Written by Xander Z

The key to a game’s success is maintaining popularity, though this can be a tricky task. Each year, there are multiple games that gain global popularity, only to soon lose it for one reason or another. While this popularity gives an initial boost to the success of the creators and the game itself, maintaining popularity can cause a lot of stress on the developers, and often with little benefit. This becomes even more problematic when talking about rhythm games, as most follow the same basic gameplay with little to no innovation. However, one such rhythm game, osu!, has managed to amass a substantial playerbase, especially when compared to other rhythm games.

osu!’s different modes have been inspired by titles such as Ouendan, Taiko no Tatsujin, Beatmania IIDX, Elite Beat Agents, O2Jam, StepMania, and DJMax.

osu!, pronounced “ōs,” has four game modes: osu!standard, osu!mania, Taiko, and Catch the Beat. osu!standard, the most popular of the modes, has three main objects: circles, sliders, and spinners. Circles are the most basic object, only requiring the player to click on the circle using the mouse, z key, or x key, when a ring overlaps the outside of the circle. Sliders are a bit more complicated, requiring players to click on the circle to the beat, and then follow the circle along an outlined path at a predetermined speed. Spinners are the least common object, requiring the player to click and drag their cursor around a small dot at a rapid pace. 

With the exception of spinners, which are scored based on rotations per minute, objects are initially scored on how accurately a person clicks. However, overall scoring is a bit more complicated than this. As stated by the osu! Wiki, “Hit score given by each hit circle and end of a slider is calculated with the following formula: Score= Hit Value + (Hit Value * ((Combo multiplier * Difficulty multiplier * Mod multiplier) / 25))” In this case, hit value is either 50, 100, or 300, depending on how accurate the player was, combo multiplier is the highest between 0 or the (current combo-1), difficulty is the set difficulty of the map, and mod multiplier is the bonus or deficit granted by using mods that either make the game harder or easier. Overall score is used in leaderboards and can give an indication of how many PP(performance points), a metric used to represent a player’s skill, that a song will grant a player.

While osu! is a polished game and has different game modes, there are many more factors that have resulted in it gaining a large player base. According to the official osu! site, there are 15,210,892 registered players. This only accounts for people who have created an account, which means that there are many more players who are not registered but still play osu!. For comparison, Beat Saber, the most iconic VR game in existence, has only roughly 4 million players. 

One of the biggest factors is the sheer quantity of player made content that osu! has to offer. There are thousands of different songs that have already been made into levels, with an additional average of 5393 levels made per year. As a result, there are many different songs from different genres, although the most common is Japanese music or music from anime or manga. This large amount of content allows anyone to find a song they enjoy listening to, as well as find new music that they have never heard before.  

In addition to the musical aspect of osu!, its popularity can be credited to the fact that it positively impacts the player’s performance in other games. Many pro gamers, most of whom play FPS games like Fortnite or Counter-Strike, use osu! as a way to warm up and improve their performance. While many think of it as just an aim trainer, it can improve many different skills that are important when gaming. The main areas that osu! can improve are accuracy, consistency, peripheral vision, reaction time, and stamina. Besides gaming, playing osu! has other positive benefits on the brain. According to intothespine.com, “[…] they don’t help to train any rhythm skill, but they do help with other cognitive functions, like memory or general language skills. There has been a discovery of benefits for people with diseases or disorders, like Parkinson (improvements on motor behavior) and Developmental Language Disorders (training speech perception in children).” Thus, due to its wide appeal in both music and benefits, osu! is a game that continues to last.

How Rhythm Games Helped Me as a Learning Musician,” Into the Spine, Jan 6th, 2019.

Professional gamers like Ninja use this music game to practice their aim and improve their mouse skills — here’s how you can play for free,” Insider, August 24, 2019.

Performance Points,” osu! Knowledge Base, May 5, 20211

10 Reasons You Should be Playing osu!,Cloth5, August 1st, 2013.

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