North Carolina

Epic Games, the maker of ‘Fortnite,’ is buying social media company Houseparty

Epic Games, the Cary-based maker of the popular video game “Fortnite,” is buying the social media app Houseparty, the two companies said Wednesday.

Houseparty will remain independent following the deal and data won’t be shared across the two companies’ platforms, the companies said in a news release.

But the move will give Houseparty, a relatively young social media network, the chance to connect with the horde of gamers that play “Fortnite.” More than 200 million people have registered to play “Fortnite” since it came out in 2017, making the battle-royale-style game one of the dominant players in the global video game industry.

The game’s success has propelled the privately held Epic Games to a $15 billion valuation and caused media companies such as HBO to look over their shoulders and call “Fortnite” more of a threat than Netflix.

Last year, it raised the single largest round of venture fundraising in the entire country ($1.25 billion) as well as the single biggest raise in North Carolina history, according to a report from the Durham-based Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

All that money, apparently, has allowed it to go on a shopping spree.

Beyond reaching more customers, the companies combined release didn’t reveal any future plans for Houseparty, an app that allows users to video chat with multiple people at one time. The price of the deal also was not disclosed.

“Houseparty brings people together, creating positive social interactions in real time,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “By teaming up, we can build even more fun, shared experiences than what could be achieved alone.”

The Houseparty video chat model is similar to something that Epic Games has also offered in its popular video game. “Fortnite” has built in chat rooms where players can interact in ways that don’t involve actively competing against each other.

The casual, hang-out feel of “Fortnite” has made it almost as much of a social experience as it is a game, Will Hersey, CEO of Roundhill Investments, told The News & Observer earlier this year. That atmosphere was epitomized by a virtual concert the musician Marshmello held earlier this year within the game itself — attracting more than 10 million gamers to tune in at once.

Houseparty came to prominence in 2016, when it become one of the most downloaded apps. However, it is unclear how popular the app still is.

Sensor Tower, an analytics firm, said that Houseparty has downloaded 35 million times on Apple and Android phones since it launched, tech website The Verge reported. But those downloads have slowed, with just 2.3 million new users in the first quarter of 2019 compared to 3.7 million in the same period last year, according to Sensor Tower.

“Joining Epic is a great step forward in achieving our mission of bringing empathy to online communication,” Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani said in a statement. “We have a common vision to make human interaction easier and more enjoyable, and always with respect for user privacy.”

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Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.