It was an interesting road for Innersloth’s Among us. The social deduction game released in 2018, but flew under the radar until the COVID-19 pandemic peaked in 2020, leading streamers and groups of friends to new ways to stay connected. Among us caused a sensation for months, and although it was largely out of the cultural zeitgeist, this surge of success led its developer to abandon plans for a sequel in favor of new content.
This content being published for Among us has taken many forms, from new maps to accessibility options. The major update released today is described as the most significant to date, with different roles similar to those of our contemporaries such as werewolf, account association and unlockable achievements. Perhaps its biggest selling point, however, is new cosmetic products, many of which are available through a Cosmicubes battle pass-type system. These Cosmicubes differ from a traditional battle pass pattern in a number of ways that suit the laid-back nature of the game, so other titles might take notes.
How the cosmcubes work among us
Popular games that helped popularize battle passes such as Fortnite often work them through separate “seasons” of content. This seasonal content is usually thematic in a way that ties his battle pass together; a system that is also making its appearance in independent games such as Super Animal Royale and Galactic Deep Rock. Coherent themes and storytelling was one of the main reasons Ghost Ship Games decided to create a seasonal content model with its battle pass equivalent called “Performance Pass,” but Among us seems less concerned with this.
Given Among us feels like a board game with shorter parts all based on the same concept, it makes sense for Innersloth to focus on cosmetics rather than the story. One of the ways his Cosmicubes stand out is that there isn’t just one battle pass released every few months. Instead, several cubes are available right off the bat, some of which are activated using a premium paid currency called Stars, others activated using a resource obtained through a normal game called Beans.
Regardless of how a Cosmicube is purchased, they work the same. A branched content tree is available in each cube, so players can choose which direction they want to go using a resource called Pods – which are unique to each Cosmicube and only appear if they play the game with a active. The more XP someone plays, the more XP they receive, with each higher level providing a multiplier for the amount of beans and pods received. Innersloth also promises that every cosmetic item is purely visual.
The benefits of battle passes shared between us
The decision to split the paid and free cosmetic tracks into separate cubes is a smart one because it sidesteps one of the nastier aspects of battle passes in general. Even games that allow players to revert to a battle pass after the associated season ends, such as Super Animal Royale, tend to represent their battle passes as a progressive chain of elements that free-to-play fans can only access one game. This leads to a feeling of spending a lot of time to get leftovers and develops a sense of FOMO (fear of running out) which might prey on some vulnerable populations.
That being said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a developer encouraging their fans to pay for additional content so that they can fund that work, especially for smaller developers like Pixile Studios or Innersloth. The “Emergency Meeting” update article describing Among us‘Cosmicubes specifically says that the paid tracks are meant to help keep servers running and fund future development given that the game is free on mobile and only $ 4.99 elsewhere.
Another advantage of Innersloth’s approach is that it is open to expansion. Several Cosmicubes are themed around different maps in the game like Mira and Polus, and the developer says currency can be stored to pay for “the constant release of new items” – some of which will include partnerships, as seen when Among us announced a cross with Ratchet & Clank. Free Cosmicubes may get less exciting cosmetics in the long run, but they’re still a perfectly viable way for fans to personalize themselves without paying if they can’t.
More games should consider both paid and free unlockable cosmetic tracks in the future, as that seems like a much healthier solution than blocking large chunks of a singular pass. With the Xbox and PlayStation versions still on the way, Among us only has room to grow and perhaps regain its former glory from here.
Among us is out now on Mobile, PC, and Switch, with the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X / S versions released on December 14, 2021.
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