Just minutes before 3 p.m. each weekday, hundreds of thousands of iPhone owners prepare to play HQ, a live game show hosted by a suited and energetic Scott Rogowsky. The questions start out ridiculously easy and become progressively harder to answer, quickly culling the game-playing herd from thousands to sometimes just a few dozen until a winner emerges.
Old-fashioned quiz shows have always been popular, but the combination of a mobile-only interface and a live game make HQ a singular app. Founded by two of Vine’s creators and funded by Silicon Valley investors, the stakes for both creators and players are high: winners can rake in thousands of dollars if they outlast other players and answer the final question correctly, delivering a potentially captive audience to the game.
Although HQ hasn’t named sponsors or advertising partners, the game could represent a logical next step in social media advertising. It’s got a diverse and engaged audience, a clear reward for winning and the opportunity to deliver personalized content. And online gaming has never been more ubiquitous than it is now. Could this be the beginning of a new kind of social advertising?
The rise of reality TV and team-based game shows made it easier for viewers to see themselves on-screen: shows like Fear Factor, Road Rules, The Amazing Race and The Real World gave them an opportunity to imagine how they’d handle the carefully planned situations cast members navigated each week. And, like most TV shows, these too have advertising partners that include in-show product placement–something HQ could incorporate as well.
Social media introduced a new element to reality as a TV genre–and television in general. With social channels like Facebook and Twitter, viewers can now interact with the stars of their favorite shows and offer live commentary. It seems like the natural next step would be offering millions of people the chance to win a bit of online notoriety. And since channels like YouTube have opened the content distribution floodgates, millions of ordinary people can snag audiences and make advertising dollars. HQ is a version of that, augmented by a simple set-up: one guy, one camera, a list of trivia questions and real-time interaction with an audience.
The Fertile Ground of Online Gaming
Despite doling out prize money to winners, HQ isn’t a money-making enterprise–yet. In the Time article referenced above, game co-founder Rus Yusupov says there’s been “a ton of interest from brands and agencies who want to collaborate,” but the game doesn’t currently offer sponsored questions. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t integrate branded questions, guest hosts, or even exclusive content to its players.
There’s a precedent for online gaming: both gaming consoles and casual games offer elements of real-time interaction, in-app purchases and real prizes. HQ’s most devoted players covet extra lives and opportunities to win the big prize. Casual games like The Simpsons’ Tapped Out and Candy Crush have made millions through in-app purchases; it’s no stretch to imagine HQ players would drop a dollar or two to stay in the game. And with HQ-ish games popping up everywhere, other game founders could mine the vein of players willing to pay a few dollars here and there to play another round.
HQ isn’t the first real-time game to become popular; but its format and its potential give it the makings of a moneymaker for its founders. It could give brands of all sizes a new way to reach audiences to through social gaming.
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