HQ Trivia is stepping up its game in more ways than one. The popular live trivia game app is preparing to give away $250,000 Wednesday night for its biggest cash prize ever, while also ushering in a new era of sponsored partnerships with the likes of Warner Bros. and Nike.
The game show app streams daily trivia games to users' mobile devices and players try to answer at least a dozen multiple-choice questions for the chance to win a share of a cash prize that has ranged from $1,000 to $100,000 in past games. With the number of daily players now regularly reaching into the millions, most winners usually only claim a handful of dollars, but some have walked away with thousands. Earlier this year, a video of a woman jumping for joy after winning $11 went viral, while a man who won $6,000 in one sitting recently told CNBC that playing HQ is "just a habit I do for 10 minutes at the end of my work day," so not a bad payoff.
HQ host Scott Rogowsky announced the $250,000 jackpot on Sunday night during a game in which HQ gave away $50,000 to just one winner for its largest individual handout yet.
Wednesday night's prize $250,000 prize comes part of a partnership between HQ and Warner Bros.' "Ready Player One," the sci-fi film directed by Steven Spielberg that hits theaters March 29. The deal will help fund HQ's largest-ever jackpot and the game will feature trivia questions related to the movie, AdAge reports, citing anonymous sources.
The movie's Twitter account tweeted about the partnership on Sunday night, inviting followers to "download the HQ Trivia app to play."
The sponsorship deal with Warner Bros. is worth $3 million, according to AdAge, and it includes the promotion of three separate films being released by the studio. Presumably, it will lead to more sponsored prizes down the road.
On Monday, HQ unveiled a sponsorship with Nike via a special trivia edition promoting Nike. In that case, four winners split a $100,000 prize that represented the live game show's largest jackpot so far. Nike's own corporate Twitter account had hyped the collaboration with a tweet calling Monday "#AirMaxDay" on HQ. (Monday marked the 31st anniversary of Nike Air Max sneakers' debut, on March 26, 1987.)
The four trivia champions also walked away with free pairs of limited edition HQ-themed Nike Air Max 270 sneakers. HQ Trivia tweeted pictures of the HQ Air Max shoes after Monday's game, including a post congratulating the four winners.
It remains to be seen how HQ's fans will react to changes like the promotionally themed questions, especially considering the faddish nature of popular gaming apps along with the fact that HQ has already courted controversy. The app angered part of its user base recently by raising money from controversial tech billionaire Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, sparking the spread of the hashtag "#DeleteHQ " on Twitter last month.
But the move is a clear step into the mainstream for HQ, which launched in August 2017 and quickly built a massive following, with its daily players growing from the hundreds of thousands last fall to reach an all-time high of over 2 million for an edition of HQ Trivia that streamed live the night of the Academy Awards on March 4.
That peak came one month after the app landed a coup in the form of free ad time on NBC just before the start of Super Bowl LII, fueling speculation about a potential partnership between HQ and NBCUniversal.
Over 1.7 million people reportedly opened the app for Sunday night's game, while 1.8 million tuned in for Monday's edition. A spokesperson for HQ declined to offer an estimate for tonight's show, but it certainly has the potential to be one of the highest-drawing editions of HQ yet, given the hype around the $250,000 prize.
Earlier this year, HQ raised $15 million in funding that valued the startup at $100 million. Until this week, HQ relied on that money from investors to supply its daily jackpots, but an influx of money from corporate sponsors would change that while also likely meaning that fans will continue to get chances to win bigger and bigger prizes.
The trivia show airs every day at 9 p.m. ET, with additional editions at 3 p.m. ET on weekdays.
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.