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Are You Prepared To Gamify?

February 18, 2012

We recently saw a great piece that offers a snapshot on the very latest on how 3rd-party web services offerings are enabling New Market Entrepreneurs to build games into their product/service offerings that keep prospects engaged and coming back for more.

In our current sports-related  consumer ventures we are going big on Gamification.   This piece will help spell out what’s available.

For the uninitiated, gamification, said simply, is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Over the last year, even large companies and enterprises are starting to get in on the game, with Gartner saying that all CIOs should have gamification on their radar, and M2 research predicting that the gamification market will reach 2.8 billion in direct spending by 2016.

Okay, so it’s on the rise, we get that, but let’s take a look at some of the players that are helping to take this trend to the next level. Three companies in particular are currently creating some buzz in the space: BadgevilleBigdoor and Bunchball.

Badgeville Co-founder and CEO Kris Duggan pulls no punches when it comes to one of the most visible and early adopters of gamification, the check-in king: Foursquare. The CEO says that Foursquare was early in its attempts at gamification, but that its incentivization models remain fundamentally flawed.

Duggan points to the “Mayorship” system within Foursquare: “You have literally hundreds of people and only one mutually-exclusive point of recognition, the Mayor. What happens to the other hundreds of people? Not only are they not engaged, but you don’t take into consideration different types of users.” Duggan believes you need to engage not only the heavy user, but medium and light users as well. Rather than a one-size-fits-all methodology, you can appeal to each user type and incent them accordingly.

From a marketer’s perspective this is a huge hole in the way Foursquare approaches gamification for
brands. The ability for brands to own their engagement strategy is key for them to grow their model. A vanilla badge strategy will only allow them to go so far and without real control of the experience and rewards it won’t be a rich experience.

Keith Smith, CEO of Big Door, has seen large adoption of their gamification platform. And, in particular, the CEO recognizes a big opportunity selling to marketers: “Marketers today spend more money on acquiring users than working to retain those users and providing them with a reason to come back to a site”. By focusing on retention, marketers could get more value from their marketing dollars.

Molly Kittle, VP of Digital Strategy for Bunchball, notes that until recently, one of the biggest challenges for gamifiers has been in educating potential clients about the difference between gamification and social games. Molly sees a shift from education to adoption of gamification strategy in the future.

“I agree that some gamification does come off badly, and slapping some badges on a site isn’t professional or powerful, and we don’t want our customers to do that” she says. The quick-fix isn’t sustainable for most brands. Molly thinks there will be a huge change of perception across industries, catalyzed by a growing number of enterprises embracing gamification to solve real business

Read more

The one big player left out of the piece above is scvngr.com who is boldly ‘adding a game layer’ to the web.  We wrote about them here.  In addition, much like the approach we are taking with our sports startup projects, we are seeing many mobile offerings building gaming directly into the user experience.   The piece above sums up the future outlook well:

So what does the future hold for Gamification?

It is clear that it is unveiling a far larger market opportunity — the concept of what Duggan calls “behavior lifecycle management.” Some of the elements of gamification will further permeate into other applications. In the interest of driving increased user interaction, expect to see some form of game dynamics coming to a business application near you. Over this past year, gamification has shed its acne and awkward voice to come of age.

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