Epic Games will shut down Houseparty in October, including ‘Fortnite Mode’ video chat feature – TechCrunch

Houseparty, the social video chat app acquired by Fortnite maker Epic Games for $ 35 million in 2019, is in the process of shutting down. The company says Houseparty will be discontinued in October when the app stops working for its existing users; however, it will be removed from app stores today. In connection with this decision, the “Fortnite Mode” feature of Epic Games, which used Houseparty to bring video chat to Fortnite players, will also be removed.

Founded in 2015, Houseparty offered a way for users to participate in group video chats with friends and even play games, like Uno, trivia, Heads Up, and others. Last year, Epic Games brought Houseparty into Fortnite, initially to allow players to see live streams of friends while in-game, and later adding support for live gameplay directly into Houseparty. At the time, those integrations seemed like the end goal that was why Epic Games bought the social startup in the first place.

Today, just over two years after announcing the acquisition and less than six months after adding live streaming support to the app, Houseparty is closing its doors.

The company offered no solid insight into what, at first glance, looks like an admission of failure to capitalize on its acquisition. But the reality is that Epic Games may have something bigger in store beyond just video chat. That said, all Epic Games would say today is that the Houseparty team could no longer give the app the attention it needed – a statement that points to a decision by the executive of shift the focus of the team to other issues.

While none of the Houseparty team members will be fired as a result of the move, we are told they will be joining other teams where they will work on new ways to enable “social interactions” in the family. Epic Games products. . The company’s announcement hinted that these social features would be designed and built on a “metaverse scale”.

“Metaverse” is an increasingly used buzzword that refers to a shared virtual environment, such as those provided by large-scale online gaming platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox and others. Facebook, too, claims the metaverse is the next big bet for social media, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg describing it as an “embodied Internet that you are in rather than just watching.”

To some extent, Fortnite has started embracing the metaverse by offering non-gaming experiences, such as online concerts you attend as an avatar and other live events. Before it closed, Houseparty also played with live events that users could co-watch and participate in alongside their friends.

An Epic Games spokesperson told TechCrunch that the Houseparty team has worked (and continues to work) on a number of other social-focused projects. But some of the “multiple and bigger projects” that Epic Games has in the works go undisclosed, we’re told.

In terms of social products, Houseparty’s technology now underpins all Fortnite voice chat, and the features they created are widely available to developers for free through Epic Games Services. They’ve also worked on creating new social experiences, which range from social RSVP functions for Fortnite global events, like Ariana Grande’s recent concert, to the upcoming “Operation: Sky Fire” event for collaborative quests and other mechanics. More social features and new experiences are also integrated into Fortnite’s user-generated content platform, Create Mode.

While it might seem odd to shut down an app that only saw an increase in usage last year due to the pandemic, it looks like the COVID bump didn’t last.

At the height of the lockdowns, Houseparty reported gaining 50 million new registrations in a month as users turned to video apps to connect with family and friends while the world was closed. But as the pandemic progressed, other video chat experiences gained traction. Zoom, which had established itself as an essential tool for remote working, has also become a tool for hanging out with friends after hours. Facebook also started eating Houseparty’s lunch with its walk-in “Rooms” video chat debut last year, which offered a similar group video experience. And bored users have turned to audio social media on apps like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces.

Image credits: Apptopia

According to data from Apptopia, Houseparty has steadily declined since the pandemic crisis. To date, its app has recorded a total of 111 million downloads on iOS and Android, the majority of which (63 million) on iOS. The United States was Houseparty’s largest market, accounting for 43.4% of downloads, followed by the United Kingdom (9.8%), then Germany (5.6%).

Epic Games, meanwhile, said the app serves “tens of millions” of users around the world. He insists the shutdown was not made lightly, and the decision to shut down “Fortnite Mode” was not made due to a lack of adoption.

Houseparty will alert users of the shutdown via in-app notifications before it closes permanently in October. At this point, Fortnite mode will also no longer be available.

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