Game Trends #1 - Social Games

There’s a fungus Among Us

This article is going to come as a huge surprise to everyone that isn’t a gamer. Yes, gamers are extremely social animals. Most gamers are more social than you.

2020 is a strange year for a multitude of reasons. The absurdly massive resurrection of a dead little indie game called Among Us is the only one we care about at Game Trends. Among Us launched in 2018 to no fanfare. No one cared. It was impossible to get even a single lobby going with 10 strangers on the internet earlier this year.

What happened? Popular Twitch streamers picked up the game. All it takes is the right streamer to play your game and you get 150,000 eyeballs. Since Among Us is a 10 player game where communication is key, streamers frequently play together. Watching Among Us on Twitch is like watching a murder mystery with your 10 favorite celebrities. After clips like these circulated, the rest is history.

Among Us is the video game version of the party game Mafia (or Secret Hitler if you’re a board game nerd and feel comfortable proudly displaying it on your bookshelf). The larger faction are innocent and their goal is to vote out the imposters. The imposters’ goal is to kill all of the innocents. Among Us relies on planning, deduction, convincing, reading people and lying instead of twitch reflexes, making the game extremely accessible to everyone.

Monopoly doesn’t have anything on ruining friendships compared to Among Us. An innocent player is the “third imposter” because they convince everyone to vote off other innocent people by accident. You’ve stuck with one player the entire game, you vouch for them and they vouch for you, but at the end of the game they drive a knife in your back and you lose. You feel betrayed, scream, and freak out, but that’s what makes it fun.

One reason for Among Us’s enormous international success is because it is free-to-play on mobile. On Steam, the game is $5. Mobile gamers are used to getting things for free and microtransacting later. PC gamers are used to paying for everything upfront and $5 is chump change compared to $3000 gaming rigs and $60 AAA titles.

Extreme minimalism is the Among Us ethos. It is a perfect minimum viable product in that way. Three maps, a dozen tasks and no voice chat. AU doesn’t need voice chat in game, because everyone uses Discord. Discord’s user base saw a huge spike as Among Us blew up. Discord blowing up in tandem only strengthens the social and communal aspects shared between them. Lockdown orders helped too. Social games fill the need for human interaction. Gamers have known this forever, but normies are starting to understand.

The game ran into many technical issues because the solo dev wasn’t expecting such huge traffic. Players installed VPNs and set up servers to work around the struggling matchmaker. Time and time again, the community circumvented the short-comings of the game. It takes a truly loved game with a strong community behind it for this to happen.

Gaming culture is influenced by Among Us in unexpected ways. The slang term “sus” was not in the average gamer’s vocabulary. Now we won’t stop saying it. Thank the memes for this one.

Stats:

  • 16.9B #amongus views on TikTok

  • 438,524 peak concurrent Steam players in the last 30 days (doesn’t include mobile)

  • 658,000 Among Us subreddit members

  • AOC streamed Among Us on Twitch yesterday and surpassed 438,000 concurrent viewers

Predictions:

  • More sleeper indie hits propelled to stardom through Twitch organically.

  • Rise in tailored monetization for different platforms/audiences. See Black Desert Online.

  • Indie devs partnering with smaller Twitch streamers to promote their games. Stream Raiders and Whiplash (RIP) are early examples.