Daria explores how such a small indie game blew up into a worldwide phenomenon, only to plunge back into obscurity.
In 2020, Among Us was everywhere. Despite releasing in 2018, Among Us exploded in popularity in mid-2020. Yet its sudden surge in popularity was not long-term, as the game’s playerbase entered a continuous decline.
THE HIGHEST HIGHS
To understand the fall of Among Us, it is essential to understand its sudden rise in popularity.
Among Us succeeded for three main reasons. First, it is a simple concept known to almost everyone. Second, the game was available at a low cost on many platforms and allowed for cross-platform play to maximise accessibility. Third, Twitch streamers and YouTubers boosted its popularity.
The idea behind Among Us is nothing new. The game is essentially a digital adaptation of Mafia, a deception game where players have to identify a traitor amongst them. Among Us succeeded because Mafia is a fun game with lots of replayability. However, the strength of its core concept was not the sole reason for its success.
Since entertainers showcased Among Us to millions, viewers wanted to try out the game themselves with their friendship group
Most importantly, the spread of coronavirus bolstered the game’s success. While people were locked inside, without the option to meet their friends and socialise, apps and games which filled that void skyrocketed in demand. Apps such as Netflix Party, House Party, and Zoom exploded in popularity. This success lifted Among Us from obscurity, as many people jumped on Discord to have an endless amount of fun with their friends. The low cost threshold (the game is only £3.99, and free on mobile devices!) made Among Us accessible to a wider audience, including children.
Among Us was picked up by well-known Twitch streamers and YouTubers, including but not limited to, Jacksepticeye, Corpse, The Sidemen, and ValkyRae. Since entertainers showcased Among Us to millions, viewers wanted to try out the game themselves with their friendship group.
THE LOWEST OF LOWS
The game’s meteoric rise in popularity was completely unexpected, the studio struggled to cope
There are two main factors which caused the decline of Among Us, and they are interlinked. Firstly, the game was not designed to maintain prolonged interest. Secondly, developers Inner Sloth were only a small team that was unable to sustain quick updates to Among Us necessary for maintaining its popularity, exacerbating the first problem.
Inner Sloth, the studio behind Among Us, only recently gained a fifth team member. As the game’s meteoric rise in popularity was completely unexpected, the studio struggled to cope. The key to maintaining the popularity of a game is regular and impactful updates. A key element that kept Among Us’ gameplay loop fresh and players coming back to it was the variety provided by the three default maps and the different tasks each offered.
Unfortunately, it took Inner Sloth months and multiple delays to release a fourth and final map, titled ‘The Airship’. The map arrived over three months after it was announced at The 2020 Game Awards, and it received mixed responses. Notorious Among Us players, Sykkuno and Pokimane shared their dissatisfaction, claiming issues with the map being too large and tasks being hard to understand.
While regular updates are not guaranteed to extend the success of a game, new maps would’ve given Among Us’ gameplay loop, where the tasks became repetitive, a much-needed shot in the arm. The frustration over the lack of updates became clear as game mods became increasingly popular substitutes. Mods include voice chat proximity, new roles for players, and new maps. The presence of mods made Inner Sloth’s shortcomings all the more blatant, especially considering these fans were producing content for free.
While the simplistic gameplay of Among Us attracted new players with little gaming experience, it also meant that people were more likely to lose interest quicker as there was no progression or longevity to the game. The lack of progression meant that Among Us was not designed to maintain interest for a long time.
Lastly, the decrease of coronavirus cases accelerated the fall of Among Us. When covid cases were rife, people had more time to play and watch video games. As more vaccines are distributed and restrictions are coming to an end, people are more inclined to visit friends and socialize outdoors rather than continue socialising online.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Among Us has ultimately been a victim of its own success.. Although the game continues to arrive on new platforms, including the new generation of consoles, the Switch port reviewed badly. As the game rose in popularity, Inner Sloth failed to provide regular, game-changing updates to maintain its popularity and keep it fresh and appealing to new and current players. Simply put, Among Us was not designed for long-term success.
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