Netflix Should Study Snap, Zynga Playbook on ‘Among Us’ Counterattack

Netflix Should Study Snap, Zynga Playbook
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

Social video game “Among Us” had an enviable 2020.

After two years of obscurity, the whodunit-style sleuth title that pits friends against each other to expose the killer among them exploded in popularity over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic after a boost in attention from the streaming community. “Among Us” ended 2020 as the most-searched game on Google and entered 2021 with nearly 200 million monthly active players.

But streaming interest in “Among Us” has largely waned from last fall’s surge in popularity, leaving an opening for an imposter to swoop in and kill off its engagement.

Enter Snap and Zynga.

After partnering with Snap in June 2020 to develop multiplayer games like “Bumped Out” and “Tiny Royale” for Snapchat, Zynga announced another game for the social media platform, “ReVamp,” describing it as the first “social deception” title for the service.

Basically, it’s a vampiric take on “Among Us” that ditches spaceships for a decrepit mansion as players work to complete tasks and identify the player-controlled vamps picking them off in each round.

Known primarily for hypercasual games, which typically consist of easy gameplay via accessible controls that often utilize a smartphone’s touchscreen, Zynga continues to command a huge presence in the mobile market, its revenue on a seemingly endless ascent.

Frequently acquiring competent studios to boost its game library, where revenue is derived primarily from in-game purchases made by players on otherwise free-to-play tiles, Zynga has worked to better integrate ads across its games, with monthly and daily user engagement continuing to set records for the company, further contributing to the boost in ad revenue seen throughout 2021.

But while MAUs and DAUs have steadily improved, Zynga has struggled to keep average bookings per DAU consistently up, with that metric down year over year for the last three quarters. Likewise, an average of more than 200 million MAUs across its titles is impressive, but “Among Us” has pulled in that level of engagement all on its own.

This is the benefit of partnering with Snapchat.

Snapchat’s daily engagement is higher than the MAUs for both Zynga’s games and “Among Us,” making it an ideal platform to test a competitive title.

In May, Snap said its games had already reached 200 million players, double the amount it observed in 2020. However, the company said MAUs across more than 30 games were only around 30 million.

Snap needs more of its users playing games, and like Zynga has acquired studios that specialize in hypercasual content. In 2019, Snap launched “Bitmoji Party,” turning its popular Bitmoji IP into minigames capitalizing on the interest in the hypercasual genre.

Such games are now the bedrock of the mobile sector, which is expected to account for more than half of the $176 billion global video games market in 2021, per Newzoo.

But as VIP+ covered earlier this year, hypercasual games frequently struggle to retain players, with nearly 90% often dropping titles a week after downloading them.

Games like “Among Us” are an antidote to this trend – they keep the skeletal structure of hypercasual games via ease of play and simple directions, but rely on social components to keep players engaged.

The youngest gaming demographic enjoys multiplayer games as much as single player. With the infrastructure for in-app gaming already in place on Snapchat as it undergoes changes to prop itself up as a competitor to TikTok, which is more popular among the 18-24 demo, a worthy “Among Us” challenger could be huge for the service.

Snap’s gaming strategy is also much more in line with the realities of mobile than that of Netflix, which is kicking off its expansion into mobile games with two “Stranger Things” titles being tested for subscribers in Poland ahead of the show’s return in 2022.

Netflix has said its titles won’t have ads or in-game purchases, so its push into games is solely an effort to boost subscription value, at least for now. It’s a rather bizarre way to enter a market that thrives on those two revenue streams – all the more reason Netflix should pay close attention to how Snap’s attempt to take on “Among Us” plays out. 

If “ReVamp” is a success, Netflix ought to explore a similar partnership with Zynga, though such a move would require the streamer to think beyond subscription revenue for once, as Zynga knows where the money for mobile games is made.