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April 1, 2019 The Epic History of Buzztime (35 Fun Facts to Celebrate 35 Years)

NTN Buzztime

Confetti and noisemakers? Check. Big cake? Check (we already ate it). A bunch of fun facts about Buzztime? Obviously! Buzztime is turning 35 and we’re celebrating with a little trivia of our own. Behold, the epic history of Buzztime in 35 facts…

1. It’s our birthday, but our players get the presents.

That’s how we roll. We’re showing 30 million Buzztime players some love this April with a daily chance to win $100 in our latest Trivia for Cash competition: Players’ Choice.

2. Buzztime has given away millions in cash prizes since 1984…

…including nearly $40,000 in the past year alone. You could call 2019 the year of Trivia for Cash, since we’re running all these monthly player competitions with big cash prizes.

3. We love spoiling our partner locations, too.

Want to join the party? Become a Buzztime location in April, and get a free month on us. Expect to see new faces ASAP because 96% of Buzztime players are looking for additional places to get their game on.*

4. Now, let’s take it back…way back…to 1984.

Iconic movies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Karate Kid made their debut. Everyone was rocking big hair and argyle sweaters while singing “Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon.” (Sorry, not sorry, it’s stuck in your head.) And most importantly, the first Buzztime game – QB1 – was played in 1984.

Quick side note: Buzztime was founded as NTN Communications, Inc. and known as “NTN” throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but we’ll refer to it as Buzztime to keep things simple.

 5. You’ve grown up with Buzztime. Exhibit A.

Even if you haven’t played trivia or ordered drinks on our touchscreen tablets, you’ve seen us before. We’ve been a part of pop culture for 3 decades now. Did you see our poster (next to Jen’s famous hair) in Office Space? Noticed our trivia on the TV? Don’t get distracted by those pieces of flair.

6. Exhibit B

You saw us on the CBS Show, Mike & Molly, starring Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell. Mike and Molly indulged in some friendly competition using Buzztime tablets.

7. Exhibit C, D…

In 2004, players even competed in a televised trivia championship round on Anderson Cooper’s New Year’s Eve special. Fox TV even aired Paranoia, our live trivia gameshow – hosted by Peter Tomarken.

 8. Before Buzztime made it big, we had just 8 locations and 1 game in 1985.

Gotta start somewhere, right? Today, there are over 2,600 bars, restaurants, breweries, and other venues carrying over 26 trivia games.

 9. QB1 was the first Buzztime game. Nope, it wasn’t trivia…

…it was a predictive football game. Longtime Buzztime fans already know all about QB1. For the noobs, QB1 was played in real time as fans watched televised college and pro football games. Before the snap of the ball, Buzztime players predicted if the next play would be a pass or run.

10. Football fans went QB1 crazy from the 80s through the early aughts.

In 1986, Sports Illustrated held a VIP party with QBI as the featured entertainment. (Put that VIP party on your bucket list if time travel becomes a thing.)

Our own CEO, Ram Krishnan, competed in QB1 on the University of Virginia campus. At the same time on the University of Michigan campus, Buzztime CFO Allen Wolff was playing QB1 as well. We’ll never know who had the higher scores…

11. Miss QBI? Blame Janet’s Wardrobe Malfunction in 2004.

After the 2006 Super Bowl halftime show – yeah, that one – TV stations started running football games with a 5 second tape delay. However, radio stations still broadcast in real-time giving unscrupulous QBI players an advantage. End game for QBI.

12. But sports fans can still get their fix from Buzztime.

We’ve got Buzztime Sports Trivia, Football Trivia, Baseball Trivia…you get the picture.

13. Wait, let’s go back to the 1980s. Some big stuff happened in 1987.

Buzztime launched Showdown and Countdown Trivia, 2 games which are still going strong today. Plus, the very first wireless Buzztime playmaker debuted…

14. Can we all pause to appreciate the very first wireless Playmaker?

Listen, we realize this doesn’t look high tech. But in the 1980s – the era of the Zach Morris cell phone – it most certainly was. Player answers were typed in and transmitted over a 49 MHz signal, the same signal as a cordless phone.

15. Players are still phoning it in…

In 2011, Buzztime launched the Playmaker mobile app so competitors could use either a Buzztime tablet or their own smartphone to submit answers.

16. …and they have a new way to do it in 2019!

In 2019, the new Buzztime Entertainment app launches with even more features and fun stuff. The app is in a beta format, so players can provide feedback to make it even more awesome.

17. Did we mention we love our players? All 30 million of them?

Have you ever met a diehard Buzztime player? You’ll know. They’re insanely smart, funny, and can hold their own in any Buzztime game (or drinking game, for that matter).

