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Gamasutra: Simon Carless’s Blog-Behind the Fast-paced Ride to the Top of Among Us

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The ideas and opinions expressed are those of the writer, not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[Hi, I’m ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and you’re reading the Game Discoverability Now! newsletter, a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

Initially I was planning to round up, but I found that something else came out that I had to write down. Recall that in our last newsletter we mentioned the amazing “sudden” success of the multiplayer party game Among Us on Steam. (Currently the world’s top seller.)

Now, someone kindly pointed out that Brace Yourself Games Discord has a “Clark Tank” chat channel. It’s paired with Ryan Clark’s Twitch stream / YouTube video on game discoverability.

Forest turned out (ForteBass On Twitter! ) InnerSloth I was sharing his story there. So I got permission from ForteBass to share some of his insights with you. This was reinforced by a survey. (Yes, Ryan, I sneak around where your Discord server is stealing content!)

Anyway, what’s the big deal?

I’ve watched a YouTube video of Among Us and it plays just like a social online game. It’s clearly heavily influenced by the Mafia / Werewolf, but it reminds us of the “you’re actually in the world” version of Spaceteam.

The tension when wandering the level to avoid being killed (if you’re not a scammer!) While performing a task is great. And voting for potential scammers actually raises the ante. If you want to know some good ideas about social dynamics while playing, check out this video from Blitz.

So, some background. Among us, it was actually released on Android in June 2018 and on iOS in July 2018. Released on Steam in November 2018, the game exploded in the last few weeks after a very late start there-in an almost unprecedented way on Steam with titles that have been available for some time.

Check out the Among Us review graph on the Steam page since its launch.

Games on Steam cost only $ 4.99, but there are plenty of in-game pets and other DLC. If you look at SensorTower, you’ll see a similar, but a little later, “review explodes” effect on the Google Play version of the game (interestingly, the URL is “SpaceMafia”) on Android.

Interestingly, Among Us is free on Android and iOS and makes money with cosmetic IAPs similar to the Steam version. And even ignoring the recent surge, it turned out that there were millions of downloads on mobile (especially Android) before the game hit Steam. (Sensor Tower estimates 11 million Android downloads, even prior to this big boost in August 2020.) I didn’t know about this.

ForteBass’s comments confirm this: “It’s the end of 2019. America and Europe aren’t our big customers. Brazil, South Korea and the Middle East are. Google Play is our earner and IAP for maps and pets is the reason. . “

As a result, it turns out that YouTube users have covered this game extensively before, not just the English game.Some of those early spikes It started with “.. Godenot (3.6M sub Youtuber) [earlier in 2019] Who found our game on Google Play (probably recommended by the player? Perhaps even via Itch.io … I know he streamed from mobile before switching to PC). But Brazilian viewers have driven us to create more content, and it was wise. “

About another major area of ​​the problem: “Our first audience was South Korea, but they still make up 50% of our Steam Among Us sales. It all started with Kevin Choi in December 2018. He itch.io I found Among Us through. I think this is because I got the promotion date on the front page. This is literally the only promotion we explicitly asked for. “

As you can see, Among this large virus surge in North America and Europe, Among Us was popular and well-retained in other regions. But those who saw the streamer playing the game seemed to be drawn to the free mobile version. This is because these regions are playing more mobile than PC games. And on earth, the game recorded a total of 1 million downloads in May 2019. Therefore, it was not exactly “unknown”.

Top on Steam

Did you have any hints that the game could work on Steam? Yes, that’s right-especially because Valve itself paid attention. Forte Bass takes up the story here: “In February 2020, Steam contacted me about my daily deal and bought it at 50% off. If I remember correctly, each of these two days would generate a month’s worth of sales, and then. The sales baseline was high and the wishlists were flooded. As a result, our summer sale was worth it-it snowballed into the visibility of minor top sellers. . (Like # 35). “

In short, Steam’s features seemed to help improve the visibility of the game. And at this point, Among Us (which was already great) had been refined with additional maps, pets, and many bug fixes. So if someone noticed it, it was well prepared to break out.

Forte Bass speculates that: “But why did we get a daily deal? [in Feb]?? Well, I didn’t ask, but earlier this year Kaif (… a British streamer) and his friends came to pick us up. We were already profitable at that point and had just announced that “Among Us” was actually complete. This has significantly reduced the number of players. Kaif turned it all around, bringing a wave of new European players (a new market for us), especially on Steam (which was our second market at the time). “

And that leads us to today. Or, at least until mid-July, things really got hooked on the team. Closing the story: “First, yes, the Twitch stream is our cause [most recent] spike. This started shortly after the Steam Summer Sale. This is really very important to us as a two year old game that costs $ 5 and has already reached 75% off. The timing of Pluto and Chance Morris was perfect … I haven’t talked to Pluto yet, but I’m pretty sure he found it among us at the 2020 summer sale. Frankly, it’s the only big steam sale that worked for us. “

And in fact, Reddit detectives have identified the exact Twitch VOD where everything started. Sometimes it takes one big streamer to ignite his companion, and it looks like that happened in this case. (Among Us is especially suitable for streamers, as it can attract play with fellow streamers and promote each other between channels, and it’s a drama!)

Conclusion-Where is the road to the top?

Now, I have to say that my research at the time of writing this article did not go as I expected. The team behind Among Us has created a truly amazing game that succeeded in a very unconventional way, with a free mobile version and a cheap PC version.

It rode a wave of multiple viral streamers while the team was desperately upgrading its infrastructure to catch up, it was constantly improving, and it was the obvious Fortnite-y AAA beast becoming a smash. No, a great example of a multiplayer-only title (and rare enough to disappear?).

As ForteBass points out, odds often overlap with multiplayer first titles. “Initially I didn’t want to make Among Us because of the multiplayer aspect. I’ve seen something like the Bombernauts flop and it’s not really attractive because of the increased complexity of multiplayer. However, the idea for the other game didn’t work, so when I prototyped the Among Us, it was immediately interesting and interesting. “

So if you really want to do it in multiplayer, you need to put all the right elements in place. Forte Bass concludes: “Everything else was patience, high-holding games, and frequent public updates. Discord is very important to this. When you literally announce something, it goes crazy.”

So first-and congratulations again to Forrest and his team planning a sequel and all sorts of good things. And do your best!

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