Last update: May 2021

5 mins to read - 2020/07/08

HQ Trivia: A Push Notification Teardown

In a new series of hands-on Push Teardowns we are downloading mobile games and assessing how good their push notification game is. We’re checking out what works and what doesn’t, what’s innovative and creative… and what qualifies as a push notification fail or #NotificationFail. First up is Trivia HQ, a mobile game show that’s pretty self-explanatory. You rack up coins by answering practice trivia questions, and at set times each day you can answer trivia questions to earn cash prizes. Pretty simple, so let’s get down to it…

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How Does HQ Trivia Work?

A product of Intermedia Labs, HQ Trivia have a two-tier gaming process, enjoyable for fans of both trivia and winning free money. The first level of gaming, which you can access at any time of the day, is the Daily Challenge. If you play this, you don’t win any money for the trivia questions you answer. But you do win coins, which you can save up and trade in at the HQ Shop. There, you can buy extra lives and erasers to eliminate one wrong answer. This comes in very handy when you’re competing for cash prizes. If you don’t want to put in all the trivia-question footwork, you can also buy coins via In-App Purchase.

hq trivia
Image Source: HQ Trivia app

The second level of the game is competing in the actual game show, where you can win prizes. These games only happen at certain times each day, so that’s where push notifications are a necessity.

Trivia HQ, Onboarding and Pre-Permission Notification

I’m a big fan of trivia games, so Trivia HQ wasn’t going to have to work too hard to convince me to start playing. That said, it was nice to be sent a congratulatory video once I had gone through the steps of installing the app. The process included inputting my phone number and typing in the verification code that they sent me via SMS.

Their method of asking for my permission to receive push notifications was very effective. A quizmaster in a jacket and tie greeted me with a cheerful, “You made it!” He then went on to explain to me exactly why enabling push notifications will make for a better experience with the app: they will alert me when there is a live game to participate in. It was straightforward and made it seem like push notifications were only there to improve the game, and would not be invasive at all. Once I verified that I would like push notifications, that triggered the iOS pre-permission request to allow notifications. It all took a few seconds, and it was a good way to soften me up to the idea of receiving push notifications from HQ Trivia.

hq trivia pre-permission message
Image Source: HQ Trivia app

HQ Trivia Gameplay and Monetization

Playing HQ Trivia is pretty self-explanatory. The app interface is easy to navigate. It has different screens to access the in-app shop, the leaderboard, and the option to connect your contacts list to the app. Practice trivia sessions where you can earn coins for every right answer come in sets of 12. And every time you get a wrong answer, you get shown an ad for other mobile games or digital casino services.

Learn more about cross-app installs with our blog post: OpenBack Enables Cross-App Installs to Grow Your Mobile Ecosystem

They are pretty sparing with their push notifications, which I appreciated at first. Nobody likes to be spammed by their mobile apps. Besides, I was interested enough to enter the app and play on my own. Once you play through your allotted number of practice rounds, the app locks you out of the practice arena for a few hours. After which they alert you with a notification that you can check in again:

They seem to have a one-off policy when it comes to reminding you that your time-out is over, which was a good way of doing things. I wasn’t being continually nagged to come back to the app. I did get one “Hey, we miss you! Come back to the app!” style reminder. But over a few weeks of having the app I don’t think I ever got more that 2 push notifications in the space of a day.

However, this light-handed approach may have ultimately backfired. I like an app to give me my space. But after a few days of not hearing from HQ Trivia, I began to forget it was there. It’s just answering trivia, so once I earned myself a few hundred coins there’s not much to hold my interest.

Which leads me to the main problem I found with the app…

Problems With Personalization

The real meat of the app comes when you compete live against other app users for cash prizes. As I understand it, you get knocked out of the running if you answer a question wrong. Then at the end of 12 questions, a prize of, say, $5k is split between whoever is left. The prize money is presumably a fraction of the revenues they make off of ads. It’s a pretty ingenious model, really. But here was my problem with it:

The careful observer will see that this push notification delivered to my phone at 2:04 in the morning. I don’t enjoy being woken from sleep even for important things. Getting pinged a reminder to play a trivia game when I’m in the middle of a REM cycle makes me downright cranky.

Was this a delivery issue? Unlikely. However, the quiz games started on the hour… And I received my notification to join 4 minutes after the hour. This made me suspect that the notification got delayed somewhere on its journey between the app’s backend to the cloud server to my device.

For read more about different factors that can affect reliable delivery of push notifications, read our blog post: Reliability in Push Notifications: An Industry-Wide Challenge

What actually happened is that I live in Ireland, which is 5 time zones ahead of Eastern Standard Time. 9 pm is a perfectly acceptable time to invite your users to take part in a quiz game… 2 am is not. In fact, this is one of the Golden Rules of mobile engagement: make sure your push notifications reach your user’s device at the time that’s convenient for them. This, of course, means it’s the app’s responsibility to make sure notifications are personalized to a user’s individual preferences – and that includes time zone.


Alas, HQ Trivia, it was not meant to be. We had some fun times, but not nearly enough for me to give up sleep over. And without any way of accessing those tasty cash prizes, I will likely join the ranks of churned customers. I did find it surprising that they only cater to users living in North American time zones. Especially when quizzes and trivia games are such a hit on the other side of the Atlantic.

It is possible there are certain features of the game that I am unaware of. If so, push notifications are a great way to orientate users with different aspects of your app that might not be obvious right off the bat.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons

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