Some People Think Gamification is Dead

Gamification

Was gamification a trend that was overhyped? Some people now say it’s dead. What they really mean is that some companies never figured out how to apply it.

  • The Early Promise of Gamification
  • Gamification Over for Many Businesses
  • Big Game Successes
  • How To Do It Right

The Early Promise of Gamification

Gamification is the process of essentially turning everything into a game – applying the principles and structures of games to non-game contexts. In 2011, major analyst groups forecast that the gamification market was set to explode: M2 Research predicted that the industry would expand from $100 million to gamified application by 2014. Another group said that 7 out of 10 Global 2000 companies would deploy a gamified application by 2014.

These research groups were actually correct that the market would grow enormously: more than 350 high-profile projects of this type were launched between 2010 and 2014. However, many of these initiatives were unsuccessful. They simply weren’t strategized well.

Market penetration, explained Heather Clancy in 2014, was under 10%. “The pioneeers have applied these platforms to all manner of challenges, from encouraging consumers to use a new product or service more liberally to reshaping employee behavior or processes,” she said. “But without well-grounded goals, some high-profile early efforts have floundered.”

In other words, many enterprises backed off from investing in gamification, either botching a project themselves or skeptical after seeing the mistakes of others. Clancy thinks that gamification was overhyped, and certainly developers might have been too excited about turning everything into graphically rendered virtual-reality scenarios. However, gamification is still a way that some companies have outdone their competition.

Gamification Over for Many Businesses

One example of a gamification project gone wrong was an effort by Marriott Hotel Group. The company was excited about developing a knockoff of Farmville for employee training. The idea when that game was launched was to follow it up with numerous other gamified versions of apps, but that never happened.

In fact, Gartner forecast in 2012 that 8 out of every 10 game-inspired projects would be halted by 2013. It didn’t end up being that much of a mass exodus, said Gartner’s Brian Burke, but organizations are definitely reworking their strategies.

“[W]ith gamification today only a minority of projects can declare that the business objectives were achieved,” said Burke. “There are many reasons for this, starting with the lack of clearly defined business objectives, or focusing on the organization goals rather than the player goals.”

Big Game Successes

It’s easy to point at all of the missteps by organizations and define gamification in terms of its failures. The fact is that for many companies, turning applications into games worked out well. A prominent example of a successful project is Nike+, which allows anyone to save their fitness figures and measure them against their objectives. As of 2014, the site had almost 29 million users.

Notice what I emphasized in the last paragraph – the reason that this gamification effort worked so well is that it was fundamentally centered on user rather than organizational goals.

These applications haven’t just proven successful with consumers, though. When tech company Bluewolf decided they wanted their specialists to be more open with their knowledge and enhance branding via blogging and social media, they used gamification for enticement. Those who take part are also incentivized with a point system that can save them money on hotels and other services. The firm’s CMO, Corinne Sklar, said that it had succeeded incredibly:

  • 57% better internal sharing of information
  • 68% more social media views
  • 153% more blog articles.

How To Do It Right

You need the right strategy if you want gamification to succeed. What is that strategy? For starters, carefully define your business goals, consider various user profiles, and determine how to reach them (i.e., typically through sites or apps). “ The key component, though, is that the service or product you are promoting with the game is strong.

“You can’t have good gamification on average products and expect to get results,” said Badgeville CMO Chandar Pattabhiram. “Good icing can’t save an average cake.”

Some firms have realized that they can leverage gamification to better manage business-to-business interactions. WestJet created a game environment in order to better manage expenses. Similarly, American Express designed a game-enhanced system to allow businesses to better organize their travel.

By using games, both WestJet and AmEx are steering users toward preferred, discounted flights and lodging.

“You are starting to see travelers make their own decisions and not follow policies,” said American Express VP Alicia Tillman. “How do you take the very best elements of social media and mold a solution around those elements and attach it to a corporate goal?”

The answer, of course, is games. As you can see, it’s hasty to say that gamification is dead. Certainly many early adopters were ill-advised or otherwise didn’t plan their game projects correctly.

Today, the development of 100% true high-availability cloud makes it easier than ever to get your game off the ground. With the right networking technology and architectural design – InfiniBand and distributed storage – you can experience performance that is usually 300% faster than AWS and SoftLayer. Game over? No, game on.

By Kent Roberts

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