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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

How Among Us became so wildly popular | gogeteverything

Among Us
Among Us

An indie game of $5 that was released in 2018 has cracked the all-time, record-setting peak player club on Steam. According to Steam charts, 388,385 people played Among Us which is more than Grand Theft Auto 5 on its Steam debut. Every day it sits just beneath Counter-Strike which includes Global Offensive and Dota 2 for active players. It does not count the ones who are playing on iOS or Android, and the ones who quickly surrender and shut the game when the servers buckle under the strain.

How did Among Us become such a sudden phenomenon, approximately two years after it was released? So prominent that it became the most-streamed game on Twitch in September. Even its developers canceled plans for a sequel to keep working on it? The brief, and straightforward answer is Twitch streamers. While there is more to it than that because people are not just watching Among Us, they are playing it in flocks. It happens easily because of a few key things such as free mobile apps, fewer PC system requirements, and Mafia. All of these factors make it one of the finest laptop games.


Classic game, right time

Among Us isn't a new game. Obviously, it came out in 2018. But at heart, it's much older than that. Among Us is the rearmost popular adaption of Mafia, aka Werewolf, aka The Resistance, aka Secret Hitler. This social deception game is about a group of players trying to identify the traitor in their midst and actually dates all the way back to the 1980s. An internet notice board I posted on in 2005 conducted regular games of Mafia. Those were played out in hundreds of posts of strategizing, accusation, and countless backchannel direct messages of wicked plans.

Such as some of the board game adaptions of Mafia, Among Us adds some structure to the introductory experience of traitors killing good players one by one, and everyone voting on whom to execute. In Secret Hitler, there is an election system that assists players to gather further details concerning who is who. In Among Us, players can win by completing a set of objects around the chart, such as repairing a spaceship machine or blasting asteroids. This inescapably spreads out the crowd and gives the imposters a chance to strike.

A big part of the success of Among Us is simply that Mafia is a fun, endlessly playable game. It scales well to big groups. Trying to decide whom to trust is always tense. Getting down with murder and turning the whole crew against an innocent player is always a delight.

But in 2020, at least in the US where coronavirus is still enthusiastic, getting together to play games like Werewolf in person is not really an option. Right now we are primed for the utmost of our social relations to play out over Zoom and voice chats, and Among Us is an easy laugh creator with friends.

The smartphone apps open up Among Us to a massive( youthful) followership beyond PC gaming, and crucially, Among Us is a more video game adaptation of Mafia than other ones I have seen. There was the city of Salem in 2014 and Ubisoft's Werewolves Within in 2016, for illustration, but both of these just add an online interface for the introductory Werewolf rules and depict players sitting in a circle just like you would in person. Among Us adds effects to do in between allegations, making it a more active experience and creating further pressure.

Those goals fluently could have been overcomplicated, distracting from the paranoia that compels the social core of the game. But Among Us keeps them easy enough to add strategy and ways for the good players to win. While still keeping it approachable for anyone. It is easy to work on both PCs and smartphones with just a few basic buttons for input. And it will run on any PC dating back to 2010. 

The barrier to entry is extremely low. All of these are the reasons why Among Us is a famous game right now. But they do not explain why it blew up and how it went from unknown to the biggest game on Twitch and one of the biggest on Steam. For that, we've to go back to July.

According to the tracking site Sully Gnome, Among Us averaged just a couple hundred viewers on Twitch at the start of July. It averaged over 100,000 by the end of August. Early bursts of exposure on Twitch quickly snowballed into a huge increase in viewers, and that cracked into more and more players. It is even more remarkable if you look at the growth over the past 365 days.

Still, however, the stats can be deceiving, If you just look at raw viewer figures on Twitch.  You can not tell easily when a stream is sponsored. You also can not tell if a small indie game is indeed becoming popular, or if one famous streamer occurs to be playing it for 100k viewers. While the next streamer downplays for an audience of 11. But that is not the case with Among Us. If you look at the breakdown of which channels are getting viewers, it is trending towards a reasonably even distribution. The top 100 streamers are all hauling in good numbers.

The most prosperous streamer of Among Us in the past 3 months is xQc by a longshot. The former pro Overwatch player was let go from his group Dallas Fuel in 2018 for code of conduct infringements. It has since become more of a variety streamer, playing lots of Fall Guys and Among Us on top of Valorant and Overwatch. His watch time restricts other streamers to more than 11M hours over the past three months. Streamer auronplay secured second at almost 4M.

But who kicked it off? In 2020, streamer SR_Kaif was the one who has about 136,000 viewers. He has been playing Among Us consistently, usually to an audience of more than 2,000. In May, a pair of bigger streamers named Admiral Bulldog (with nearly 700,000 followers) and singsing (with nearly 600,000) started playing a few hours of Among Us. They give it a big boost though nothing compared to July.

Among Us had rocketed 400 positions in average viewers into the top 50 on Twitch by the end of July. Many thanks to:

Enormously popular streams by sodapoppin and xQc. They brought in tens of thousands of simultaneous viewers.

The combined viewership of 8 Korean streamers owned the top 10. In August, English streamers would completely take over. However, Among Us's real breakthroughs started in Korea.

On 15 July, during a long Just Chatting stream session, we can see the moment sodapoppin first tried Among Us. "What is that game I wanted to play?" he speaks out loud. 

Sodapoppin does not just jump into the game with random players. He gets friends and fellow streamers to play, which is a key ingredient in Among Us's future stratospheric viewer growth. It is a game that any streamer can play without the expertise required to be good at Fortnite or League of Legends. Putting 10 streamers in one room just heightens the celebrity power truly the Avengers yelling into a microphone that you did not do it.

Sodapoppin had racked up 631,000 hours of Among Us watch time by the end of the month. Korean streamer d_obby was next, with 360,000 hours. An underappreciated part of the success of Among Us is its language support as it is available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Korean.

It took surprisingly long for the activity of Among Us on Steam to catch up with the rising interest in streams. It offered discounts in the Steam Summer sale from June 25 to July 9. But that did not cause a massive jump in players. The player count grew gradually by the first half of July on PC, and then it was off like a rocket. Looking at Steam reviews, we can see reviews start to uptick at the very end of July. However, the last week of August is a huge jump. After enormously popular streams from xQc and others, PC gamers were beginning to play Among Us en masse. 

It is still hard to put into standpoint how fast Among Us has grown. Even though it was accumulating thousands of players and many more Twitch viewers over July and August. However, September has been on another level. By recent snapshots from the Way back Machine, we can track how many times the game was downloaded from the Google Play store of Android. It had more than 10M already, a huge number on 3 September. It reached more than 50M by 8 September, and more than 100 million by 21 September.

Steam can only give us a limited picture of how many people are playing Among Us.

Looking back over the game's life, it is not like Among Us was ever a failure. It struck a million downloads in August 2019 which is certainly a triumph for an indie game driven by only 3 developers. It is a perfect social game for 2020, a cute but devious counterpart to Fall Guys, the year's other runaway hit.

Tracing Among Us's rise back throughout the year. I think streamer SR_Kaif is the one who topped Among Us for its big moment. He has been streaming it every month since January, drawing in more and more viewers. The rest of the PC gaming world ultimately started giving attention.


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