#parent | #kids | ‘Fortnite’ Maker Epic Games Scoops Up Houseparty App

The maker of “Fortnite” has acquired the video-chat app Houseparty, uniting two tech properties that seize on teenagers’ affinity for socializing in intimate groups online.

The deal between the two venture-backed companies, announced Wednesday, gives Houseparty a line into Epic Games Inc.’s expertise at building a massive fan base. Epic counts 250 million “Fortnite” players. The deal in part gives Fortnite a way to appeal to more girls.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Houseparty and “Fortnite” are among a new breed of social network that appeals to a much younger demographic than users on


They both provide an intimate “third space” where small groups of true friends can gather online. With “Fortnite,” that happens inside a game, while in Houseparty it is a living-room-style video-chat.

The Houseparty app shows a conversation with eight people.



Lately, Houseparty has been struggling to scale. It was trying to build a business model that sells so-called microtransactions like in “Fortnite.” In January, Houseparty teamed with Ellen DeGeneres’s game unit to begin offering in-app games. But it had a long way to go. Teaming up with “Fortnite” could give it runway.

Houseparty, formally known as Life on Air Inc., shot up in popularity in 2016 with an app that lets small groups of friends drop into a video conversation. It has raised more than $70 million in venture capital from investors such as Greylock Partners and drew the attention of tech heavyweights such as Facebook Inc., which launched a competing app the following year. Facebook’s app, Bonfire, shut down last month.

Houseparty’s app has been installed 35 million times since launching across iOS and Android in 2016, according to estimates from Sensor Tower Inc. But installs fell nearly 38% to 2.3 million new users in the first quarter, down from 3.7 million a year earlier, the analytics firm says.

Houseparty will remain independent and data won’t be shared across the two companies, according to a news release. A spokeswoman for Epic declined to comment beyond the announcement. A spokeswoman for Houseparty also declined to comment beyond the announcement.

Epic, founded in 1991, was valued at $15 billion last fall and counts

Walt Disney Co.

and China’s Tencent Holdings PLC among its investors.

“Fortnite” was released in 2017 and has since become a global cultural phenomenon especially beloved by schoolchildren. Though it is a videogame, it in many ways doubles as a social network because people can use its voice-chat software to communicate while they play. The game is best known for its free “Battle Royale” mode, where 100 players duke it out until only one combatant or squad remains.

Unlike with most other games, people can play “Fortnite” with friends on different devices, including smartphones, computers and consoles.

Some log in just to hangout—or for live entertainment. In February, 10.7 million players showed up for a live performance in the “Fortnite” world put on by the electronic musician Marshmello.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com and Betsy Morris at betsy.morris@wsj.com

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