India among Houseparty's top ten markets, won't monetise user data for ads

The app, unlike a Zoom or Microsoft Teams, was not designed for formal communication, but for a spontaneous chat with a friend.
Video chat app Houseparty counts India among its top ten markets and the Epic Games-owned platform will not look to monetise via advertisements ever, said Quentin Staes-Polet, GM India and SEA-Epic Games.

Polet took over his new role last year and is currently based in Goa. Houseparty began picking up in India and globally in the last three months since lockdowns in most parts of the world forced people to stay at home. The app, unlike a Zoom or Microsoft Teams, was not designed for formal communication, but for a spontaneous chat with a friend.

This was the reason it was initially favoured by young people, but that has changed because of the lockdowns imposed to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. "The age group that was originally a sweet spot for us was 18-28 years, but in India and worldwide in the last three months we've seen a lot more families using it," said Polet.

With built-in games that people can play together in a chat session, or just catching up with friends and family for a quick chat, a big draw for the app was that it allowed up to 6 people to join in a session. WhatsApp, with its huge user base of over 2 billion worldwide allowed only four people in a video chat session until recently, when it increased the number of participants to 8.

There are also other apps in the space such as Zoom, Google Meet and others that have seen traction in different parts of the world, including India.

Unlike other video or collaboration apps, Houseparty focuses on a content-based strategy, "working on giving it a face to face social network vibe". For instance, it organised a three-day live streaming concert earlier in May with 40 well known international stars such as Katy Perry, John Legend, Alicia Keys and Snoop Dogg.

The company found itself in trouble after online rumours suggested that downloading Houseparty led to services like Netlfix and Spotify getting hacked. It later said that the rumours were nothing but a smear campaign.  Houseparty ran an internal investigation and found the rumurs to be untrue. It has offered a $1 million reward to anyone who produces evidence that the company was the victim of a commercial smear campaign.

The app also does not have any plans to monetise through advertising. "In general, Epic Games as a company, we're extremely careful about our user data. We don't sell user data, we don't do ads, we don't use the same business model as others. The user is not the product for us and we won't monetise ads with any of that data. We don't sell or share client data or behaviour data. Most likely premium game or premium content will be the road for us," Polet said.

The company is currently expanding its India team and working on user feedback.

Polet is confident that the firm will be able to maintain its user-base in India once the lockdown lifts. "The new normal will mean a lot more video interaction so we expect this to grow for us, especially driven by content. People getting more familiar with that way of hanging out. We don't see that as a major problem with India," he added.


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