In their only interview to date in front of a running camera, the makers of Among Us still can’t believe what they have achieved in the past few months. “It’s absolutely surreal,” said game designer Amy Liu in October on the gaming talk show “The Weekly”. Her development studio Innersloth, which has just four employees, has achieved a surprise hit with Among Us. According to the analysis service Superdata, the game is said to have attracted almost half a billion users in November, with more being added every day.
The sudden success of the previously completely unknown 4-person company caused quite a stir even in the fast-moving gaming scene, says industry expert and e-sports entrepreneur Dorian Gorr in an interview with NewsABC.net. “It happens every now and then that indie studios land a viral hit. The extent of Among Us is already blatant, especially since the game was already two years old at the time. “
Like “werewolf” in space
Among Us is a multiplayer game for PC and smartphone that is based on the parlor game The Werewolves of Mirkwood (American: The Mafia). As an astronaut, players as a team prepare the departure of their spaceship. Meanwhile, a saboteur is among the occupation and tries to thwart the mission in secret by killing the other players from behind. Together we have to find out who the saboteur is. The suspects are gradually lynched through voting. The main attraction of the game is to discuss theories about the perpetrator together and to get out of the game through a skillful demeanor.
Developer studio Innersloth completely unknown until 2020
The game comes from the American development studio Innersloth, which is based on the US west coast near Seattle. The three founders, who are friends, Forest Willard, Marcus Bromander and Amy Liu have been working together since 2015. In the wake of the hype, they brought the community manager Viktoria Tran into the company as their fourth employee. Their motto is “Inside, we are all Sloth”, which in German means something like “Deep inside, we are all sloths”.
Until 2020, the developer trio was only known to absolute connoisseurs. Their first game Dig 2 China was a flop and Among Us also had hardly any views after its release in November 2018. According to the developers, a fan base formed relatively early in Korea and Brazil, but that doesn’t make for much more than a few thousand players a day.
Hype from streaming service Twitch
That only changed when the well-known streamer Chance Morris alias Sodapoppin played the game in front of an audience on the Twitch streaming platform in August 2020. A little later, other streamers picked up Among Us. Suddenly the game had millions of daily users. The hype even went so far that the American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the game in October to get in touch with young voters in the run-up to the presidential elections.
“That’s the power of influencers. If a big Twitch channel like Sodapoppin picks up a game like this in front of 20,000 viewers, it has an immediate effect on the downloads, ”says industry expert Dorian Gorr. The days when only large corporations like EA Games, Ubisoft or Epic Games set the trends are long gone. Niklas Wilke, gaming expert and partner at the management consultancy PwC, shares this view. “Twitch is extremely important to be seen. Anyone who wants to get into the charts there is dependent on either the attention of influencers or a large marketing budget. “
“Success has a lot to do with Corona”
Wilke attributes the hype about Among Us to another reason. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a general trend towards party games in which several players solve problems together. “Among Us’s success has a lot to do with Corona. The game lives from exchange and sociability – exactly what we are missing most at the moment. In addition, it is very easy to play, which certainly contributes to the spread, ”the consultant sums up.
Rain of money for a small studio
The hype turned the Innersloth founders into multimillionaires within six months. The game costs five US dollars (3.99 euros) on popular platforms. According to an evaluation by the app analysis service Sensor Tower, which is available exclusively to NewsABC.net (see graphic), Among Us earned around 60 million US dollars (49.6 million euros) from app sales alone between July and December. In addition, there are proceeds from the PC version and the sale of fan articles. The actual sales should therefore be much higher.
However, the numbers from Sensor Tower also show that the number of monthly downloads is already over the top. While the peak was 83 million downloads in September, the number halved to 41 million by December. “The big challenge for the makers now is to keep the game alive for as long as possible,” says gaming expert Gorr. Experience shows that only very few indie studios manage to do this. “If not enough, the hype can quickly be over. There is little loyalty on the part of the players. “