What Is HQ? Do I Have to Pay to Download It? And Answers to All the Other Questions You’ve Asked When Everyone Starts Looking at Their Phones at 3 P.M.

Photo: Apple/Intermedia Labs Inc.

There are two types of people in this world: those who know what HQ is and those who don’t. And I guess there’s a third type of person who kinda knows what HQ Trivia is but doesn’t really know the specifics. Let’s help those people out.

What is HQ?

It’s a trivia app, from the co-founders of Vine, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll. What makes it cool is that the games are live, and occur twice a day: Once at 3 p.m. Eastern and once at 9 p.m. Each game is 12 questions of increasing difficulty, and if you get a question wrong, you’re out. If you somehow make it to the end, you split the prize money with everyone else. Currently, the usual prize pool is $1,500, though occasionally there will be special games with bigger pots. (So if 30 people win the game, they’d each get $50.) It’s only on iOS right now but an Android version is scheduled to go live later this month.

Does HQ cost money?

The app is free and playing the game is free. You just have to give them a phone number when you sign up (and presumably they pull some other data — but more on that later).

Is HQ gambling?

No, because you’re not paying money to enter. And I think it’s technically a game of skill, not chance.

What is the point of playing HQ?

The obvious point of it is that you could theoretically win a lot of money! On Monday night, only three people won the game, taking home $500 apiece. On the other hand, there have been games where each winner took home only a single-digit amount. If you’re hoping to win a life-changing sum of money, this is not your game.

The other point is that, in an age of on-demand entertainment, it’s a live thing everyone can coalesce around. During our holiday party this week a number of us sequestered in a corner of the room to try and win that night’s round. We all lost — but it was still fun anyway.

Why is HQ live instead of just a regular phone game?

It’s more fun that way! It’s fun and novel! You versus hundreds of thousands of other players in a fight to the death. Being live also reduces cheating, and the app has a chat-room function so you can see everyone yelling at the host at the same time. Mostly they yell about buying cryptocurrency.

Who is the host of HQ?

Almost always, the host is a comedian named Scott Rogowsky. He’s extremely corny and always seems just a little bit stoned; he vamps a lot and stretches for time when all you want to do is hear the next question. HQ players — Scott has dubbed them “HQties” — love this; some of them refer to Scott as Quiz Daddy, which is a whole other thing I’m not gonna get into. Sometimes there are other hosts, like Sharon, and this week has a whole lineup of guests, but Scott is the face of the app.

Let’s say I win HQ. How do I get my money?

In order to cash out, you need to win at least $20. That can either be from one game or an accumulation of smaller wins. Once that happens, you give HQ your email address and they send you the money via PayPal.

How long does it take to get the money after you win HQ?

By all accounts it only takes a matter of minutes. My colleague Madison cashed out and received the money same-day. Another friend who won $98 in a special $10,000 game over the weekend got it in “like 15 minutes” after submitting his request.

What’s the thing about Scott and salads from Sweetgreen?

Scott was interviewed by the Daily Beast and then afterward, when the CEO of HQ, Rus Yusupov, found out, he got really mad and threatened to fire Scott if they published what he said. Scott had spoken about Sweetgreen and Yusupov was furious because they didn’t have a brand deal with Sweetgreen. It was a very normal interview with Scott and an insane reaction from Yusupov and so the #freescott campaign got started. They’re cool now though. Beyonce

Is HQ hard to win?

Yes! You only have ten seconds to answer the question, so you have to act quickly. You almost definitely won’t be able to Google the answer in time. On top of that, you cannot change your answer once you select it, so people with fat fingers, beware! Get a question wrong and you’re out.

… or are you? In order to get more people to sign up, HQ has a referral system. If someone signs up using your referral code (your username) (mine is “coolestbrian”), you get an extra life. You can only use one each round, but it makes it just a bit easier. You cannot use your extra life on the final question; you have to get that one right — I know from experience.

How do you link up with friends on HQ?

You don’t. You can just use a referral code once. It’s not a social network and there’s no team aspect to it.

Is HQ a good way to make extra money?

Hell no. It’s tough to win and you have to split the winnings. I won a round with 17 other people and walked away with $58. Nice to have but I’m not moving into a new tax bracket.

Are HQ winnings taxable?

I would assume so. It’s technically income. (IRS, if you are reading this, I did NOT win HQ.)

How did HQ get all of the money that it gives away?

Okay, now we’re getting into it. The money’s gotta come from somewhere, right? Well, like most Silicon Valley apps, HQ is funded by venture-capital money, specifically from Lightspeed Venture Partners. The app is not profitable yet. The success of HQ means that the company is seeking even more funding, valuing the company between $80 million and $100 million. That’s a lot of money, but we’re also talking about a program that seems to draw roughly half a million viewers every day. Not too shabby! And that number is sure to increase when it launches on Android.

How will HQ make money?

There are many, many ways to imagine HQ moving from red to black. You could imagine a brand paying to sponsor questions (the first two or three are gimmes). Pre-roll ads could play while users wait for the game to begin. Short ads during the actual broadcast. Maybe you could buy extra lives!

Let’s game this out a little bit more though. HQ also has your phone number and maybe your iOS device’s unique identifier, which makes it very easy to match your HQ profile to other data, like what Facebook has on you. That can be sold easily. And what if HQ tracks which questions you get right and wrong? Maybe you get all the sports trivia right and all the movie questions wrong. Maybe you answer the history questions instantly but hesitate on questions about fine art. Now they can infer your interests, and maybe your age and location and gender too. That’s sweet, sweet valuable data that you didn’t even know you were turning over! Isn’t the 21st century fun?

Do people just play HQ for the money?

I choose to believe no. The real prize was the friends we made along the way.

What Is HQ? Is It Free to Play?