Among Us became Autumn's biggest meme and one of the most talked-about games in the industry. Our Senior Research & Insight Executive Saad Abukhadra and Senior Editor Brett Phipps explain what it’s all about, and how brands can get involved.
Among Us is, quite literally, among us. The prevalence of the indie smash is such that it’s now reached the corridors of US politics. Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not only jumped on the hype train, but started her own Twitch channel to stream to anyone who'll watch.
Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun)
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 19, 2020
We’ve been covering Twitch’s meteoric rise throughout lockdown. This is another leap, as even the world's most recognisable politicians begin to understand the power of gaming and streamer influence.
The lowdown: What is Among Us?
Among Us, available on mobile & PC, is an online multiplayer version of the party game Wink Murder. Players are told whether they’re an innocent crew member or an imposter at the start of the game. While the former carry out jobs, the latter stalks the corridors, looking for ways to take out their next victim.
Released back in 2018, Among Us only rose to prominence in recent months. In September, it became the most-watched game on Twitch, and is currently* the 3rd-highest-streamed game on Twitch with 133.9k average weekly viewers.
Among Us was able to create such a large community primarily from its format. By allowing up to 10 players to take part it allowed a lot of room for user-generated content (UGC) to emerge from these game sessions. This is evidenced by the size of Among Us social groups, including an unofficial Among Us subreddit (701k users) and unofficial Among Us meme page on Instagram (355k followers). Secondly, popular streamers were easily able to collaborate with other streamers meaning a wider audience of fans are now enjoying Among Us content.
From utopia to dystopia
Cheerful, bright games took center stage at the start of lockdown, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons (launched March 20th) offering an escape to your very own customizable island.
Conversely the reason for the success of Among Us, both as a game and streaming phenomenon is that we miss drama in our lives. Video chats have become tiresome, but Among Us injects life into the conversation. We move beyond banal chit chat to strategic get-togethers about who killed Red and should thus be sent off into the cold vacuum of space.
What does it mean for brands?
Brands looking to get involved have the standard advertising options of banners and pre-roll ads, but given the game’s meteoric rise stemmed from influencer engagement, it would be wise to explore partnering with players to enhance the experience already taking place on Twitch.
Gamers expect brands to add value to their lives and an understanding of culture is crucial for this. A recent example saw a well known brand fail on Twitch - while they took an innovative approach to using its features, the end result disrespected the rules of the community. Brands need to acknowledge the culture of the game. The easiest action would be to use the humour generated from it, as Domino’s in Singapore did successfully, memeing the ‘guess the imposter’ aspect of the game into a debate about rogue pizza toppings.
If brands seek to build social interaction, they must think about how to make their experiences more enjoyable in larger groups. With current restrictions in the real world, gaming presents an opportunity to interact with a community of fans through community management and connecting with the right influencers that can give a long term campaign the visibility it requires.
Lastly, brands should seek to create a narrative, driving social interaction and excitement in customers’ lives. Initially people sought out experiences driven by escapism and a desire for uplifting content whereas now there’s a desire to fill the gossip and drama we typically find in our office and social lives through Among Us.
Once again we reach the natural conclusion that brands must add to the conversation, rather than piggyback it. Among Us has earned a rapid rise to fame and for brands to become a part of this trend they need to make sure they truly understand the culture they’re trying to tap into. Deviations from this will only lead to a negative response from those you’re trying to engage.
*As of 3rd of November, 2020