Video games have a rightful place in popular culture. Some of them are so wildly popular that they turn into a global phenomenon, and Among Us is the latest one.
There's no cutting edge technology or a big budget in this game. Among Us was created by an indie studio of three developers and is as simple as they come. Yet everyone is playing it.
The game is pretty basic in terms of graphics, gameplay, or narrative. But the fun relies mostly on player interactions over the chat, and it has a charm that hits different.
Will Among Us transcend the hype season? Let's talk about it in this Company Forensics.
In the fierce competition of the gaming industry and the big names like Nintendo or Microsoft, now and then, a game from an independent studio manages to captivate the masses and gets to compete with the big guys.
Some manage to survive and remain relevant after the hype, like the most popular indie game ever, Minecraft. But the vast majority of these games live forever in the indie league, far from the spotlight.
Remember Fall Guys, that other video game that was trending around August this year? It was developed by Mediatonic, a well-established indie game studio from the UK, and it took the internet by storm back in August this year.
Well, Among Us is even "more indie." It was created by a three-developers studio named Innersloth and is just simpler all around. Most people don't know that Among Us was published more than two years ago, and for the most time, it was irrelevant.
A few months after the game release, the developers were already thinking of wrapping it up to make way for a new game.
In a blog post from late 2018, one of them stated that the game had around 5000 total app installations, mostly on Android. Yes, the game is free on mobile devices.
According to that blog post, they had made about $35 out of the game by then. That's sad. But, for whatever reason, they persisted and today have one of the most played games globally.
According to Steamcharts, the Fall Guys popularity lasted only a few days before it was overshadowed by Among Us. In terms of concurrent players on Steam, Among Us now averages hundreds of thousands of simultaneous players daily, leaving Fall Guys far behind.
Among Us and Fall Guys have not much in common after all, other than they were both developed by independent game studios and experienced rapid success in the mainstream.
Fall Guys is also a relatively simple game, but it appeals more to gag comedy and platformer mechanics. On the other hand, Among Us is a social deduction game where players work together and uncover each other's hidden role.
Beyond technical skills, the game requires social skills. Lying and judging is at the core of the game, and, surprise-surprise, it can be funny.
The interactions that happen while trying to find the impostor are fun, but most importantly, make the game fun for others to watch.
Nowadays, games succeed not only by being fun but also entertaining to watch. It's safe to say that the popularity of Among Us sparkled on game-streaming platforms.
The game grew in countries like Brazil or Egypt during 2019 before becoming popular in the US and globally. Streamers like the Brasilian Godenot started having success streaming Among Us matches more than a year ago.
One of the first US streamers to make popular streams of the game was Sodapoppin, by mid-2019. The game became a hit and blew up in early September this year.
All kinds of game-streamers play it now, including some of Twitch's lords like Pewdiepie and Ninja. But also celebrities outside the gaming world gave the game unprecedented exposure. Suddenly, it was all over Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, and everywhere else.
Another factor in the success of Among Us is probably the global lock-down due to the Covid pandemic. Thanks to social distancing, games that rely so heavily on social interaction, like Among Us, seem to be more appreciated than ever.
According to reports referenced in the New York Times, between the two weeks of March 8 and March 22, Twitch viewership grew 31 percent, and viewers consumed 43 million hours daily on the platform.
Twitch is the most popular game-streaming platform, and Among Us has been casually sitting at the top of the most streamed and viewed games for the last few weeks.
It has frequently been getting more traffic than games from big studios like Fortnite, League of Legends, or Call of Duty. But Among Us is also a phenomenon outside of the gaming world.
During the US election campaign, congress members Ilhan Omar and the charismatic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, went online to play Among Us on Twitch, and it was much fun. More than 400,000 global viewers joined the live stream.
Sports stars, like the soccer player from Manchester City, Sergio Aguero, have also played Among Us with Neymar and other celebrities, reaping millions of views on Youtube.
With them, online and social media personalities across the internet have made Among Us their go-to game.
Recently, during one weekend of September, the game reached 3M concurrent players across all platforms. By the time we wrote this, Among Us was still in Twitch's top ten.
Overall, things are looking pretty bright for the game, and its popularity doesn't seem to diminish. There are plenty of opportunities to evolve the game and keep it relevant, now that it has a huge, devoted fan base.
The developers at Innersloth have said that they were working on Among Us 2 as they wanted to migrate the game to a newer codebase, more optimized for adding new content.
But, given the game's massive success in the last few weeks, they will now focus all efforts on improving the current game and take it to the next level.
Overcoming growing pains is critical for indie games that suddenly make it to the mainstream. The massive influx of players on the servers doesn't come free of challenges. One of the biggest pains is probably the hackers. What do hackers do? Well, cheat. And ruin the game.
With the income of thousands of players, the game takes a new life and bugs are also found, bringing performance issues. Overall stability of the systems and protection against hackers, are just some of the pains that Among Us is already facing.
Some argue that these growing pains contributed to the Fall Guys decrease in popularity. Hackers soon flooded the servers, annoying and frustrating regular players. Apparently, the studio wasn’t very effective addressing the problem at first.
A more recent post by an Innersloth developer mentions that the game had a pretty bad problem with hackers and cheaters for some time. They have been working hard to fix it and make the game more stable and safe.
Overall, the tone of these posts from the developers is still pretty personal and optimistic. Not much different from that post from 2018, where they low key announced they were about to kill Among Us.
Do you think the game has what it takes to survive the hype and stay in the top rankings of popularity?