Heads Up, which is a game regularly played by Ellen Degeneres on her TV show, sees one participant looking to guess a word that only the other viewers can see. Users will be able to play the game in then app for free, but additional packs of words will require payment. It marks Houseparty's first attempt at building out an alternate revenue generation model.
It seems like a good addition - the Heads Up app has been downloaded over 25 million times, and regularly sees a spike in activity whenever it's featured on the Ellen program (Ellen will also be a part of the promotion of the game within Houseparty). Whether users will be happy to pay to play within Houseparty is another question, but you can imagine that it would be a good fit for the app, which itself has more than 20 million users.
After launching back in 2016, Houseparty quickly rose in popularity among younger audiences, which prompted Facebook to release its own replica app called Bonfire in 2017. Bonfire is still available in some regions, but Facebook hasn't made it broadly available, which would likely suggest that it hasn't been a major hit. Houseparty, meanwhile, has slowly gone about developing its offering - the use case for Houseparty is virtually hanging out, with users regularly connecting with friends in real-time when playing video games, watching movies, etc.
Facebook, of course, has also launched Instagram Live in the same vein, and Watch Party for communal video viewing. Never one to miss a trick, The Social Network is very keen to curb Houseparty's growth, and tap into its core value offering. How much those additions have impacted Houseparty's growth is hard to say - the company hasn't released revised usage numbers for some time. But if it can find a way to build revenue, and continue to offer an ad-free alternative to Facebook's tools, it could be on a winner. It's a tough road, but there is potential there.
Heads Up will be its first game, with Houseparty looking to launch other interactive options, which users will also be able to utilize through add-on purchases over time. The platform will also look to expand its offering, reaching beyond its core user base. Remember Blab? Houseparty could soon provide an alternative, with the company also launching a beta test of its desktop app this week.
As Peach, Vero, Ello and even Google can all attest, going up against the established social media giants is a big challenge, and it takes time, patience, and ongoing investment to build a genuinely viable alternative. In some ways, it's more beneficial for an app to remain just below the radar - make too much noise and Facebook will just copy your features and force you out (rising chat app Squad will likely find this out in the very near future).
But then again, in order to attract a relevant amount of users, you need attention. Houseparty has done well at building a solid, somewhat underground following thus far, but if it wants to take the next step, it'll need to get louder, and build its audience.
It'll be interesting to see if it can establish a steady income stream through games - and whether Facebook will stand by and let it gain any real traction.