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Among Us. From Zero to Hero.

Date

21/01/2021

Written by

Airnow

As we mentioned in our previous blog post, ‘Factors Affecting App Store Ranking: A Concise Guide’, constantly updating your app is a surefire way to increase its likelihood of success.

When Among Us celebrated hitting 295 million monthly active users (MAU) in November, its path to success seemed to prove our point.

A social deduction game with a sci-fi twist, Among Us was released over two years ago now, but only achieved its rampant success within the last year. The reasons for this surge in popularity are, of course, multilayered, however, we can’t help but notice the sheer number of updates and fixes that have been brought onto the app since its inception - at least 55. This kind of dedication shows that, through hard work, constant improvements and updates, you can start to make your app climb the app store.

This is the story of how a small, well-executed indie game took over a streaming platform to compete with the likes of multi-million dollar titles such as Fortnite and PUBG.

What is Among Us?

If you don’t know already, Among Us is a multiplayer game where 4-10 players manage a spaceship together. Depending on what side you are on, your objective is either to maintain and launch the spaceship or sabotage and eliminate other crew members.

The meat of the game comes from the fact that the imposter team is assigned secretly and looks just like everyone else. It’s up to their skills to bluff, sneakily kill and explain away any suspicions. Naturally, this creates chaos and desperation on both sides attempting to prove their innocence. A majority vote is then required to out members, who will have to remain silent for the rest of the round. The 'Good' guys win if they fix the ship and complete all their tasks, the 'Imposters' snag victory if they manage to eliminate everyone else before they mend their ship!

The developers have been vocal in crediting their inspiration to other popular social deduction games such as Mafia and Werewolf that you may have played around the campfire.

Humble Beginnings

Among Us as a tale of video game success begins particularly humbly; it was originally released in June 2018 as a mobile-only local multiplayer title. The initial launch was lukewarm, with favourable reviews but still a lot to be desired. Despite this, the developers, InnerSloth, displayed a commitment to the game through their constant weekly updates which continued to develop, hone and perfect the gameplay. In due course, they managed to add the much-requested and eagerly anticipated online multiplayer. They also decided to release the app as a PC game that could be downloaded via the video-game platform Steam.

Despite this, downloads remained relatively low. Looking back, in an interview with one of the developers, Forest Willard stated: “we stuck with Among Us a lot longer than we probably should have from a pure business standpoint. We tried to quit and should have quit several times.”

Fortunately enough for them (and us) they did not quit and instead poured more work into the game. After the game was released on Steam, both the mobile and PC versions continued to receive weekly updates which fine-tuned and tweaked the game to fit the requests that their tiny community had.

And slowly but surely with every new update, the player-base was growing bigger and bigger.

Exposure Explosion

There are hundreds of ways to market a game, and at Airnow we know more than a few of the best methods - benchmarking and tracking your competition with our App Intelligence or developing ASO strategies with our Keyword Intelligence. But InnerSloth was still a small company with a small budget, so its ability to pursue many of the traditional routes of marketing were instantly excluded from the conversation. Despite these hurdles, Among Us still managed to gain traction and become a success....how the...?

Aside from the dedicated team of developers, Among Us’ success all boils down to this: the game is almost as fun to watch as it is to play.

The mechanics of the game and nuanced social interaction that it requires make each game an interesting social experiment to watch pan out, as it produces a variety of entertaining scenarios that fans love watching their favourite streamer personalities get into.

This fits perfectly into today’s environment where watching people play games is almost as popular as playing them itself. Polygon reports that, in 2018, YouTube viewers watched over 50 billion hours of gaming content on the platform, with 48% of viewers saying that they spend more time watching than they do playing.

So when YouTuber’s started uploading gameplay clips, the videos started to grab people's attention and many videos were hitting over a million views, even in the early days.

From there, Among Us’ YouTube prominence grew and grew, branching out to the video-streaming giant’s Twitch, where it reached a high point of 33,000 in its category in early July. Success breeds success. As more streamers uploaded more videos, the word got out, and soon enough Among Us, the indie title of humble beginnings, was competing with the likes of triple-A games such as League of Legends, Minecraft and Fortnite.

What is it about Among Us that makes it so fun, and why is it so entertaining to watch?

Social deduction as a gameplay mechanic is not new to games, it has been knocking around for a while, but its popularity has been seen more in the board game space, rather than mobile gaming. You may have run into the classic Mafia or Werewolf games when camping or round friends, or the more recent The Chameleon or Codenames board games. And if you have, you probably found that when you were eliminated from the game it was just as entertaining to watch your friends argue, deceive and scream at each other while you sat back and watched it all unfold in front of you. What’s happening with Among Us is the exact same thing, except in a digital form.

It is also notable that the forced interaction and entertaining arguments are conducive to the skill-level, personalities, and chemistry formed in the groups of players who are playing the game. This explains exactly why it may be interesting to watch your favourite celebrity or streamer, who inevitably has these traits in abundance, play the game.

Another aspect of the success can be attributed to its simple game-play design which has the effect of making the game accessible to the most number of players. Yet it maintains a depth of gameplay, through its social aspects, which means the skill involved in the game can be as complex as the players are able to make it. There is an infinite number of ways a player can approach the game, and this may correspond to the real-life personalities of the player. From a reserved and calm approach to a loud and obnoxious one. Each play-style, if used effectively, can be a winner.

Social Marketing

Among Us’ 4-10 player count, as well as the ability for the game to be picked up and played instantly by anybody, allows opportunities for an all-star cast of players from every type of background, personality or demographic imaginable to come and play together, which makes some incredibly entertaining content.

What’s more, due to the social elements of the game, when playing the players personalities really come to the fore, which makes it very interesting for viewers to see their favourite celebrity or streamer playing. Probably the most famous example of this is when US congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played and was watched by 400,000 viewers.

The Magic of Among Us

The most ‘magical’ part of the Among Us app, for us, is the connections between groups of people that start to form while playing the game. As the intensity develops, and the desire to win comes together with the enforced social interaction, normal social guards are let down and players must communicate to try and win, which can often lead to unlikely friendships being formed.

Almost unsurprisingly, Among Us didn’t need marketing. Through constant updates and refining of its gameplay, the end product marketed itself as it organically spread through social media communities.

What The Future Holds

Browsing through some of the other social deduction titles on the app store, it becomes clear that Among Us was not the first of its kind, with names such as Town of Salem perhaps ringing a bell for some of you. But Among Us has clearly succeeded where these other games have failed, by making the game as streamlined and simple as possible, they have struck gold and become the phenomenon that you now see today.

The title has given a reboot to the app gaming category, and we will be keeping a lookout as to where the next big social deduction game might come from. But right now, we still have a lot more Among Us to enjoy, and InnerSloth has recently announced that Among Us Two is now in the works.

For more information on anything app related, please contact our team and we will be more than happy to help.