Why cancelling Among Us 2 was the nicest thing InnerSloth could do for their fans
It always gives me great pleasure to see indie games rise to meteoric success and popularity. It is proof that the hundreds of thousands of hobbyists and entrepreneurs can “make it” purely on the merit of their work. “Among Us”, the latest hit indie game in 2020, is one such example. It has amassed nearly 80K daily players on Steam and at time of writing has over 200K viewers watching gameplay on Twitch.
If you are plugged into the goings-on of the video game scene, you have certainly heard of Among Us. A social deduction action game, Among Us pits you against your friends on a space station, where 1–3 of your crew is secretly an “imposter” alien whose goal is to kill as many crewmates as possible, discreetly. The crew then needs to find the imposter and oust them from the group before they are killed. Gameplay comes to a head when players confront their crew via voice chat, that more often than not devolves into a cacophony of alibis and slander and screaming.
We have seen many iterations of this kind of gameplay, from the classic Mafia, to Spyfall and “One Night Ultimate Werewolf”. But Among us has become a hit as more and more big-name content creators jump on board the trend. And personally I can attest that it’s quite a fun game!
What Makes a Sequel
When Among Us started rising to popularity earlier last month, the developer InnerSloth announced a sequel, Among Us 2. Now, on the week of September 20th, they have taken this back. There will be no Among Us 2. Initially this may seem like bad news, but it actually is not.
What makes a sequel? If you are a “Final Fantasy” fan, a sequel is a hard reboot of story and gameplay mechanics. Square, the creators of the Final Fantasy series, moved away from turn-based role playing to fully real-time action. Nearly every game in their series has a new protagonist in a world that is nothing like the previous one. Very few games take this approach to sequels.
Now, if you are a fan of nearly any other game, a sequel is a fast-follow from the previous game in terms of setting, game mechanics, and tone. Most sequels do not bother to shake up their gameplay and instead focus on what made the previous game a success in the first place.
Among Us 2 was gearing up to be that kind of sequel. So it is obvious that a new game in the “Among Us” franchise has little to add besides new cosmetics and stages. InnerSloth reports that all updates that would have occurred in Among Us 2 will appear in the original game. This is a cause for celebration, the game you already own will have more content updates! Huzzah!
Success as a Barometer
InnerSloth has led by example with how they handled their success. But other game developers have done this for quite some time. Yacht Club Games, the creators of Shovel Knight, have been at the forefront of gracefully handling their successes. When their Kickstarter for Shovel Knight garnered a few hundred thousand dollars to fund their project, they promised tons of additional content for their game. And so they decided to bundle all this content into “Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove” so all gamers can enjoy their new game modes (that play as their own standalone games!) — all without gouging the price.
Undertale is also a great example of handling success in a way that benefits the fans. Toby Fox, after the release of Undertale and porting to other platforms, began working on Deltarune, which is a completely free gift to his community of fans hungry for more content.
InnerSloth decided to dedicate all their resources to improving the current game. This means improving their backend infrastructure, adding accessibility to the game (for colorblind players), and adding new stage(s). They pivoted based on their success and decided to give their fans everything they wanted and more, without making them pay for another game. Kudos to them!
Pay It Forward to Get Paid
With all this praise, I am remiss to give you all perspectives on their decision. You may think that adding additional content and fixing up an already released game is a truly altruistic feat, but it’s not necessarily. InnerSloth made a shrewd decision that will help them sell more copies. Let me explain.
InnerSloth is a small development circle with only a handful of people involved. Making the decision to improve the existing game is a defensive measure to ensure that their loads of new traffic does not result in further server issues. Also, investing in adding updates to a game that people already have allays the risk of losing players between the transition from Among Us 1 to the previously planned Among Us 2. Its best to consider their decision as a choice to take their game more seriously instead of scrapping it and starting over.
And while I mentioned a couple developers who added free content after they hit it big, there is no guarantee that InnerSloth will not release future stages, cosmetics, and modes as DLC. In the end they are running a game studio that needs funds to stay afloat, to pay for their cloud networking and infrastructure — we cannot fault them if they decide to charge for any net new features.
What makes a game successful? How do you know when top streamers and YouTubers will pick up your small indie project? There is no answer — there’s simply no sure-fire formula. But if your game does happen to take off, appreciate your player base, and lean in on their fervor. Be like InnerSloth.
Interested in indie game trends and design? Check out some of my other articles on how the occurrences in 2020 has shaped the indie game industry.