The Mobile View - II

Remember Houseparty?

Before I begin, some context on what is 'The Mobile View'

In these series of posts, I'd like to systematically list down some of my thoughts on the markets and trends in the world of mobile games and apps. The first post under this header was about PUBG Mobile and its relations with the Indian market. Linked below.

EDIT: Putting these posts under a single umbrella adds unnecessary constraints, and there's currently no easy way to segment it as a series of posts on this platform yet. So, I'll not continue with segmenting all the posts under single 'The Mobile View' header.


In case you've experienced this eventful 2020 like rest of the world, you might remember how we were living our life as usual at the beginning of the year, and then suddenly everything came to a standstill by March. Writing this in November makes me feel like March was ages ago, but at the same time it feels like it was yesterday. This #NewNormal got us lot of new trends in its wake.

Having limited themselves to their homes during the lockdowns that started in March, people turned to apps and games in order to get their required dose of socializing. The social aspect of games came into focus. In the early days, I'd written another short piece on this which is linked below. Do check that out too.

One of the apps that suddenly gained popularity in this time was Houseparty. The video calling app which gave an option for their users to engage with some games and activities while on call. It was something which people liked as they wanted to keep in touch with their loved ones while being physically distant from them.

Image Source: is.gd/Le5TxU

Almost 8 months since that sudden popularity boost, the pandemic is still on and everyone's still kind of stuck in their homes and away from their loved ones, but this app disappeared from the popular discourse to some extent.

Houseparty situation

The app was around since 2017 and wasn't such a big hit on the stores. During this time, it also got acquired by Epic Games but didn't see much traction there even after that. Until the lockdowns hit, it used to get daily downloads in the range of 20k (Android + iOS). It was only when the lockdowns happened, that it started seeing a boost of installs and users.

From being in the range of 20k daily installs, it peaked up to 1m+ daily installs over the next couple of months. This popularity also resulted in rumors of a hack, which had lot of users uninstall the app. There was lot of drama with that situation to the point of Epic Games announcing a $1mn bounty for the person who'd provide proof of a motivated smear campaign. More has been written about what happened there, and this Gizmodo article explains that in some more detail.

Houseparty was still trending even through these rumor times, but it started seeing a dip in its installs soon. The decline was steep and by June it was back at around 50k daily installs. While it was not completely down to the pre lockdown levels, the interest in this app definitely diminished. In this time, the app did gain a decent amount of active users though. But overall, it wasn't able to sustain the boost that it received earlier.

How come?

Houseparty is a video calling app with a few extra engagement layers which mainly consist of simple multiplayer games on it. While these extras are appealing to the users, they do get repetitive soon enough. Once this appeal has worn down, it's just another video calling app, for which there are plenty other options. Adding more of these extras didn't really help either as it can be seen with no install spikes even after introducing feature like UNO, which is a popular party game in itself.

In addition to this aspect of getting bored of these gimmicky multiplayer gaming layer in Houseparty, people discovered more engaging, multiplayer games which they could use to spend their time. Among Us being the best example. This has resulted in Houseparty being relegated to just a video chat app once again.

If you're looking for some social party games to play while social distancing, this recent listicle might help you.

So, while all this might look like the fad of Houseparty had almost died down, the Epic Games ownership is suddenly making sense with the latest development on this app which might help it gain back some momentum and get popular again.

What's cooking?

Just this week, Epic Games announced that their current most popular game, Fortnite, is getting a video chat integration via Houseparty. It's quite clear now that the massive acquisition of Houseparty while raising $1.25Bn in 2019 was the first step in this direction.

Image Source: t.ly/ITYl

While the early quarantine popularity of Houseparty made the brand more popular, it seems like it was just an unplanned boost that the app received.

Fortnite being the one of the biggest social games right now with the young audience, the Houseparty integration is going to give the app a big userbase once again.

This effect visible already as the daily installs of the app have started picking up in this week. From the 50k levels in the previous week, they're already crossing 300k post the Fortnite integration update. However, there's also this whole Fortnite vs Apple feud that's going on and it remains to be seen how that's going to play out in the long run. Also, if this conflict could have any negative effects on Houseparty too is unclear as of now.

TL;DR

  1. Houseparty became a popular brand among the young audience in the early days of the pandemic.

  2. It ended up being a passing fad as it didn't seem to have sustained this growth as much it'd have liked to.

  3. The games was an engagement layer which got boring soon, and without which, this was just another video calling app.

  4. The popularity of other social games during this time meant that the reason for playing games through Houseparty was weakened even further.

  5. While this seemed like a craze that has already passed, Epic Games has released Houseparty integration with Fortnite, which is one of the biggest multiplayer games currently.

  6. This update has already started showing uptick in its daily install numbers and it remains to be seen if the Epic vs Apple feud has any effects here too.

All numbers were sourced from AppAnnie


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Ishan Manjrekar

Game Designer, exploring stuff in and around the digital products space