With a free update coming March 31, the social game “Among Us” is poised to build on the tremendous growth it achieved among a global base of players during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But sustaining that popularity isn’t guaranteed.
Released by American indie developer InnerSloth to Android, iOS and Windows in 2018, followed by Nintendo Switch at the end of 2020, “Among Us” places a team of players on a map as they set about completing tasks while trying to discover which players are the “impostors” intent on killing them off one by one.
The popularity of “Among Us” mirrors that of a mobile-centric genre known as “hypercasual,” which features gameplay simple enough to attract a wide berth of players and help propel the mobile-games sector to $86 billion in 2020, nearly half of the entire video games market (per Newzoo).
Monthly player retention has remained massive, reaching nearly as high as 200 million active users at the start of 2021 even as downloads sank 66% from the October peak, according to estimates from mobile intelligence provider Apptopia. “Among Us” was even the most searched video game in 2020, no small feat during a year that saw its share of sensations, including “Fall Guys” and “The Last of Us Part II.”
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that InnerSloth isn’t making drastic changes with the new update, which features a new “Airship” map, more customizable clothing options for players and an accounts system that will enable better moderation among users and allow them to track game progress alongside their friends.
Continuing to expand cosmetic options is a wise move that mimics the business model of “Fortnite,” where nearly 40% of its U.S. players among a global base of 350 million are willing to pay for cosmetic items with actual money.
“Among Us” benefits further from the social element of its gameplay, which has kept players coming back in droves; in contrast, player retention is often the biggest struggle for hypercasual titles, despite their prevalence in the market. The social gameplay in “Among Us” is also a huge part of what caused the game to go viral during the pandemic after streamers in Brazil, Mexico and South Korea began broadcasting the game en masse.
It’s a no-brainer how “Among Us” became a global phenomenon once people had spent months deprived of normal social activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But Twitch viewership for “Among Us” has waned drastically since the fall and no longer resembles the success “Among Us” has had with monthly active users. “Among Us” can add all the new content it wants, but earlier updates have failed to bring attention back on the streaming front.
No matter how impressive its player size, denying the impact the pandemic had on the game’s popularity would be foolish. That impact was strongly aided by boosted visibility from livestreaming, which included large numbers from a Twitch stream led by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last October that reached over 435,000 concurrent viewers and 4.5 million total views.
InnerSloth ought to look to the barrage of “Fortnite” brand partnerships with the likes of Marvel properties and “Star Wars” as a means of keeping streamers engaged and coming back for in-game events, especially if it wants to maintain a vibrant audience into summer.