In a Game Rant interview, Microsoft’s head of cloud gaming gives insights learned from the explosion of popular games such as Among Us.

Game Rant recently spoke with James Gwertzman, head of cloud gaming at Microsoft. He talked at length about the future of games as platforms and the massive creativity that cloud technology can enable, but we also had more specific questions about recent events. A small set of games have blown up in popularity during the last year or so, often seemingly coming out of nowhere to become some of the most played titles in the world. They all share a few key characteristics, and Gwertzman had some insight as to why.

The best examples of this phenomenon are Fall Guys, Among Us, and Phasmophobia. They are light, casual games that can run on almost any platform because of low performance requirements, and typically represent a mode for social interaction rather than the fierce competition or story-driven narratives of other games. All of them come from very humble beginnings as well. Phasmophobia started as a pet project and became one of the top VR games of the year, Fall Guys struggled at first to offer good enough anti-cheat services because of a massive influx of players, and Among Us went completely forgotten for years before it caught on.

Because Gwertzman had discussed Microsoft’s goal of building up games as platforms and communities, not just services, we asked him if Microsoft and other industry leaders had learned anything from the meteoric rise of these titles. It’s hard to ignore the role of the global COVID-19 pandemic in their success as outlets for socialization, but we wondered if the giant, uncontrolled experiment of quarantines and lockdowns had shed any light on how better to allow games to do what they do best: connect people. Gwertzman didn’t hesitate.

The fact that these games which exploded in popularity would not have been possible without recent innovations in cloud technology is another side to the story that certainly isn’t obvious at first blush. Their growth may have been less due to the pandemic than originally thought, and other factors, like available technology, might have been at play. Whatever the case, it’s clear that companies are playing close attention to how those games managed to bring people together. Gwertzman then brought up another point about what their success means for the industry:

It’s exciting to hear how new technologies are democratizing the game development process. In another portion of the interview, Gwertzman described a few of the many ways that game development is opening up to smaller studios and even individual players. Meanwhile, the large-scale cloud computing technologies that power some of the world’s biggest games are only becoming more accessible. If these trends in gaming keep giving us dark-horse hits like Among Us and Phasmophobia, it will only serve to improve the lives of gamers everywhere.

Originally published at Gamerant