A Player’s Guide To Competitive Trivia Apps

How To Make Money–One Answer At A Time

If you’re a certain type of person, with an aptitude for useless facts, a healthy fast-twitch reflex, and a penchant for pointless, repetitive, grinding exercises, it turns out that it’s possible, in 2018, to make a fairly substantial amount of money entirely through playing trivia on your phone.

You won’t get rich, at least not right away. Yet there’s considerable value in competitive trivia, if you know where to find it. HQ, the massively multiplayer online game show, became a legitimate phenomenon over the past year, giving away millions of dollars and attracting larger audiences than some prime-time TV shows. Robert DeNiro, Natalie Portman, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Elmo: They’ve all lent their imprimatur to special celebrity-themed HQ games. A legion of HQ knockoffs have tried, with varying levels of success, to ride the wave.

Since trivia is inarguably a skill game, it isn’t subject to the byzantine regulations that doomed online poker. Startups have leveraged the business model of online poker to offer pay-for-play, head-to-head quiz games. The two major apps in this category, FleetWit and ProveIt, operate like poker sites. Players put up the buy-in and the sites take a small cut.

In 2018, flailing around a little “between things” and always in need of some extra money, I’ve managed to cover my bills by playing a lot of trivia. As I recently described it to a fellow player, “it’s a dull part-time job where I constantly have to think about what song isn’t by Journey.” Here are a few capsule reviews of the various names in the game.

HQ

Still the most popular app in the genre, HQ currently seems to be in a bit of a swoon. At its peak last winter, its biggest games would attract two million or more players; when HQ gave away $100,000 to a single winner in a Kevin Hart-hosted quiz in late September, the player pool barely broke 800,000.

HQ’s host, Scott Rogowsky, has become a minor celebrity in his own right (and arguably a major one, assuming you’re really into Phish). As a quotidian exercise, though, much of the novelty of HQ has worn off. Its ultimate legacy may be the relatively unobtrusive way in which it integrates sponsored content and celebrity guests, as well as the interactive streaming video service it pioneered. Its eventual downfall may be the relative pointlessness of trying to win.

800,000 people is, of course, still a huge number of people. With so many players in a given game, it’s extremely common to make it to the end, answering all twelve questions correctly, and walk away with a dollar or less.

FleetWit

FleetWit’s question writers are the best in this space, consistently offering new content in dozens of niche categories. True degenerates can mix it up in high-stakes games, with buy-ins ranging up to $100. (Speed, as you may imagine, winds up playing a huge part in how well you’ll do against stronger players.) Despite solid customer service and cashout options, it’s nonetheless hampered by a rather buggy iOS app. Its rake–the percentage the site takes as a commission–is almost usuriously high. Not even the most fly-by-night offshore poker sites ever charged 20% like FleetWit does. Free daily tournaments soften the blow, and the trade-off is ultimately worth it for the quality of the trivia itself. But be advised: You’ll have to win more than sixty percent of the time just to break even.

ProveIt

ProveIt’s iOS app is much more reliable and usable than FleetWit’s. The company is also willing to tweak its algorithms and experiment a little. It offers weekly leaderboard contests, large tournament overlays, and a unique solo mode that provides a quick gambling fix. Its games tend to be snappy and fast-paced, with detailed statistics showing how its scores are computed. Although ProveIt takes a significantly lower rake (12.5%) than FleetWit, its player base seems to be slowly declining, and it could use a deeper pool of categories and questions.

Buy-ins range from $1-3 a game, meaning that it’s very accessible to new players, but also requires one to play a seriously high volume in order to make real money. Minus any kind of high-limit option, there’s essentially nothing to do when you’ve won a couple hundred bucks or so besides request a withdrawal and wait. While most of these sites offer quick PayPal transfers, ProveIt issues paper checks, which usually take a week or two to arrive.

QuizBiz

One of the more notable HQ clones, still on indefinite hiatus after the end of “Season 1”. Apparently, QuizBiz was meant to be a loss leader for Live.me, a futuristic video platform that I, despite being Extremely Online, am far too old to understand. According to Business Insider, Live.me received $50 million in venture capital in late 2017 and gave a breathtaking amount of it away through QuizBiz, once memorably awarding $100,000 in a Valentine’s Day-themed game in which every answer was sourced, verbatim, from the Wikia page of a hashtag-problematic Musical.ly tween. I don’t recall ever winning much money from QuizBiz, but I sure learned an awful lot about Gen-Z “influencer” types and their dull backstories. Few lament its demise.

This Is Not A Game

A recent entry, produced by “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”. Nobly ambitious (promoting voter registration and civic engagement), but crippled by sloppy software, inane questions, tiny prize pools, slapdash production, and witless attempts at glib, smirking irony. Embarrassing even by the standards of late-night TV.

Beat the Q

RIP. Probably the best of the really egregious HQ ripoffs. I once won $150 playing NBA All-Star Game trivia while in the parking lot of a biker bar in Jordan, NY. This is one of the few positive things ever to happen in the parking lot of a biker bar in Jordan, NY.

Cash Show

Indefensible, yet still staggering along somehow. Rife with misspellings, factual inaccuracies, and pretaped hosts who may or may not be sentient beings, with prizes sometimes reaching the dozens of cents. Minimum withdrawal is 10 bucks, which ensures that my hard-earned $8.12 will probably wind up lining the pockets of some party flack in Shenzhen. If future societies eventually view these apps as a broad metaphor for the heat death of late capitalism, “Cash Show” will be the equivalent of that episode of “Black Mirror” with all the exercise bikes.

Givling

Doubling down on Cash Show’s grim near-futurism and gamifying dystopia itself, Givling allows you to answer poorly-written true/false questions and collectively raise money to help pay off some poor sap’s student loans – with the winner receiving a share of the pot. A friend of a friend swears by it and has apparently won thousands.

FN Genius

With great fanfare and prime-time publicity (albeit during the Teen Choice Awards), Fox debuted its own HQ clone in August, with $75,000 on the line courtesy of Twix. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. Current status: unknown.

Confetti

On a recent Friday night, I won $1,086.95 on Confetti, a new-ish app of which you’ve probably never heard. Confetti’s gimmick is simple: you can see your friends’ answers in real time (the app is streamed on the nascent Facebook Watch platform) and collaboration is explicitly encouraged. Its prize money is substantial. Its player base is not particularly intimidating. In lieu of celebrity guests, it seems to have an entire roster of Z-grade party magicians on permanent retainer for some reason. It’s even spawned its own crappy ripoff show, something called “What’s in the Box?”

Confetti takes the familiar team-based pub quiz format to its logical, virtual extreme. When your friends win, so do you. Sometimes you even win a thousand bucks right when you really need it. Maybe the best thing about it is that people don’t just log off when they get one wrong. They stay on and help each other out, and nothing about it feels remotely adversarial or exploitative. It’s genuinely a lot of fun. I can’t make any promises about how much money is in it for you, but it’s quickly become a valuable part of my daily routine. Join us sometime.

Note: Book And Film Globe editor Neal Pollack has also won money on various trivia apps, including HQ, ProveIt, FleetWit, and Confetti. Good for him, but that in no way indicates an endorsement of trivia-app gaming, the world’s greatest hobby. 

Daniel Cohen

Daniel Cohen is a software developer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He has written for Yard Work, The Guardian, and Maura Magazine.

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