Plain Vanilla's plan to create a socially-powered world-class trivia gaming platform

It's time to QuizUp

Plain Vanilla's plan to create a socially-powered world-class trivia gaming platform

Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, and San Francisco, USA, mobile developer Plain Vanilla is shaping up for a big end to 2013. 

Since raising $3.6 million in funding, it's been hard at work on its masterplan to revolutionise the world of trivia games.

Testing the concept, it's released a bunch of standalone iOS titles based on specific topics - math, Twilight, basketball, movies, animals - under the brand QuizUp but what it's released today is nothing less than an all-singing-all-dancing mobile trivia gaming platform.

CEO, and self-confessed geography geek, Thor Fridriksson explains more.

Pocket Gamer: Plain Vanilla's goal is to be a market leader in trivia games. Why are trivia games so interesting?

Thor Fridriksson: Trivia games have been around for centuries in one form or another; it's something that has such a universal appeal. People all over the world love to compete against each other in trivia, whether it's friends playing Trivial Pursuit, a family watching Jeopardy, or strangers competing in pub quiz.

We at Plain Vanilla believe no-one has yet delivered a world-class trivia experience in the mobile market and we intend to do exactly that.

How do you intend to do that?

One thing you observe when you look at current non-digital trivia games is that playing a trivia game is an inherently social experience. No-one likes to play Trivial Pursuit by themselves; people want to show other people how good they are at trivia.

Plain Vanilla's Math QuizUp is a competitive math game

We see a great chance to connect people all over the world in the biggest trivia platform ever created and that's why we are so excited to be launching QuizUp, the world's first social trivia platform this fall.

To-date, you've released a bunch of games themed around specific interest groups. What have this diverse range of subjects taught you about the trivia gaming audience?

First thing we learned is that trivia games can be made interesting for any audience. Before we launched Twilight QuizUp, we were worried that the fanbase for the Twilight movies - teenage girls - were perhaps not the ideal target demographics for a competitive trivia app. We were proved completely wrong as Twilight fans loved to compete in a trivia game about something they were passionate about.

What this taught us is that having very specific topics is actually the key to drive up engagement, as people get more passionate about niche interests compared to the typical broad trivia categories you will find in most trivia games.

When games like Trivial Pursuit were originally designed, they had to use very generic question categories, because all the questions were printed on cardboard and had to have an appeal to the mass market.

Even Twilight fans love to trivia

On mobile we don't have this restriction and that's why we will have hundreds of different topics on the QuizUp platform so that people can compete in topics they are really passionate about.

How easy is it to monetise a trivia game player?

Trivia games have not really been the big cash cows on mobile so far. We do believe that there are good monetization possibilities with a platform like QuizUp, though.

I do think that some great games are being ruined by very aggressive monetization strategies at the moment and we definitely don't want to give our players the feeling that the platform is just a vehicle that has been mathematically adjusted to get the highest average revenue per user as possible.

In the end we want the users to have a great experience, and I think that will be more valuable in the long term than trying to maximize the revenue from our users from the get-go.

You've raised a bunch of cash to fulfill your trivia game dream, but surely such games are pretty cheap to develop?

Well, a standalone trivia game is not that expensive to make, and we have made quite a few of them. What we are introducing in QuizUp, is more than just a trivia game. We are creating essentially a social network that revolves around trivia games and interests.

In QuizUp, players will be able to select from hundreds of different topics. Players can challenge other friends in a real-time or turn-based match, and find new friends based on their passions and interests.

On top of this, players can see their progress on very extensive leaderboards for each topic, browse through players, chat to each other, and participate in topic-based chat forums.

Game developers make game-focused game; in this case Video Game QuizUp

We currently have close to 50 writers all around the world writing content for the platform, and we already have more questions in our database than any trivia game in the world, on any platform. So yes, making a platform like this does cost a lot of money, but hopefully people will like it.

Your development team is based in Iceland. Do you think that's significant in terms of what you've set out to do? Do Icelanders play a lot of trivia games to get through the long winter?

Trivia games are very popular in Iceland, like in the rest of the world. The most popular trivia series in Iceland is actually an annual trivia competition between all the colleges. This show is one of the most popular TV show during the winter, and the show finale is broadcasted live and is kind of like the Superbowl when it comes to ratings.

During my younger years I tried out to get on the trivia team in my college but I didn't make it. Some of Plain Vanilla's employees have the theory that I got so frustrated when I didn't get into my college's trivia team that I decided to find another way to defeat the trivia world. They might have a point.

What's your personal key trivia subject?

I've always been something of a geography nerd. I used to memorize the flags of the world from an early age and soon after the capitals and states of the world followed. I still tend to choose geography when I play trivia games with those typical trivia categories.

And of course I aim to be my on the top of the leader board in Geography in QuizUp, both in my country and among my friends!

Thanks to Thor for his time,.

You can find out more about what Plain Vanilla gets up to via its website.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.