FORTUNE -- You've heard the cliché a million times: Gaming is a hits-driven business. Just ask our friends at Zynga (ZNGA), which rode Farmville, and then CityVille, to an IPO and subsequent collapse. Or OMGPop, whose hit app Draw Something lost millions of users just as fast as it acquired them (but not before selling to Zynga for $200 million). Or Rovio, which had to make its hit Angry Birds games free in recent months to keep users interested in the aging franchise. Search trends even show a waning interest in Candy Crush, the hit of 2012 whose parent company has filed to go public later this year.
Gamers, especially casual gamers, are a fickle bunch.
That's why the staying power of QuizUp, a social media-enabled trivia game that hasn't left the top of the Apple (APPL) App Store Rankings since it launched four months ago, all the more impressive. Four months isn't terribly long, but in app time, it's ages. As I wrote last month, hot social networking app Secret became the latest in a line of faddish apps, and we're burning through fads faster than ever. Just two months after its launch, Secret has begun to decline in App Store rankings, according to ranking service App Annie.
"Games usually have a very, very short life cycle, where if they break on through, they will get super-popular for a couple of days, then they hit a cliff. In a week or so they just plummet off of the top 100," says Thor Fridriksson, CEO of QuizUp's parent company, Plain Vanilla Games. "We have seen so many games come and go like that while we were hanging in there."
In just four months, QuizUp hit 10 million registered users who spend an average of 30 minutes per day playing the game. That includes people who've only played it once, which shows just how much the top users -- who have played tens of thousands of rounds of trivia, are engaging.
QuizUp has maintained its position in the top 25 game apps and top 50 or so overall apps in the U.S. Market. In that time, the company has grown from seven to 45 employees and raised a big $22 million round of venture funding from Sequoia Capital, Tencent, Greycroft Partners, BOLDstart Ventures, and e.ventures. The company recently partnered with talent agency WME to develop QuizUp-branded content for other channels, like TV.
QuizUp was a hit from the moment it launched in the App Store. Fridriksson says it's a result of years of tweaking and perfecting the game. That method runs counter to the popular "lean startup" methodology of launching an imperfect product and iterating on it based on user behavior. The "done is better than perfect" philosophy did not apply with QuizUp, and perfectionism almost killed the game. Two years ago, Fridriksson was living in Iceland (where he was born) and bankrupt. He'd published one title, and it was a total failure.
But he persisted with the trivia app idea, launching eight different quiz apps to test out user behavior. That way when QuizUp finally did launch, it was fully optimized. Fridriksson attributes QuizUp's success to his company's "abnormally long development cycle."
"When people talk about overnight successes, QuizUp kind of was when we launched in November, he says. But it was two years in the making."
Since the launch, the company has been on a sprint to keep up. For the first month, the team struggled to keep servers afloat. Then they were busy raising money and scaling up the team. Then they expanded QuizUp's trivia offerings from 150 topics to 420 topics. (A recent new category around the movie Mean Girls has surged in popularity.) The latest update, announced today, brings the game to Android devices.
QuizUp's next move will be to expand internationally. Since trivia is tied to culture and can be very local, the company has held back on international launches in non-English speaking countries.
In the U.K., where QuizUp has topped the App Store charts, users have given the app lower ratings because the content is too Americanized. QuizUp recently introduced more questions on the royal family and the X-Factor U.K., which users quickly embraced, says Fridriksson. The company will hire local teams to introduce relevant content for each new region, he says.
Fridriksson says the last four months have felt "a bit unreal," since the kind of funding and valuation numbers his company have garnered are unheard-of in Iceland. "I hope to inspire future entrepreneurs from the Nordics that you can just go to America and get lucky," he says. "Fortune favors the bold and all that."
The new web app marks another small step toward gentrifying the city's Tenderloin neighborhood.
FORTUNE -- More homeless San Franciscans carry cell phones than you might think.
St. Anthony's Foundation runs a tech lab in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood that offers computer classes, tutoring, job search counseling, and Internet access to lower-income and homeless residents of San Francisco. Nearly 40% of lower-income guests who use St. Anthony's tech lab -- a full 2,400 individuals -- MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 28, 2014 5:25 PM ET
The online service for renters in search of shelter sweetens its mobile offering.
FORTUNE -- In cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, where overpopulation and sky-high costs of living go hand in hand, finding a suitable apartment can be as time-consuming and cutthroat as landing a job. (For the latter, at least there's a paycheck in it for you at the end.)
San Francisco-based startup Lovely seeks to change the MOREChanelle Bessette - Dec 17, 2013 10:59 AM ET
The SoMa-based startup, backed by ex-Pixar execs, beefs up its three-month-old interactive app.
FORTUNE -- Before ToyTalk launched its first product this September, a free iPad app called The Winston Show, CEO and founder Oren Jacob expressed some doubt that his startup's vision -- creating a plaything capable of holding in-depth conversations with kids -- would resonate.
"I am confident this will never work in a preschool with 30 kids in it," MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 9, 2013 1:16 PM ET
One app's downtime is another's opportunity.
FORTUNE -- One serious glitch is all fickle users need to abandon one service for another. That, and a competitor that accomplishes the same goal, but does it better. Just ask the Friendster folks.
The same phenomenon that played out with social networks over the last decade is quite possibly doing the same now, this time with gay-focused social apps. Indeed, ask gay men in San Francisco MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 6, 2013 10:27 AM ET
Stuck at the airport? Tech can help make life easier while you wait.
FORTUNE -- Few situations are more irksome than toughing it out in a packed airport for a delayed flight. That plastic-backed seating is uncomfortable, those power outlets a precious commodity. And when it comes to figuring out your ETA, airline employees sometimes know as much as you do.
But waiting doesn't have to be a traumatic experience, thanks to a MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 27, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Why did Google make a 3:30 min. promo for search in a country where it has a 97% share?
FORTUNE -- If you haven't already seen the attached YouTube video -- viewed by 4 million since it was posted last week -- get out your handkerchiefs.
I tear up every time I watch it, but then I'm a sucker for reunion scenes.
When you're done, you might ponder the question posed in the subhead MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 19, 2013 12:46 PM ET
New products enable the startup's 350,000 hosts to do without the desktop.
FORTUNE -- Airbnb wants its hosts to get out of the house.
At a press event Tuesday at the company's San Francisco headquarters, co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nate Blechzarczyk introduced redesigned Apple (AAPL) iOS and Google (GOOG) Android apps with an emphasis on improving the mobile experience for the company's 350,000 hosts.
"Hosts said they don't have all the tools that MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 12, 2013 3:11 PM ET
Some publishers have pulled out from mobile news-aggregators like Flipboard because they don't see any real payoff. But the company says it's creating a program to help such smaller publishers earn more.
FORTUNE -- In July of last year, the political news and opinion site Talking Points Memo proudly declared that it was "excited to announce that tablet and smartphone users can now read TPM on Flipboard," a popular, magazine-style news-reading MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Oct 18, 2013 2:40 PM ET
ISIS and Jamba Juice team up to spur adoption of mobile wallet.
FORTUNE -- Can a million free smoothies save the mobile wallet?
That's the hope of ISIS, the mobile payments venture backed by major wireless carriers. ISIS has teamed up with Jamba Juice to offer a free smoothie or juice to the first million customers who use the ISIS mobile wallet app when it launches nationwide later this year.
Mobile wallets have MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - Oct 16, 2013 8:00 AM ET
|GM raising Corvette prices|
|Boeing reports wing cracks on Dreamliners|
|Albertsons to merge with Safeway|
|Bitcoin matters. Ignore the media circus.|
|Boeing to end pension plans for non-union employees|