Players form tightknit communities at locations that carry Buzztime – and meet up regularly to compete individually and as a team. In fact, a study found that 74% of our players recommend businesses with Buzztime to their friends and fam.*

18. When we say players are tightknit, we mean it.

They often help teammates – like Thomas Hoobler, a player at Mad River Bar and Grille in New York, NY – compete for cash. Hoobler said, “Our team has never played on Sunday before, but we sure did after I (with the team’s help) won the $1,000 prize during the January Trivia for Cash event…Sunday Funday. When we told the waitress and manager what we had won, we noticed that the service even improved! Keep it up, Buzztime!”

Players don’t just meet up IRL. You’ll find them online, too, discussing all things Buzztime.

19. Buzztime Players have always had their own inside jokes…

When Buzztime (then called NTN) launched a new logo back in the day, players named it “Bad Bart” for the resemblance to Bart Simpson. Players even named their nationwide Yahoo message board BadBart.

20. …but they take winning very, very seriously!

A spot on the local Buzztime leaderboard is a big deal, but getting on the national leaderboard? That’s the holy grail.

21. So we take question writing very, very seriously…

Buzztime has an entire team dedicated to researching and writing questions – all day, every day.

 22. For fact’s sake, Buzztime has 700,000 questions and answers.

And we add more trivia daily…

23. The last question we got (sorta) wrong was in August, 2012. It involved mythical winged creatures, obviously.

The question: In mythology, what famous creature was the offspring of Poseidon and the snake-haired Medusa?

The answer that Buzztime provided: Pegasus, the winged horse.

Pegasus was actually the correct answer. However, an astute player let us know that Pegasus had a twin brother – a flying boar – named Chrysaor, who should have been included in the answer. Sorry, bro.

 24. Our questions cover everything: from Greek gods to the latest headlines.

Throughout the history of Buzztime, we’ve launched themed trivia games around niche topics our players care about. There’s SciFiles Trivia for the Trekkies and sci-fi buffs. We’ve got Glory Daze for back-in-the-day facts.

25. Even Canadians have their very own Buzztime trivia game.

Aptly titled “Canada, Eh?”

26. The Buzztime game development team is always adjusting the game lineup.

Our game gurus use player feedback, advanced gaming analytics, and trend tracking to create games that players want.

27. Along the way, there have been some “interesting” games.

Anyone remember Nightside trivia in the 1990s? It had an “adult” theme that didn’t go over well at family-oriented venues. Granted, the game ran after 10pm, but Buzztime decided to keep things more PG going forward.

Other games of yesteryear include: Boys and Their Toys (trivia about snow mobiles and jet skis…Kenny Powers would approve), PowerPlay (all hockey, all the time), and this gem…

28. Would you rather lose at Buzztime or lose a $20 bill?

Decisions. Decisions. In the early 2000s, Buzztime ran a game called “Zobmondo” which was essentially a “Would You Rather?” game. One question was: would you rather get poked in the eye with a stick or fall off a cliff? Um, neither?

29. But trivia and arcade games aren’t all that Buzztime does…

After all, we’re focused on helping businesses provide an awesome in-venue experience. That’s why we decided to bring more to the table…

30. You can order from a digital menu, and even securely pay – on a Buzztime tablet.

Launched in 2017, the Buzztime customer-facing dining technology platform lets customers browse a digital menu, send orders to the kitchen, and pay their bill with a credit card or mobile payment. Right now, digital dining and tableside payment is taking off – and over 79% of today’s customers are hungry for it according to a recent study by TSYS.

31. As you can tell, the last 35 years have been an adventure at Buzztime.

And we’re still creating ways to delight our players and partner locations. That’s what inspires all of us at Buzztime, and keeps us excited about coming to work every day. That, and the fact our new office in Carlsbad, California is just a mile from the beach…

32. Some of us have been here since the beginning (or close to it). Like Chris C…

Today, he’s the Buzztime Technical Operations Specialist and has been with Buzztime for 21 years. “It was my first job out of college, and I’ve never wanted to leave. Getting to work with trivia games and great people all day? What could be better?”

33. …and Skyler T.

Skyler came on board just a year after Chris, she says, “Working here has at times felt like living in a movie.  We’ve definitely had our share of ups and downs, quirky characters, and crazy stories, but through it all…it’s been fun. It helps that “fun” is the whole point of our main product!” Well said, Skyler.

34. Buzztime is like one big family made up of hundreds of employees, 30 million players, and 2,600 locations.

We call it the Buzztime Nation – and everyone is welcome…

35. The only thing that’s missing?

You.

2 Comments

  • Brooke Smith Jun 10, 2019 6:20 pm

    Thanks for the witty and informative article--I'm using it as a resource (with proper credit given of course) in a book I'm writing on how to become a better trivia player. However, as a long-time NTN/Buzztime player (24 years), I have to point out that on Number 11, the year is wrong: Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was in 2004, not 2006. As a long-time book editor (17 years), I also noted the inconsistent italicization of movie/TV show titles in Nos. 4, 5, and 6 (italics is the way to go). Finally, there's another TV show that had the characters playing, albeit it QB1 rather than trivia: Saving Grace. (would italicize but there's no way to do it). But otherwise good job!Brooke/AARDVK

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