been tipped off about his new trivia-app peer. Following a question related to The Terminator during Sunday’s HQ game, he alluded to as much.
“Is Skynet developing an HQ competitor?” he asked to his hundreds of thousands of viewers. “Let’s hope not.”