How AMONG US Got So Popular

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Way back in June 2018, a small indie game called “Among Us” was launched by a fledgling studio called InnerSloth. Two years later, with a global pandemic keeping everybody stuck indoors, the game has exploded in popularity, becoming the gaming world's sleeper hit of the year. In this video, we'll take a look at the games history, what makes it so fun and accessible, and the impact it's had on the world in 2020.
Script written by Caitlin Johnson

How AMONG US Took Over the Gaming World in 2020

Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we’re looking at how “Among Us” took over the gaming world in 2020. Have you been called out for being sus?

Way back in June 2018, a small indie game called “Among Us” was launched by a fledgling studio called InnerSloth. InnerSloth was founded by three friends who met at college, Marcus Bromander, Forest Willard, and Amy Liu, who were able to make the game and then stick with it long enough to see its incredible explosion in popularity in 2020. It’s got a pretty simple concept: you and your friends are the crew of a spaceship, base, or outpost depending on the map, and you’ve got to finish a list of tasks to complete your mission. But one or more members of the crew will be imposters, seeking to kill everybody else and sabotage the mission in secret.

The game’s winning formula is thanks in part to its inspirations: real-life party and board games that all see friends betraying one another in exciting ways. From simple games like “Mafia” or “Werewolf” to something much more complex like “Secret Hitler” – which requires at least a cursory knowledge of German history – they all depend on a villainous faction hiding in plain sight. But there’s one thing 2020 has that other decades don’t: a global pandemic keeping everybody stuck indoors, unable to meet up and play fun party games in person. “Among Us” has soared in popularity thanks not only to its engaging gameplay but also its ability to bring people together when many are quarantined. You don’t need to organize a party to mercilessly stab your closest friends in the back, now you can do it all online using Discord to lie your way to victory.

“Among Us” is also helped by the fact it’s incredibly easy to pick up, especially for people who aren’t into video games, and by its low price; it’s just $5 on Steam or completely free on iOS and Android with ads. The cartoonish, 2D graphics also mean the game will run on pretty much anything; anybody can get their hands on it and play with their friends or online with strangers, and there’s barely a learning curve at all.

InnerSloth largely has Twitch to thank for the game’s popularity. It first started to gain traction in South Korea and then spread to Mexico and Brazil, where the developers say the game is actually far more popular than in the US. But it was first brought to popularity in the States by streamer Sodapoppin in July 2020, and from there it took off exponentially. “Among Us” lends itself well to giant crossover streams with plenty of Twitch’s most popular faces, including Ninja, Pokimane, and Pewdiepie, but it’s even spread out of the gaming sphere.

In the run-up to the 2020 US election, popular Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with online creators HasanAbi and hbomberguy, as well as fellow politician Ilhan Omar, in a record-breaking stream of “Among Us”, becoming an imposter in her very first match. The game has remained consistently popular, even ousting “Fall Guys” from its throne at the top of Twitch by winter, and it’s unlikely it’s going to disappear any time soon. And it isn’t only Twitch and YouTube where “Among Us” is resoundingly popular; it’s also produced a huge number of memes on Reddit and TikTok. Its explosion onto social media has fuelled its record-breaking number of downloads, which surpassed 100 million in October.

But bizarrely, this wasn’t exactly how the game was meant to work at the beginning. Developer Forest Willard when interviewed by Kotaku explained that at the start, the game didn’t even have online multiplayer nor was it available on Steam. It was only after feedback from the game’s very first and most dedicated fans, who numbered a few dozen after launch, that they added multiplayer as well as additional maps and even more tasks to complete. It’s a lucky thing they believed in “Among Us” as it slowly grew in 2018 and 2019 and were able to support it, keeping it alive with a steady supply of weekly content updates to fix bugs, add skins, and so on.

With the game still gaining a bigger and bigger audience with no sign of slowing down, all eyes are on InnerSloth to see what they’re going to do next. In summer 2020, “Among Us 2” was announced, which was going to feature plenty of improvements fans had been clamoring for – like friends lists, for instance. But no sooner was “Among Us 2” announced than it was canceled by the developers, who said they’re instead going to focus on improving the base game and adding all those flashy features to the original. In fact, InnerSloth is reworking the game’s core code from the inside-out to make it a better experience, as well as making servers more stable and trying to prevent hackers and cheaters. They’re even adding a fourth map based on their other series, “The Henry Stickmin Collection” that originally rose to prominence on Newgrounds. Though it started off on the backfoot, “Among Us” and the trio of devs who created it now have everything going for them.

The success of “Among Us” proves one tenet of gaming that’s always been true: the games with the most longevity are the games that are the most fun. It’s a great success story for indie developers, showing that if you make a game that people love to play, you don’t need an enormous marketing budget, photo-realistic graphics, or the backing of a huge publisher to be a success. Just like “Mafia” before it, “Among Us” is going to be around for a long time – and we can’t wait to see what InnerSloth does next.