A way to connect to family and friends and have fun with them when physically apart is something sorely needed during the pandemic. And thus, the popularity of the group video chat social media app, Housepparty. SoundCloud, the famous app often associated with the latest crazy of musically inclined artists had something to say about listening to audio. They were abruptly shocked at the new conflict and competitor that arise out of the ashes with this sketchy, audio-based service.
Houseparty has let people see and talk to each other through its group video chatting service. More than that, it kept users entertained with its in-app games such as trivia, “Heads Up!”, and Uno. In short, it gave people an experience like visiting your friends at their home or inviting them over to yours. The New Yorker has dubbed it as the “virtual living room” of apps because of this.
Life on Air Inc. – Houseparty's creator – was acquired by Epic Games for a reported $35 million in 2019. The company used Houseparty to improve the experience for players of its flagship, the global phenomenon: Fortnite.
Now, Epic Games has been shut down. It is a little surprising since it has been helpful for the company. Or wasn't that the case? Was buying Houseparty a mistake? Let us take a look at what happened and what caused the end of the social networking app, Houseparty.
In 2019, Life on Air Inc. co-founder Sima Sistani was announced as the new Chief Executive Officer. Under her management, the company became a subsidiary of Epic Games. Sistani said that Fortnite players are already using Houseparty's service to communicate while playing, and hence, the decision makes sense.
Houseparty becoming a part of the Epic family streamlined things for Fortnite players. The game and the social media app got integrated, allowing players to video call friends while playing. They are displayed at a panel on the leftmost side of the screen. Said panel does not get in the way of the game screen. This is called the “Fortnite Mode” in the Houseparty app.
Initially, that was all there was to the integration. But later on, they added live stream support. It allowed players to send real-time footage of their gameplay to their Houseparty feed. That is similar to what Meerkat, Life on Air Inc.'s first project, does, except it is now platform-specific.
It appeared that Epic Games bought the startup to get these features. But not even one year since the live streaming feature was added, Epic games announced it is shutting down Houseparty.
No, this does not mean there's a failure to capitalize on the acquisition. Epic Games has a bigger plan for Houseparty.
On September 9, 2021, Epic's announcement said Houseparty will be discontinued in October of the same year. It noted that Epic had used its core technology and values for many of its tools and features. Fortnite's voice chat feature is based on it. Likewise, many features made available to developers through Epic Games Services were born from Houseparty's technology. As a result of this, the team behind Houseparty became too busy; they weren't able to focus on the app and the community.
Perhaps, that contributed to the Houseparty's decline in popularity. That, combined with the “pandemic app” curse, is a sure way to descend. Apps popularized by the pandemic are slowly losing relevance as people shift back to their old behaviors. Houseparty is, unfortunately, one of them.
Before lockdowns, Houseparty only has been downloaded about 570,000 times. During the pandemic, however, it had been downloaded over 17 million times. That is an exponential increase. Unfortunately, the COVID boost does not have a staying power. In its last month at Google Play and App Store, it has only been downloaded 500,000 times, according to SensorTower. It was less than what the social media app saw before the pandemic.
As unfortunate as it seems, it is not that bad of a case. In fact, it could be working in Epic's favor. The decline made shutting down Houseparty an easier decision to make, despite its official post saying they do not take it lightly. It frees the team from the responsibility of maintaining the app. That is good because Epic needs them to focus on something else. Epic Games is embarking on a journey to build its metaverse. And Houseparty's technology is a vital component of it.
The metaverse is something that will combine reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality. They are shared virtual environments. It is widely regarded as the next iteration of the internet. As per Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's description, the metaverse is “an embodied internet” – you don't just look at it; you are inside it. It is the next big gambit for social networking, he adds.
Epic has already invested in building its metaverse – which is centering around Fortnite. Earlier this year, it raised $1 billion to support this endeavor. Then in August, the world had a taste of Epic's metaverse through Ariana Grande's online concert people can attend using their Fortnite avatars. Houseparty has also toyed with live events before its shutdown.
The Houseparty team will join others to create new ways to allow meaningful and authentic interactions in the Epic metaverse. Sima Sistani wrote that they are working on products and visions that revolve around shared experiences on a Twitter thread. The said products are “in a more rich format than 2D video.” Sistani says they are “better positioned to shape the next generation of the internet.”
The end of Houseparty symbolizes the start of a new era. This era is focused on merging two “dimensions” – the natural world and virtual worlds – is about to come. It is not a new concept, but the rise of cryptos, NFTs, and even the prevalence of social media made it possible to achieve now. Who knew the internet could further evolve? And who knew we were this close to something only found in sci-fi books?
The metaverse is not here yet. What people are seeing are just appetizers for what is about to come. But based on what is available now, one can see how promising and outstanding the future with the metaverse is. Some people in the tech world are already well aware that the universe of apps will be sucked into the Metaverse, one installment at a time. SoundCloud and the many music albums and one-off singles they bring to the table will be no different.
Imagine playing the coolest VR game with your epic VR headset and you get to play your very own custom SoundCloud-inspired playlist as it gets incorporated into the very mechanics of the game itself. There are already ways that video games can pull audio directly from the third-party servers of audio rendering websites, but SoundCloud can provide something no other platform can – SoundCloud plays. Soundcloud plays represent off-brand, off-artist music that is often remixed and altered to fit micro-niches of music that no large corporate entity would bother or dare to fund.
The revolutionary music tales that get created and shared on the platform give rise to whole new industries of artists, and once they get big there, then they go corporate. With an entire metaverse of plays actively plugged into the SoundCloud scene, we're expecting to see a massive spike in SoundCloud plays overall. This will spell success for many new and unknown artists and will give the music scene diversity a nice boost it could use.
When you think of the glory days of Grand Theft Auto, one of the awesome aspects of the game was the real, trendy music you could play on the radio in the car while driving around and causing a scene. Imagine that now with SoundCloud playing your deep-niche music choices. Back in the GTA5 days, the idea of music playing(basically for free) via apps connected to your speakers seemed like a thing of the far-off distant future – and it was. However, as we all find ourselves in 2021, it's pretty obvious that the future is here, and it's actually a good thing for once.
Video game engineers and game developers of all kinds will be able to classify and categorize certain game assets like radios, cars, and computers as music-playing devices. These devices could sync directly into your very real-world album of SoundCloud artists and playlists, transcending the universe and multiverse into the best thing humanity can muster – the Metaverse. While this may sound awesome for angsty teenagers, the demographic of the average gamer has changed. Most gamers are full-blown adults, and even adults in this modern era are spending more time indoors than ever before.
The real winners here are not just the gamers. The real winners are the small artists and music developers who would otherwise go unnoticed. They will suddenly get an exponential explosion in their potential SoundCloud plays and boost their odds of transcending into real-world financial success, further allowing more great culture and art to develop and progress. We may actually have one of the small cases where unrelenting technological progress seems to have a pretty clear-cut case of abundantly positive effects, with little to no fallout on the other foot!
Date: November 20, 2021 / Categories: SoundCloud Plays, / Author: Joy P
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