Epic Games unveiled plans to pull the plug on video chat app Houseparty, as the company hinted at shifting efforts towards other endeavours in the middle of declining user engagement with the service in the wake of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In a statement, the company announced the app is no longer available to download on any app store and will cease operating for existing users in October, two years after it was acquired by the game developer.

Fortnite Mode, a feature introduced earlier this year allowing users to live stream their gameplay to Houseparty contacts, will also be shut down from next month.

While Epic Games shied away from providing a clear reason for the decision which it did not take “lightly”, it said the team behind Houseparty is now tasked with creating “new ways to have meaningful and authentic social interactions” across the company’s other products.

It hinted efforts will be placed into the development of a fictional universe using VR.

The rise and fall
Houseparty launched in 2016, offering group video chats. In its lifetime, it generated 102.7 million global downloads across the App Store and Google Play Store, Sensor Tower mobile insights strategist for EMEA Craig Chapple told Mobile World Live (MWL).

Global lockdowns made 2020 a particularly strong year for the app, as people looked for ways to connect with others virtually. Installations grew 612 per cent year-on year to 55.5 million, Sensor Tower figures showed.

By contrast, installations from the turn of the year to 9 September stood at 8.1 million.