This past Sunday, I (along with about two million other people) logged on to an app precisely at 9 p.m. EST. The goal: win $50,000.
This free app, HQ Trivia, is the fantastic future of game shows. It's the future of online gaming. It's basically just the future.
It's a live game show, complete with a cheesy host, where players must answer multiple choice questions, with only 10 seconds allowed per question. Typically, the weekday games that air at 3 and 9 p.m. EST have a jackpot of $5,000, take approximately 15 minutes and feature 12 questions.
Answer a question incorrectly? You're out. Take too long to answer a question? You're out.
Much of the fun lies in watching the number of players diminish after each question, and the superiority one feels in answering a question right when so many did not.
The first questions are quite simple, but just when you might be getting cocky, HQ Trivia throws out a "savage question." These usually eliminate more than half of the players in one swath. The players left after the last question will split the money and it goes directly into each user's PayPal account. You may only win 1 dollar, or you could win big.
On Saturdays and Sundays, HQ Trivia only goes live at 9 p.m. EST and has made Sundays the big money night. For the past several weeks, the Sunday night jackpot has been $25,000 with the host continuing to ask questions until only one player remained, winning it all. A physical education teacher from North Carolina was the first big winner, taking home $25,000 after playing the game "in the bathroom," according to Buzzfeed.
Having launched in August, the game was created by Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, the same guys who brought us Vine, the popular six-second video app.
Until this week, the prize money came from venture capitalists, who have invested millions, according to Bloomberg Businesweek. But the app would have to make money some way before too long. It's first sponsored game was a surprise game that popped up Monday night. A $100,000 game sponsored by Nike also included the chance to win a pair of HQ-themed Air Max 270 Nikes. Four people answered all the questions correctly (including quite a few that were Nike-focused), lasted until the end and won the limited-edition sneakers and $25,000 each.
On Tuesday night, HQ Trivia will have its biggest jackpot yet with $250,000 on the line.
It's part of a deal with Warner Bros. as it promotes the new Stephen Spielberg film "Ready Player One" that hits theaters this weekend. AdAge reported that it's just the beginning, with two more films slated to sponsor upcoming HQ Trivia games.
Part of the secret to HQ Trivia's success is how it's brought back appointment television in a way. But because this game is on phones (which go wherever you go), that appointment is much easier to keep.
Yusupov told ABC News the appointments do make a difference.
"We believe that the time slot is very important and that people do schedule their lives around things they love," he said.
Hint: If you turn on phone notifications for the app, it's much easier to keep the appointment as well. Most games only take about 10-15 minutes, so it's doable on a quick work break or while you're waiting for your kids at the bus stop. Yusupov also told ABC News that he doesn't consider using Google to be cheating, especially since players only have 10 seconds to find an answer.
"If you can do that," he said, "you probably deserve the prize."
The app store requires users to be 17 years old to download HQ Trivia. The host will occasionally make comments that are sexually suggestive or refer to alcohol use. The app store also notes there may be tobacco or drug references, as well as mild profanity. Parents might want to first play the app without kids to see if they think it's appropriate.
If you decide you want to join the millions of other "HQuties" out there, you just need to give a phone number to log in (that's how they verify and protect accounts). You can gain extra lives by referring friends, but players can only use one extra life per game and never on the last question.