Epic is shutting down its Houseparty video chat service
Houseparty, a video chat service launched in 2016 and acquired by Fortnite studio Epic Games in 2019, is going to disappear. Epic said goodbye to the house party blog, announcing that the software has already been removed from app stores and that the service itself will be shut down in October.
“We created Houseparty to make people feel together even when physically apart, and we can’t thank you enough for turning to Houseparty for the important moments in your life,” Epic wrote. “From birthday parties to proposals, weddings, family game night and more, you’ve done it all on Houseparty. turned to Houseparty to laugh, play games and make memories while apart.”
There was drama following the acquisition of Houseparty by Epic, as rumors began to surface that it was being used to “hack” users’ Netflix, PayPal and Spotify accounts, and that the only way to avoiding the risk was to remove the app entirely. The Houseparty team suggested the reports might actually be part of a “paid commercial smear campaign” to damage the software, and went so far as to offer a $1 million reward for proof that a such a campaign was taking place.
Nothing ever came of it, but according to BBC News reporter Joe Tidy, more than a million users abandoned Houseparty because of the claims, which “tap the STRONG app at a time when he was on a massive Zoom-like trajectory.”
I spent a lot of time trying to find the source of this misinformation at the time. I found no evidence of a deliberate smear campaign, according to Houseparty. Closest to the source was a Scottish woman who falsely claimed on FB that HP had “hacked her phone” https://t.co/mikV8YEn7WSeptember 10, 2021
Epic integrated Houseparty into Fortnite in late 2020, allowing players to see and chat with each other on their cellphones while they play. Anticipating potential issues, Houseparty’s Fortnite mode was cropped to focus only on player faces with a Fortnite-themed background, and in-game parental controls allowed it to be turned off entirely. I said at the time that the integration with Fortnite would be “a big boost” for Houseparty, but it clearly wasn’t big enough.
The Houseparty team is now “working on creating new ways to have meaningful and authentic metaverse-wide social interactions across the Epic Games family,” which means they can no longer support the existing application as needed. So here we go, but “we hope the memories you’ve created will last a lifetime,” Epic said.
Epic also provided a list of alternatives to Houseparty, including programs like Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, and of course Discord. For gaming-related use, I’d definitely recommend Discord – for now, at least while it’s still good.