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 Japanese game publisher has rebounded, thanks to the global appeal of its Final Fantasy franchise.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- Even though Square Enix now owns storied franchises like Tomb Raider, Thief, and Deus Ex; it's the sci-fi, fantasy role-playing game Final Fantasy that has sold more than 100 million units and has connected with players around the globe. The game publisher has just released Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy MOREFeb 14, 2014 5:00 AM ET
Shelve the Wii U, plow ahead with mobile, and more.
FORTUNE -- If Nintendo (NTDOF) isn't desperate by now, it should be.
The hallowed videogame hardware and software maker is estimating a net loss of $240 million for the fiscal year ending March 2014, largely based on poor sales of its current home console, the Wii U. It slashed Wii U sales estimates from 9 million units to 2.8 million and lowered MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 5, 2014 5:00 AM ET
With more people playing mobile gaming and a lowered earnings outlook for the year, is the retailer bound for the same fate as Blockbuster or Circuit City?
FORTUNE – How much trouble is GameStop (GME) in?
On Monday, the Grapevine, Texas-based video game retailer trimmed its previously light earnings forecast for the latest quarter -- a period that includes the last holiday season -- after witnessing an unexpected decline in software sales MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jan 16, 2014 3:43 PM ET
In four years, Kabam went from San Francisco startup to major global player. (Must have been something in the dumplings.)
FORTUNE -- Kabam, the San Francisco mobile gaming company, has all the wrong things going for it.
Its 33-year-old founder and CEO, Kevin Chou, is neither an arrogant new college graduate nor a high-profile former big-company executive. The company's core customers are gamers, not housewives, giving Kabam a certain dog-bites-man quality about MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Dec 12, 2013 6:20 AM ET
Viral hit app QuizUp wasn't always flying so high. Two years ago, its founder was nearly bankrupt.
By Eli Epstein
FORTUNE -- For Icelandic game studio Plain Vanilla, the last few months have been anything but boring.
The studio launched its smash iPhone trivia hit QuizUp on November 7, and quickly attracted 3.5 million registered users. Since that launch, QuizUp has bobbed in and out of the No. 1 spot in the MOREDec 11, 2013 9:15 AM ET
As mobile device use increases, TV viewership is cratering. Games are the entertainment of the future, and free-to-play is the future of games.Oct 16, 2013 10:22 AM ET
Samsung may be winning in device volume, but Apple's App Store attracts paying customers and makes developers' lives a little easier.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- The tech world's attention will turn to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Tuesday, where the company is rumored to debut the enhanced high-end iPhone 5S and the lower-cost iPhone 5C. Other devices, potentially the long-rumored iWatch, could also be showcased. While new Apple products at MORESep 9, 2013 12:27 PM ET
The popular mobile game has expanded its universe through transmedia, and the bestselling fantasy author is one of the architects.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- Brandon Sanderson grew up playing video games on Nintendo (NTDOY) consoles, a hobby he never gave up. Now the New York Times bestselling author (2009's The Gathering Storm and 2010's Towers of Midnight) is actually helping to craft video game stories. Sanderson, who is writing multiple science fiction projects and MORESep 3, 2013 9:08 AM ET
The former entertainment executive doesn't think his industry's business model is entirely broken.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- Former Electronics Arts CEO John Riccitiello recently made his first public speech since stepping down on March 30. Speaking at the Casual Connect video game conference in San Francisco, the long-time video game executive says he spent a lot of the past four months, well, playing video games. Known as one of the MOREAug 2, 2013 11:51 AM ET
|The Deep Web you don't know about|
|Colorado gets $2 million from marijuana taxes|
|Pizza chain Sbarro files for bankruptcy|
|AT&T cuts prices again|
|Invest $1 million, try for a U.S. green card|