When trivia app QuizUp launched in 2013, its meteoric rise to the top of App Store charts surprised even the founder of the Icelandic gaming studio that made it.
Thor Fridriksson of Plain Vanilla Games watched in awe as QuizUp became the fastest growing iPhone game in history. The app let users compete head-to-head in specific trivia catgories, like spices or British Royals, and it raised nearly $US27 million from Sequoia Capital, Greycroft and others.
Within months, QuizUp launched its Android app and started expanding globally, introducing country-specific trivia categories. People were initially addicted to showing off their smarts and competed in hundreds of millions of rounds. But Fridriksson also noticed players were using a lot of the app’s built-in social features to chat with each other and leave long comments in forums for topics they loved.
The company received tons of messages from users who had made close friends — or even life partners — by connecting through the app.
As 2014 marched on, QuizUp’s user base kept growing steadily, but not at the faddish, lightening-fast speed it had initially. It started trickling down the App Store rankings (it went from #1 in Games and overall at the end of 2013 to out of the top 300 and barely squeaking into the top 100 in those categories respectively by fall 2014).
In the meantime, a new trivia game has dominated the spotlight. Trivia Crack broke the record for the longest streak at the top of the app store in January of 2015. Its still in the Top Ten for iPhone gaming apps.
Mobile games are hard — people get addicted then bored, and gaming studios usually have to continue releasing new games to keep the momentum going. Draw Something was a similar story but it was able to get itself acquired by Zynga for hundreds of millions of dollars before users lost all interest in it.
About a year ago, Plain Vanilla started building a radically new experience that puts much more emphasis on QuizUp’s social features. The company hopes the pivot will create a strong, dedicated community and allow the startup to make money through brand partnerships and sponsored content, like Instagram or Snapchat do. Fridriksson describes the past 12 months as both exhilarating and frustrating, full of high-highs and low-lows.
On Thursday, QuizUp launched its reimagined app. Now it’s much less of a game and more a social network. The user interface has been completely revamped to make it easier for people to discover new topics, write in topic forums, and filter other users by age, sex, proximity, and shared interests. The idea is that players will become hooked on their community forums (My Little Ponies has been particularly active in beta) and use the network to find like-minded people.
“You could say that we’re pivoting quite a lot,” Fridriksson told Business Insider. “We don’t think of QuizUp as a game anymore, we think about it as a social network based around interests. The game is a part of that experience, but that trivia game isn’t the only activity that people can do in those communities.”
Fridriksson says the gaming part is still growing though — there are now more than 1,200 trivia subjects. Currently the app has 33 million users but only 5 million are active every month.
“We’ve got a lot riding on this — we’re betting on it going big,” Fridriksson says. “Talking to other people never gets old — you never stop doing that — so that’s why we’re excited.”
Check out QuizUp’s funny demo video that encapsulates its new direction: