The short answer is that Among Us uses different monetization models on mobile and PC. On mobile, it is free with in-app purchases and ads. This amplifies accessibility and virality. On PC, it is a paid upfront game to align with audience expectations and fund ongoing development.
But why exactly is there this pricing difference, and what are the deeper implications? Let‘s dive into the key reasons and insights around Among Us being free on mobile versus paid on PC.
Driving factors behind the mobile vs PC pricing
There are 3 core factors that help explain the pricing disparity between platforms:
1. Monetization model mismatch
The most straightforward reason is that Among Us monetizes differently on mobile compared to PC:
- Mobile – Free-to-play, with in-app purchases and ads
- PC – Paid upfront, with no ads or purchases
This leads to a pricing difference because the revenue is generated in very different ways per platform.
On mobile, downloads and active users are critical, as they determine the scale of in-app purchases and ad revenue. So minimizing barriers to entry makes sense.
On PC, it‘s about converting players into paying customers off the bat. This aligns better with an upfront cost rather than free entry.
|In-app purchases, Ads
|Upfront game purchase
So the mismatch in monetization model drives the variation in cost to the user.
2. Market conditions and norms
Additionally, the pricing strategy parallels the broader norms and standards for games on each platform:
On mobile, the overwhelming majority of games are free-to-download, with monetization happening later. Users expect to try before they buy.
On PC/console, paid games that require upfront purchase are still common. Free-to-play is popular, but not yet as ubiquitous as on mobile.
So the pricing for Among Us matches what users are already accustomed to in each ecosystem. Mobile skews free, while PC/console gamers are comfortable paying.
3. Audience differences
There are also inherent audience differences between the platforms that impact the pricing strategy:
Mobile tends to attract a more mainstream, casual crowd. These users prefer frictionless access to games rather than required purchases.
PC/console caters more to dedicated gamers who are often eager to buy games, especially from established genres or developers.
In other words, mobile users expect free games with mass appeal, while PC/console gamers are ready to pay for quality titles. Hence the variation in Among Us‘ pricing.
Benefits of being free on mobile
Making Among Us completely free-to-play on mobile provides several advantages that support its phenomenal success:
1. Maximized reach and access
With no upfront cost, the game can spread to the absolute widest possible audience on mobile. This has allowed Among Us to amass over 300 million downloads on mobile devices – an incredible figure.
A $5 price tag would have severely limited its viral reach, especially among younger demographics. Being free erases this adoption friction.
Similarly, the zero price point fuels virality and word-of-mouth growth. Users can instantly download and share Among Us at no cost, rather than having to convince friends to pay.
This amplifies the "network effect" where each new user adds value by expanding the player base, matchmaking pool, and potential viral channels.
3. Monetization at scale
Despite less revenue per user, in-app purchases and ads canstack up meaningfully across an enormous free player base. Even conversion rates under 10% generate substantial revenue at hundreds of millions of downloads.
Among Us proves it‘s possible to not only break even, but also turn a healthy profit solely from non-paid mobile users. This further enables the accessibility.
4. Streamlined access for children
Among Us has been hugely popular with children and younger gamers. The zero upfront cost makes access seamless for kids, rather than needing parents‘ approval to purchase games.
So the free approach lowers barriers across all age groups, but especially benefits younger demographics. This has been integral to its breakout success.
Why paid on PC makes sense
Conversely, there are compelling reasons why charging an upfront price on PC and console aligns with that audience:
1. User expectations differ
As noted earlier, PC gamers are accustomed to buying games rather than playing free titles. So an upfront cost doesn‘t deter adoption among the target audience.
2. Discourages cheating
Paid games face fewer problems with cheaters, hackers, and repeat offenders. Banned players are less likely to indefinitely repurchase a game. But free games can be endlessly created with new accounts.
Among Us has faced major cheating problems already. Adding a price tag helps mitigate this issue on PC.
3. Reduces infrastructure costs
A smaller premium user base requires significantly less server capacity, multiplayer infrastructure, and ongoing costs compared to a giant free player pool. This is crucial for a tiny indie developer like InnerSloth.
4. Helps fund ongoing development
The continued content updates and new features for Among Us requires substantial development resources. Direct PC sales provide vital revenue to fund this additional work post-launch.
