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Among Us v. Fall Guys: What Makes a Product Sticky?

The 200 IQ strategies that made Among Us win quarantine


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Murto Hilali

3 years ago | 4 min read

Yeah heartbreak sucks, but have you ever been murdered by your bro outside of cams? (Looking at you,

Ariful). If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, you probably haven’t heard of Among Us.

Among Us is an online multiplayer party game like Werewolf or Mafia. It’s been downloaded 100 million times and has the population of Italy in terms of daily active players (60 million).

Fall Guys is another online multiplayer party game that saw an explosion in popularity recently but seems to have lost some of its momentum — unlike Among Us, which seems to be here to stay.

Why is Among Us stickier than Fall Guys? What makes one product more marketable than another? Here are my thoughts.

1. ‘You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me ‘— T. Swizzle, 2012

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

The neuroscience

Among Us is a highly social game. The whole point is to use teamwork and betrayal in group conversations between rounds where you vote off an Impostor.

Young people are feeling isolation hard. Dopaminergic neurons in our brain activate to get us to seek out social interaction — we’re biologically wired to want to play a game like Among Us where we get to talk to other people.

You can talk to friends while playing Fall Guys too, but it’s an accessory. For most people playing Among Us, talking to friends is core to the experience, which keeps them coming back for more.

Earned media and social proof

Among Us lends itself well as a game for YouTube and Twitch streamers to play — easy setup, simple collaboration opportunities, highly clickbait-able.

That’s why the amount (and popularity) of Among Us content has soared. YouTube views for Among Us videos soared over 4 billion in September. This kind of earned media is insanely valuable — I bet even Apple is impressed.

All this earned media (free advertisement) provides social proof, which broadly refers to the psychological phenomenon that occurs when we mimic the actions of others because we think they know what’s up.

You’ve probably heard the term in reference to user testimonials, but influencer marketing plays a role as well. When your favourite YouTuber uploads three videos of themselves playing the game, you’re inclined to check it out too.

Takeaways

  • Socialization and conversation are baked into the core experience of the game, which makes it more attractive than Fall Guys.
  • The massive amount of earned media Among Us has garnered builds powerful social proof.

2. ‘Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low (barrier to entry)’ — T-Pain, 2008

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Accessibility = awesome

Among Us is the first video game I’ve ever actually bought off of Steam — and I’m not the only one. The game is massively popular with casual/non-gamers for a few reasons:

  • It’s not too complex: All you do is move around and hit some buttons, i.e., you don’t need to be a skilled gamer to enjoy it.
  • It’s available on iOS, iPad OS, Windows, and Android: You don’t need a crazy setup with a keyboard that looks like it’s on LSD. A CPU and some thumbs should do the trick.

Unlike games like Call of Duty or Fortnite, the learning curve for playing Among Us is pretty flat for first-time gamers. This is good for me because video game controllers freak the fuck out of me:

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BUTTONS?
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BUTTONS?

Fall Guys is available on PS4 and Windows. Over a 100 million people have PS4s, but over 3 billion have smartphones. Bigger channel, bigger market.

Takeaways

  • Among Us can live on the device you use every single day: your phone. With a flat learning curve and wide distribution, it’s way easier to download Among Us than Fall Guys.

3. Aging Like Fine Wine

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Among Us gets better over time

And I’m not just talking about updates to the game. Great products get better the more you use them — think Netflix or Spotify and their personalized recommendations.

But unlike Among Us, both of those products use algorithms to figure out what you like. So what’s getting better? You.

Playing a sport for the first time is fun. Playing it after you’ve practiced and gotten better at it is awesome.

Among Us is the same. As you continue playing the game, you’ll learn the tricks and improve, increasing the likelihood that you’ll return and possibly play for even longer; maybe you’ll even get your friends to buy.

Textbook stickiness.

Future proof

But what if you completely master the game? Unlike Fall Guys, you can’t. (Okay, as long as the Fall Guys developers keep adding levels, you probably won’t master it completely.) But the Among Us team doesn’t have to worry about that.

There is nearly an infinite number of possible scenarios in Among Us, novel situations that you won’t know how to handle. Maybe you have to talk your way out of being caught as Impostor or put your detective hat on for an especially challenging round as Crewmate.

The point is it’s going to be a while before Among Us exhausts all its possibilities. Until then, we’ll keep coming back. As players, our experience is the true product; the game is just the platform.

Takeaways

  • Play the game → get better at the game → enjoy the game → tell your friends to buy it too. A positive feedback loop that makes $$$.
  • Fall Guys has 25 levels. You could play 250 rounds of Among Us that all turn out differently. The player experience is the product, not the game itself.

What We Can Learn From Among Us

A few learnings that might help us market our products and make them stickier:

  • A product centered on socialization is built to prosper in these times.
  • Optimizing for earned media can generate free social proof.
  • Accessibility is the gateway drug to moolah: flat learning curve = steep profit curve.
  • Shifting the core offering away from the product and onto the user experience means: a) The experience gets more enjoyable over time and b) the possible use case/scenarios are endless.

I could be completely wrong and Among Us may become obsolete tomorrow. But that sounds like something an Impostor might say…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go frame my friends for murder.

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Murto Hilali


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