BIG TIME
PC Gamer|Christmas 2020
How 2018 indie sleeper AMONG US became a global smash hit
Wes Fenlon

In September, Among Us entered the all-time, record-setting peak player club on Steam. According to Steamcharts, 388,385 people played Among Us simultaneously, more than GTA V on its Steam debut. And that’s not even counting the millions on iOS and Android.

How did Among Us become such a sudden phenomenon, nearly two years after it launched? So big that it became the most-streamed game on Twitch in September, and its developer cancelled plans for a sequel to keep working on it? There’s more to it than just viral Twitch popularity. A few key things made Among Us a massive hit: free mobile apps, extremely low PC system requirements, and the Mafia. I’ll explain that last one first.

The game at the heart of Among Us has actually been around for decades. Among Us is the latest popular adaptation of Mafia, aka Werewolf. This social deception game, about a group of players trying to identify the traitor(s) in their midst, dates back to the 1980s. Among Us adds structure to the basic experience: players have a chance to win by completing objectives around the map, which inevitably spreads out the crowd and gives the impostors a chance to strike.

A big part of Among Us’ success is simply that Mafia is a fun, endlessly playable game that scales well to big groups. But in 2020, getting together to play games like Werewolf in-person isn’t really an option. We’re primed for social interactions to play out over Zoom and voice chats, and Among Us is an easy laugh generator with friends. Or people who are soon to be unfriended…

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