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Analysis

How Trivia Went Viral in China

A popular bar game finds huge success in its online format

Jan 25, 2018 by Chauncey Jung
How Trivia Went Viral in China

Trivia, a popular bar game for testing little-known knowledge, has gone viral in China in 2018 with the development of mobile apps. To play the digital version, contestants need to download the game app. The rules are simple. A host asks 12 questions live within a set time, contestants need to answer all 12 questions for the final award—a grand jackpot prize to be split among all the winners.

For each question, contestants get 10 seconds to answer. If the answer is wrong or they offer no guess, contestants are eliminated. Teams are often offered a bonus package to encourage others to join. This bonus is in the form of a restart card—a second chance to answer a question they got wrong, or to pass the question.

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The sum awarded for each trivia challenge depends on the funds available, but it can range from 50,000 RMB–5 million RMB. But a large jackpot does not necessarily mean large amounts of money for individual contestants, as the number of users decides the amount of money each contestant makes. Individuals may be better off in smaller platforms with a smaller number of players splitting the prize.

The Early Movers

Chongding Contest, Xigua Video, and Knowledge Superman are the first three platforms to take the traditional bar game to the Chinese internet. Chongding Contest, also known as Chongding Dahui, announced its idea via Weibo. With the help of Wang Sicong, son of Chinese real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin, the game became viral in the first week of 2018 itself.

The company that developed the app for Chongding Contest is a start-up firm in Beijing. The other two, Xigua Video and Knowledge Superman, came from established corporations in the industry. Xigua Video is backed by the well-known Bytedance Inc., valued at $20 billion. Knowledge Superman, also known as Zhishi Chaoren, is an application developed by Inke Inc., an established Internet entertainment service firm worth more than $1 billion.

Xigua Video and Knowledge Superman have both put in huge funds to attract users. Xigua video offers 5 million RMB for its 9 pm game session. Knowledge Superman, in contrast, holds a session called ‘last man standing’, where one final winner gets a grand prize of 1.01 million RMB. With such huge cash prizes and their viral popularity, Trivia has also received widespread media attention.

What Explains the Popularity?

“Nobody is going to say no to earning some cash,” Said Wen Xuehan, an active participant in many on-live trivia applications. Given the success of WeChat Red Package in 2014 and 2015, and the prevalence of QR code payment methods in most Chinese businesses, it seems Chinese internet users are motivated with financial incentives, however little they may be. In case of Trivia, most users earn less than 100 RMBs from playing. Sometimes, they may get nothing.

No everyone, however, is attracted by money alone. For some, it’s just the fun of playing. “It reminds me of one of my favorite shows 10 years ago. And it is a good way to learn new things,” said Yang Yiding, a frequent Trivia user.

The online game is also a means of socialising. “When the whole office is playing, you just can’t get out of it.” “The game brings people together, as we are helping each other answering questions. And that turns into an opportunity to start a chat with those coworkers that you never talked to before.”

Of course, peer pressure also has a role. “When everyone is playing, you want to try it too,” said Liu Tianheng, who said he was dragged into the game by his friends.”

What Makes the Game Lucrative for Developers?

Holding these trivia contests is costly. Xigua Video’s Millionaire Hero, for example, offers more than $1 million per day as winners’ rewards alone. Apart from this, there are additional costs for application maintenance, engineering staff, and for hiring star hosts to ask the questions.

But the returns look quite lucrative. One game session usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes, which means that the game host and the platform receive millions of active users daily via the mobile applications, and at least a 20-minute chunk of application usage time. A large number of users and a 20-minute capsule of active usage make it profitable for advertisement sales. Many more contents and programmes could also be added to this intensive 20-minute game show.

The Heat Will Go Up

In addition to Xigua Video, Knowledge Superman, and Chongding Contest, new players are now entering the arena. Internet giant Netease has become the latest big tech firm to announce its plan to enter. With the traditional Chinese spring festival holiday coming up in less than a month, the fight for users’attentions will be heated and intense.

“I think the trend and spotlight will remain on the game, at least in the short run,” said Guo Quan, . “But there is need to evolve. Large sums of prize money may attract users, but getting users to continue using the apps is challenging.”

Guo’s view certainly resonates among some users. Many users have reported their loss of interest in the game due to a low rate of return, and the lack of new game formats.

Guo believes that the nature and quality of improvements will decide who stands out in this crowded field. “One of the things that no platform has developed yet is potential consumption at the user end. Revenues such as contest-entering fees and paid in-game features have not been developed. These features certainly have the risk of losing a significant number of users. But you never know what exactly is going to happen,” he said.

Chauncey Jung

Chauncey Jung works with a unicorn Internet firm based out of Beijing. In his earlier stint with Sohu, a lead online-news platform headquartered in Beijing, Chanucey wrote in English on various subjects, spanning from culture, politics to social changes. His professional experience pays him off an insider perspective over China's internet industry. Completed his bachelor and master education in Canada, Chauncey is obsessed with trending technologies and economic developments across Asia. He can be reached at chaunceyzhang@foxmail.com

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