- In our latest interview series, we talk to brands to understand how they are coping with the new normal and their strategies towards navigating these difficult times.
- In the last month, the face-to-face social networking app Houseparty has seen 159 times growth in India and it has added 50 million users worldwide.
- We spoke to
Quentin Staes-Polet, GM India and SEA, Epic Games to find out what the future holds for Houseparty, its plan to focus on localisation and what were some of the reasons behind its meteoric rise in the country.
While Zoom has emerged as the go-to option for work calls during the lockdown, Houseparty is taking over happy hours, when people feel like doing a fun activity together.
The app is not just used for its games and video calls now, it is slowly becoming a part of social culture as it has seen wedding proposals, celebration of birthday parties, couples sharing their dinner time while quizzing each other and many more virtual activities.
Sharing what helped the app gain precedence in India, Quentin Staes-Polet, GM India and SEA-Epic Games, said, “The video connection between people creates more spontaneity, empathy, coziness, and improves human connectivity. There's a whole set of languages that you can't get through an email or voice communication. So on a video call, the engagement is very different. So we look at Houseparty as really a home away from home where you can choose to lock it or leave it open. Your friend can drop by, they can bring their friends or not. You can meet people through networks of friends, etc and face-to-face interaction gives it that richness.”
In the past 30 days itself, the app has added 50 million users worldwide, its engagement increased as it saw people staying for an average of 65 minutes and closer home, it has seen a 159X growth.
Telling us why India is amongst the top 10 markets for the app, Polet said, “We've seen very solid growth in India and we believe that it is only just the beginning. If you look at the bandwidth penetration number in India, there's still a lot of room. From a perspective of whether it's rural India, which is probably about 900 million people -- the penetration is only 21% there. In Urban India, which is 32% of the population, there are close to 400-450 million people. Internet penetration in India is only at 66% so, there's still a lot of scope to grow. If you look at the other markets, there is over 100% penetration. There's lots of growth in terms of the devices and access. And I think we've got glorious days in front of us from a gaming point-of-view in India.
And it's not just millennials. Houseparty has seen teenagers and boomers downloading the app and partying together during happy hours.
“During the lockdown, the demographic has broadened up a little bit. Before that it was really a young crowd from 18 to 28 years old. Now we've got kids and grandparents that have joined in organically. We've seen the usage also extending beyond the simple things like birthday celebrations that you can't do in person anymore right now, virtual workouts, family and friends game night, play date, sharing happy hours, all of those things that were done at home or in your neighborhood cafe -- have moved online. We have also seen a marriage proposal via our feature called ‘Quick Draw,’ which is used to draw things. So, the next best thing to hanging out now is video chatting together,” said Polet.
To retain these users, Houseparty plans to keep launching virtual events by inviting celebrities in their house and engage with their users. It organised a global event on May 15, 16, and 17 with Katy Perry, John Legend, Terry Crews, Snoop Dogg, and Neil Patrick Harris to ride on the wave of demand it has seen since the onset of COVID-19.
When asked if including Bollywood charades or more desi games is a plan, Polet didn’t share any details but agreed that they are working on localising the app to make it region-specific.
He said, “Regional and localized content is an angle that we're definitely looking at very carefully. I can't share any developments at this point but that's very tempting and something that would help get a lot of traction.”
Going forward this year, Polet shared that their focus is going to be on making Houseparty the go-to choice for hanging out virtually, upping its content on the app by making it more engaging, improving user interface, and organising digital events. He thinks its engaging content helps it stand out in the market and they will continue to build on it. Bear in mind that these are the same creators who made Fortnite and it uses the same network for Houseparty.