Among Us: the sudden popularity and app promotion mistakes
In August, Among Us hit the top charts in a hundred countries and is still holding its ground. How did a game that hadn’t been able to succeed for two years manage to make it? What helped it become popular, and why did it fail to do that before? Now we’ll analyze the game’s timeline and find out what promotion mistakes it could avoid.
Among Us: the game concept
Among Us is a space mafia game. Fun fact: the app was released under the AppID ‘space mafia’. The goals of the game are different depending on your role. You should figure out the impostors who pretend to be members of your team or complete the game undetected. Besides, you’ll go through small quests as you repair the spaceship. If you become able to fly home, you’ll win too, but the impostors will get in your way. The game can be played by 4 to 10 players. While everyone is busy with repairs, a murder occurs. Then the team members discuss who did that and vote. A nice detail: if you are killed, you’ll stay in the game as a ghost.
How did Among Us succeed?
Everyone knows Among Us now: it is in the top charts, there is a community of fans, tons of Internet memes, and wild fame. It seems that everything happened out of the blue. In fact, the game’s path to success took several years and was rather thorny.
- The game appeared in stores in the summer of 2018 (on Google Play in June, and on App Store in July). But Steam was the developers’ main focus. The game was released in November there.
- It wasn’t highly popular and the developers gained profit from mainly inn-app purchases. The major markets were Brazil, South Korea, and the Middle East.
- On Steam, the game was not a breakthrough. Users mostly installed its free mobile version.
- In February 2020, Steam offered to make a 50% discount and place the game banner on the home page. The game changed its price to $2.5 and started attracting the users’ attention. In summer, the discount became even greater with 75%.
- In August, Innersloth released another video game, the Henry Stickmin Collection. It turned out to be more popular. Many streamers began to study what else the developers were doing.
- A streamer Sodapoppin explored Among Us (he has more than 2M subscribers). The game turned out to be perfect for streaming. At the end of August, the audience of Twitch streams exceeded one hundred thousand. With this, the game’s ascent to the top charts began.
Among Us getting famous: good luck or a pattern?
On the one hand, Among Us has a great concept. The game devs combined a famous TRPG with the theme of open space, added mini-quests, and put it all in gadgets. The lively reactions of the players are not visible, but conclusions can be drawn from the behavior of their characters. The idea is great. At the same time, from the outside, their success looks like a pure coincidence.
The game’s fame was influenced by the devs’ second game, price cuts, casual attention of an influencer, highlighting the open space theme and … the coronavirus. Let’s analyze the last two points in detail.
The enclosed game space and focus on communication are the first important feature. This resonates very much with the situation we all find ourselves in 2020 — locked in our apartments searching for new ways to interact. The second important thing may be the successful launch of a SpaceX rocket with people on board and Elon Musk’s ‘global Wi-Fi’ system. This background, multiplied by humanity’s permanent longing for open space, means extra interest. Everything turned out well. But it seems that success could’ve come earlier.
Could Among Us have made it before?
Indie game developers often lack experience in promotion and mobile marketing. Among other things, usually, those are teams of a couple of people (the Among Us team is also small — judging by their web page, there are only three people in it). Usually, there are simply not enough hands. Because of this, many good games never make it to a broad audience. Among Us is lucky. But it’s best not to rely on luck and plan your success ahead.
What would have made Among Us successful earlier?
App Store Optimization
ASO should be improved both before and after release. This is a non-stop process. Obviously, the creators of Among Us don’t do text and visual optimization. The graphics don’t change, and keywords aren’t used in text elements. Now that Among Us is popular and searched mainly by branded keywords, traffic by genre keywords would be relatively small. But at the initial stage, search optimization could have attracted more users — and it would be easier for the game to unveil.
Graphic ASO is a must as well. It’s especially important to conduct A/B tests before release in order to immediately increase the chance of conversion to views and installs. Now — at the peak of popularity—this stays relevant. When installs are counted in millions (the game has more than 100M installs on Google Play alone), even a small improvement in conversion may pay dividends.
ASO is especially important for indie projects when the promotion budget is close to nonexistent. This is an affordable tool, without which it’s almost impossible to become visible in a store. Or you have to wait a long time for a dozen circumstances to coincide. Just like Among Us.
Collaborating with influencers
The streamer who found the game and made it known to the broad audience did so by accident. If the collaboration with influencers was planned, success could have come sooner. Streaming is a powerful source of traffic for an app. This is not a free way to promote, but, as Among Us shows, it is efficient.
The game’s social media pages are not very proactive. In general, there is news related to updates. At the same time, the game has a huge community of fans who create art and make memes. The developers decided to use some artworks in their official merch and offer collaboration to fans. This step is a good one. But UGC (user generated content) can be a viable option to apply to social media too.
We’ve published a detailed step-by-step guide on how to promote your app with a minimum budget. This is true for everyone, and especially for indie devs. Take a look at it.
How to work on promotion now?
For a start, keep improving ASO. We have a detailed guide on how to do text and graphic ASO. At this stage, it is especially important to keep track of competitors and their promo campaigns. When an app becomes that popular, retaining users is the biggest challenge. Content updates (work great together with seasonal ASO) and high-quality localizations can help in this. You can track how efficiently you are acquiring organic traffic in different countries using our Performance tool.
Given the great success of the game, it may seem that it doesn’t need ASO since it has already conquered all the top charts and received hundreds of thousands of daily installs. This is not entirely true. Text ASO will be useful anyway. Even with the initial iteration, it’ll be possible to quickly reach the top by relevant keywords, given the current dynamics of installs.
Keep in mind the Browse/Explore channels, that traffic can be huge. At the moment, the app has a huge potential for optimization when it comes to this channel as its values are extremely low right now. Working on text metadata is a necessity too.
That’s it. The main thing we should learn is: plan your success ahead. Don’t just rely on luck. See you! 😉