Even if the days of your youth are long past, chances are you know Fortnite and that flossing dance are popular with the kids. Building on that success, Epic Games—the company behind Fortnite and creator of Unreal Engine—just acquired Houseparty, a social video app popular with teens.
How does Houseparty work? Basically, it’s sort of like mixing Chatroulette, Snapchat, and FaceTime. You can split-screen video chat with two to eight people, as well as text chat at the same time. It works on iOS and Android, and you can also create private locked rooms to keep out random creepers. Its user base skews young, another reason why the app’s focus on safe and private spaces makes it a compelling option for gabby teens. That’s also why you’ll find plenty of parenting guides and videos breaking down the app’s features.
This acquisition makes a lot of sense when you consider the social aspect of the Fortnite phenomenon. There’s a good amount of downtime in the game, which gives teens time to chat with each other and creates a virtual substitute for the hangout spots of yesteryear. That and its cross-platform capabilities make it a haven for teens and tweens looking to chill without parents snooping in on them.
Right now details of the acquisition are sparse. A Houseparty blog details that for now, Epic and Houseparty accounts will be kept separate. That said, it seems both parties are on the same page when it comes to the social aspect of their platforms—the blog emphasizes the merger as an opportunity to build “fun, social, and shared experiences.”
“Joining Epic is a great step forward in achieving our mission of bringing empathy to online communication,” said Sima Sistani, Houseparty’s co-founder and CEO. “We have a common vision to make human interaction easier and more enjoyable, and always with respect for user privacy.”
A potential Fortnite-Houseparty mashup would further blur the lines between social media and gaming. And while voice chats during a gaming session have been a thing for decades, it’s also true that games, Discord chats, and Twitch streams are now considered a mainstream form of socializing, and for some, keeping friendships alive.
Speaking of Discord and Twitch, you could also view the Houseparty acquisition as Epic taking a stab at building its own in-house chat platform for future games or its Steam competitor store. After all, why download separate apps when you can just do it all in one place? We’ll have to see whether that pans out, but it’s not unlikely given that before the acquisition, Houseparty was also gearing up for a push into gaming. What’s certain is that Epic is making moves on a ton of fronts when it comes to dominating the social landscape growing around video games and a lot of companies should be nervous.