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Young Indians are partying on Houseparty and now it wants to amp up experience

Houseparty has emerged as one of the fastest-growing apps for video chats and virtual games during the lockdown, including in India. Epic Games India chief talks to India Today Tech about the growth of Houseparty and what is next for its users.

twitter-logoShubham Verma | June 2, 2020 | Updated 21:04 IST

Highlights

  • Houseparty saw a spike in its usage in India after the lockdown began.
  • Epic Games India chief believes Indians will engage more on the platform.
  • Houseparty said it will never monetise its user data, unlike other platforms such as Zoom.

Houseparty was barely known in India before the entire country went into a complete lockdown. Stuck in homes, Indians began scouring the internet to find new apps or even reusing the old ones, which would help them connect with their friends and family members, who too were stuck in their own homes. As demand for virtual gatherings caught up, the adoption of Houseparty in India boomed, registering a growth of 150X during the first 30 days of lockdown.

While the adoption rate slowed down after the initial boom, for millions in India, Houseparty became an app where they can organise virtual get-togethers and have some fun. Recently, India Today Tech spoke to Quentin Staes-Polet, general manager at Epic Games (India and Southeast Asia), the US firm that owns Houseparty and uber-hit Fortnite battle royale game, talking about the success of Houseparty in India.

Polet, in his talk, underscores how India became one of the top 10 markets for the company. "We are humbled and grateful as we are able to meet the needs of our users," said Polet, while revealing that a large chunk of Indian users belongs to the 18-28 age group.

He says that the app was helped by the lockdown, but also by its ease of access and great feature set. Houseparty is a video chat app that allows as many as eight participants to not just get together but also play games online.

In his conversation, Palet highlights that privacy is something that Houseparty believes is as important as the fun element of the app. The games in the app are provided by third parties that have to comply with Houseparty's privacy policy, according to Polet. "Houseparty is a safe and secure platform. User safety is of utmost importance to us. We would like to assure you that there has been no data breaches and no exposure of customer data or third-party accounts. The data of our users is protected," he says.

What is next for Houseparty users

Even as it faces renewed competition from the likes of Zoom, Google Meet, and WhatsApp, Houseparty is particularly proud of the engagement it has seen from its users. "We have seen an overwhelming response from the Indian users. Some of the top regions by users for us in the last 30 days are - Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad," said Polet. The app now aims to expand to around 8 to 10 more cities in India.

The engagement from users in the top cities peaks at little over 65 minutes per user. Polet believes this is because of the in-app games that keep users engaged within the app, beyond just video-calling contacts -- something that a lot of its rivals rely on. "At a very basic level, our utility of group video chat is about human connection. We see that now more than ever," he says.

Houseparty is also now organising virtual concerts within the app, where a large number of users can join in to watch celebrities, such as Katy Perry, John Legend, and Snoop Dogg. For now, there are 40 such celebrities on Houseparty. With the world remains locked, or at least shackled with all the social distancing measures, it is possible that virtual concerts are here to stay. Polet, in fact, is counting on it, hoping that by improving the virtual concert experience, and by making it richer, the app will be able to engage users further.

This augmented experience is something that sits at the centre of the business plan that Houseparty has. Virtual concerts may become a revenue stream for Houseparty as these may lead to the app selling tickets to the virtual concerts. But Houseparty does not want to jump on the bandwagon and monetise virtual concerts. "Being a part of Epic Games allows us to focus on user experience. Houseparty's business model aims to provide direct added value to our users through premium game offerings. We want to offer better experiences for people, not turn our users into service for us," says Polet.

The strategy to not monetise its users also applies to other bits of Houseparty. Unlike other apps, Houseparty does not serve advertisements to its users or charge them to access a clutter-free platform. "We want to emphasise that Houseparty does not have an advertising-based business model. We believe there are many creative ways that we can build a sustainable business and bring value to our users." But Houseparty may introduce premium content in the app for revenue generation, says Polet.

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