5. Drives engagement
Having users pay money can incentivize them to get more engaged and extract value out of a game. This helps support an active player base and community.
So in summary, the paid approach makes sense given PC gamer expectations, cheating risks, infrastructure costs, development needs, and engagement incentives.
Gameplay and content parity
Importantly, despite the different payment models, Among Us offers identical gameplay content across mobile and PC:
- All game modes and maps are available
- Core mechanics like tasks and voting are the same
- No functional or gameplay advantages from purchases
- Cosmetic-only monetization without "pay to win"
- Full crossplay between platforms
This means no version has an inherently compromised experience simply due to being free or paid. Players on each platform can enjoy the full game (with minor cosmetic exceptions).
This is quite rare – many free mobile games restrict content behind paywalls or timers. But Among Us smartly avoids this, creating parity between platforms despite pricing differences.
Is mobile more popular and successful?
Among Us has found substantially more success on mobile platforms compared to PC and console:
As of November 2020, Among Us had 264 million downloads on mobile versus around 9 million units sold on PC.
It hit #1 on the iOS App Store with approximately 2 million daily active users at its peak.
It was downloaded over 100 million times more on mobile compared to PC in the first 9 months following launch.
This suggests the free-to-play mobile approach has resonated much more strongly with users. While the PC sales are impressive, especially for an indie title, mobile has clearly been the engine of Among Us‘ meteoric rise.
Some conjecture this could change with long-term consistency among a paid PC community. But in the short to mid-term, mobile has proven substantially more popular.
What does this mean for users?
At the end of the day, what do these pricing differences actually mean for Among Us players on mobile versus PC? A few key implications:
- Try instantly for free
- Optional purchases for cosmetics
- Microtransactions required for more skins
- See occasional ads
- Must purchase game upfront
- No ads or additonal purchases
- Unlock all current and future cosmetics
- barrier to entry for free users
So in essence:
- Mobile has frictionless entry but incremental purchases
- PC has initial buy-in cost but everything included
Which is better? It depends. Mobile suits casual players who want free access. PC works for dedicated gamers who are happy to pay once for all content.
But importantly, neither platform locks core gameplay elements behind purchases or paywalls. The differences come down to cosmetic convenience rather than functional restrictions.
Key statistical data
Let‘s examine some key monetization and usage statistics that further showcase Among Us‘ mobile dominance:
- Among Us monthly active users (MAU) by platform:
- Ratio of Among Us downloads on mobile vs PC:
|PC Units Sold
|Launch – July 2020
|Total first year
- Gross player spending on Among Us by platform (lifetime):
Data via SensorTower
- Percentage of Among Us revenue from in-app purchases vs advertising:
So in nearly every engagement and monetization metric analyzed, the mobile platform significantly outpaces PC – often by 10x or more. This quantitatively demonstrates how the free mobile approach has driven Among Us to stratospheric heights.
Evolution of pricing models
It will be fascinating to see if and how Among Us‘ pricing strategy evolves over time across platforms:
Will PC eventually shift to "freemium" with added microtransactions? Unlikely near-term, but possible.
Could mobile move closer to "premium" with a paid ad-free version? Also plausible.
Might brand new monetization options emerge on either platform? Future in-game events, battle passes, etc.
How will pricing adapt for consoles like PlayStation and Xbox? Will likely mirror PC.
While the current free vs paid dichotomy has worked extremely well so far, all successful live games must continue adapting. So it‘s very possible Among Us‘ monetization models modulate along with gameplay changes and audience trends.
But InnerSloth seems unlikely to disrupt the core free mobile / paid PC dynamic that has fueled Among Us‘ monumental appeal.
Among Us managing to thrive both as a free mobile game and $5 PC title is remarkable. This speaks to careful pricing optimization and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.
The bottom line is:
Platform monetization models, audience nuances, and market norms necessitate distinct pricing strategy per platform.
Being free amplifies accessibility and virality on mobile, while being paid aligns with user expectations on PC.
Both approaches have upsides without restricting core gameplay.
Mobile has significantly higher usage than PC to date.
Smartly adapting the pricing structure to each platform while maintaining gameplay integrity has been a boon for Among Us. This has allowed the game to achieve a level of cross-platform success matched by few others.