PC and mobile game Among Us has had a wild year. It’s not often that a game has its biggest moment in its second or third year of release but since August the game has regularly been in the top 5 titles streaming currently on Twitch, between the likes of Call of Duty, Minecraft and Fortnite.
Its dramatic rise in downloads has been down to a perfect storm of a solid product, timing and exposure on highly popular streaming channels. The simple, but popular premise of the game is social deduction which has been played in different guises for years. This year in particular meant that a game that’s easy to learn, free to play (on mobile) and allowed private chats with friends for people to be social, and play during lockdowns, gave Among Us a huge boost. However, there are plenty of games that offer this, so why Among Us?
The most notable factor is exposure of the game through streamed content across Twitch and YouTube. For example, streamer xQc who, amounted over 11 million hours of watch time between July and September alone, had regularly been playing Among Us to tens of thousands of people simultaneously. This organic jump in relevance and awareness led to the game having over 100 million downloads on Android alone in early September!
Coverage switched from gaming publishers to mainstream news in October when US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez broke records streaming to 430,000 concurrent viewers whilst playing Among Us. During the stream, similar to other much less attended rallies from other politicians, AOC prompted viewers to vote in the US election. Unlike past awkward attempts by politicians to engage pop culture, AOC’s stream feels authentic because she is a gamer herself and has engaged gaming communities outside of political ‘stunts’.
Among Us isn’t the only social game being used this year as a platform to connect with people. We saw rapper Travis Scott perform virtually to 27 million people on Fortnite back in April and, more recently, fellow rapper Little Nas X created shows within Roblox which were attended 33 million times. These events are paving the way for how individuals and brands may look to make meaningful connections with massive audiences in the near future.
A uniting characteristic of the success of Among Us and the live moments from politicians and musicians alike is their authenticity. Politics, music and gaming have long been synonymous with having fandom, so any brand looking to replicate this engagement should take their time and ensure they’re not trying to manufacture something that won’t land with the audience.