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App makers offer millions - let the games begin

By Cheng Yu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-22 07:32

Prize money is the big draw as one-fourth of the country tests their brainpower with online, live quizzes

Dream of being rich overnight through quiz shows like the one portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire? The rags-to-riches plot has reached China-but it's much crazier because anyone could be a millionaire.

"Oh my god! I can't believe it's true! No doubt, it's a large sum of money for me," said Rong Ziqi, 22, a graduate from Guangdong province, who received the 1.03 million yuan ($160,000) prize for winning a quiz on a mobile livestreaming app.

Rong's unexpected experience is emblematic of a current trend in which millions of Chinese are jumping on the bandwagon of livestreaming quiz apps, with local companies scrambling to pop up new, entertaining ideas and moves at a skyrocketing speed to add them into apps.

The livestreaming or interactive application is a trivia-styled, fast-paced mashup quiz show in the internet era. It broadcasts an online live show and invites a well-known host to ask questions of increasing difficulty.

Those who can correctly answer all 12 questions will share the prize pool, with the largest share topping 5 million yuan as of Wednesday. The questions come from a wide range of topics, including traditional Chinese poems, basic mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.

Though the format is similar to HQ Trivia, a livestreaming quiz app from the US, the Chinese version is expanding at a far quicker speed, with the prize pool growing increasingly bigger than expected.

Millions join in

Within just two weeks, no matter whether in an office, on the subway, or dining at a restaurant and shopping at a mall, people of different ages can be seen playing livestreaming quiz apps.

When the clock strikes a certain time, people will have their face aglow and they stare into the mobile screen and play. All of a sudden, the quiz app has become one of the most popular sources of social networking.

"Even if I don't use the mobile phone often, I am attracted to this quiz show. No entry barrier, no complicated rules, a great chance of reward, tap the screen and play! Why not try?" said Ye Qiang, 57, an electrician from Beijing.

Over 350 million users had joined the quiz app platform Baiwan Yingjia, or Millionaire Winner, by Jan 15, within 10 days of its launch. That's about one-fourth of the country's total population.

"We are very confident about this product, as the livestreaming quiz industry is promising in China, no matter from the perspective of content, technology or commercial value. For us, it is an ideal way to increase user loyalty," said Yu Dan, co-founder of live video streaming platform Huajiao, parent company of Baiwan Yingjia. "In the internet industry, gaining more users is the key to winning the second part of the race. Our data proved that a great number of participants can stick to the platform for more than five minutes, leaving a huge development space for this market," she added.

The rising popularity has also prompted a group of companies resembling each other to offer higher incentives to attract users.

Baiwan Yingxiong, translated as Millionaire Hero, backed by online news aggregator toutiao.com, poured over 16 million yuan on Jan 13 and Jan 14, while its major rival Zhishi Chaoren, translated as Cheese Superman, put up over 4.5 million yuan in the same period.

'Breaks new ground'

"The live quiz show breaks new ground in the livestreaming industry by borrowing inspiration from TV content. Combing mobile apps with a livestreaming quiz broadens potential participants and expands its interactivity," said Wang Chuanzhen, an internet analyst from consultancy Analysys in Beijing.

She said that tantalizing incentives is another reason why it grew so rapidly, since users not only play by themselves, but also draw their families and friends in to participate, which brings them a "reborn card" enabling them to have an extra chance to continue the quiz.

The appealing form also offers lucrative commercial opportunities. Just a few days after Zhishi Chaoren was launched, it received 100 million yuan in advertising fees from Qudian, a Chinese financial technology firm. Its competitor, Baiwan Yingxiong, also cooperated with over a hundred ad agencies to launch a round of games hitting 5 million yuan.

Analysts point out that the business format is profitable because it uses little money to attract a user but may absorb over 1 million yuan or more in advertising fees later thanks to the huge amount of users.

Wang from Analysys said it is easy to insert ads into such games, whether it is in decorating the livestreaming room, choosing hosts or setting the questions.

While it heated up, several problems were identified. Some companies launched search apps allowing users to play and voice search answers as they played, while some livestreaming apps apologized for their errors, including system crashes.

Lacking transparency

"Livestreaming quiz apps also lack fairness and credibility, including the participant number and the winning result, which requires them to invite independent notary authorities to guarantee authenticity," said Li Junhui, senior research fellow of Center for IPR Studies of China University of Political Science and Law.

Li said that whether questions and answers are legitimate needs to be considered, noting that the top watchdog in Beijing recently spoke with Baiwan Yingjia for improper questions during the games.

"To avoid these problems, related departments on livestreaming, content checking and advertising regulation are expected to engage to supervise the contests in time to help promote the healthy development of livestreaming quiz apps," he added.

Despite rising problems, the battle of livestreaming quiz apps continues, with platforms constantly adding new ideas to stay on top.

Zhishi Chaoren launched a profit-sharing mode, in which, a participant can invite friends to play. If a friend wins, the original participant can also get 10 percent of the prize.

Baiwan Yingjia added an innovation by starting a group mode, allowing four people to play together. The four can share the prize if only one of the group members passes through.

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