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This Among Us Clone Is Causing An Uproar

Among Us, an indie game released by Innersloth in 2018 to very little fanfare, suddenly blew up in popularity this year following a perfect storm of factors that have turned it into a worldwide sensation. Now, a Chinese clone of the game — taking advantage of the lack of a localized version of Among Us  — is creating a buzz after releasing on Oct. 28. The South China Morning Post reports that Werewolf Among Us has become the most downloaded free game on iOS devices through China's App Store. Seems like we've spotted the Imposter!

According to Chinese app tracking firm Qimai Data, the clone from Shenzhen Youliang Technology has been downloaded 478,000 times on Apple's store in China through Nov. 2. On that day, the game had the top spot with 116,000 downloads, beating out competition from the perennially popular Honor of Kings and Peacekeeper Elite

As in other parts of the world, Among Us (and its clone, Werewolf Among Us) isn't a new concept. Among Us is based on the person-to-person party game Mafia, which has a Chinese version called Werewolf. In late October, The South China Morning Post noted that Chinese gamers were not impressed by Among Us because it was just a space-themed version of Werewolf. Yet the social nature of the game has been appealing to people during a time of pandemic: it allows short, family-friendly sessions with online interaction, as players try to figure out who among their crew are the Imposters who sabotage and kill while the rest of the crew completes simple tasks around a spaceship to win.

Among Us is available in China, but has not been translated into Chinese. It is currently available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Russian. Even so, it's the 10th most downloaded game in that country with 885,000 downloads on Steam and the App Store in the last three months, Qimai Data revealed.

It's doing well around the world, of course. On Sept. 28, Innersloth announced the original game had more than 3 million players: an Innersloth community manager then clarified that Among Us had been downloaded more than 100 million times and had 60 million daily active players, and had hit 3.8 million concurrent players the previous weekend. Even so, without a localized Chinese version available yet, the title likely isn't doing as well as it could be.

Video game clones are not a new phenomenon. Chinese developers in particular have long taken advantage of delays like this to put out their own versions of popular titles before more international games can make any headway in the Chinese market. Additionally, the regulatory process of getting games from other countries approved by the Chinese government can be restrictive and onerous. 

Tencent's Honor of Kings, also translated as King of Glory and extremely popular in China even five years after release, is a clone of another IP Tencent puts out: League of Legends. And Peacekeeper Elite, another game that Among Us beat out, is Tencent's version of its own PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile — with a more palatable name. Werewolf Among Us is reportedly identical to Among Us in terms of the map and game mechanics, but is set in a medieval castle instead of a spaceship.

Copyright laws stipulate that ideas cannot be protected, although the creative expression of them can. Characters are copyrightable, but not stereotypes or archetypes. This makes it possible for game clones to exist, as long as they don't copy another game in a completely identical way. While copyright law can be complicated, it does seem to make certain allowances for such games — which works in Among Us' favor, since it is itself based on an already-existing idea. 

In other words, a copycat game is just another sign of Among Us' popularity. And while Innersloth had been perhaps caught by surprise by the game's sudden popularity, it has taken steps to go with the flow. In September, it cancelled a planned sequel to Among Us in order to focus on improving the original game instead. This involves changing some of the game's fragile base code and sounds like it requires a ton of work, but material planned for Among Us 2 will now go into the original game. Planned enhancements also include additional support for other languages, according to a recent update from the developer. 

"The game is currently only translated into a few languages (and some of those translations are a bit rough)," the early November update said. "We're planning on getting professional translations into multiple languages (More than we currently have, not ready to share quite which languages yet)."

Other changes to Among Us include anti-hacking measures, which have apparently been added already — but were both incomplete and added bugs to boot. Innersloth plans to add accounts to the game by December, allowing players to report others who are cheating or being toxic.