HQ Trivia faces huge layoffs after falling downloads and internal turmoil

With the company preparing a pivot to a subscription-based model, the layoffs come after a long period of internal strife that included the death of a CEO and an attempted ouster of his replacement.

When HQ Trivia launched in 2017, the live game show format and cash prizes made in an instant standout in the mobile app world. In its heyday, HQ Trivia regularly hosted hundreds of thousands of concurrent players. But, as many viral hits do, its popularity fizzled, and as TechCrunch reports, its downloads have fallen a whopping 92% year-over-year. The app is now working on a subscription-based model, but it’ll come too late for the HQ Trivia staffers who were laid off as the company reduced its workforce by around 20 percent.

The exact number of people laid off is unclear, but the general consensus is that six or seven employees were axed, which would be about a fifth of HQ Trivia’s 35-person team. The cuts come just as HQ Trivia prepares to launch its next venture, the subscription-based version of HQ Words.

In addition to dwindling downloads, the company has been dealing with leadership struggles since the unexpected death of co-founder Colin Kroll last year. Co-founder Rus Yusupov stepped in as interim CEO, a move that led to more than half of Yusupov’s own employees attempting to oust him by asking the board to remove him and appoint a new CEO. Yusupov survived the mutiny.

Things were further complicated when HQ Trivia’s original host, Scott Rogowski, left the show earlier this year amid creative differences. As TechCrunch said then, Rogowski was “the de facto face of the company” and a big part of its branding.

That brings us up to date, and now a team of fewer than 30 people will be attempting to turn the tide with the $9.99-a-month HQ Words Everyday. Even with big prizes promised, a subscription-based game is a risky venture in the overwhelmingly free-to-play mobile space. Two years on, the novelty of the mobile live game show has faded. 

HQ Trivia is facing a difficult uphill battle, and it’s doing so with a smaller team, many of whom don’t support the CEO.

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Sarah LeBoeuf is a freelance writer and editor with over a decade of experience in games media. When not writing about video games or playing video games, you can find her drinking obscene amounts of coffee, snuggling her cat, planning her next trip to Disney World, or starting fights on Twitter @sarahthebeef.

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