Gamification: Why Play?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how people spend their time online. The post contained an infographic that predicted the most popular online activity and trend of the future to be location-based services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. In order to entice people to “check in” as often as possible these services have to “gamify” the process, and one of the main reasons location-based services have become so popular is exactly their gamifying elements.

Last week, I wrote a blog post about Facebook’s new app center. In its announcement of the launch Facebook also released the following statistics that reveal exactly how many people actually want to play games on Facebook:

  • More than 230 million people play games on Facebook every month.
  • More than 130 games on Facebook have over 1 million monthly active users.
  • More than 4,500 timeline apps have launched since f8 in September 2011.

So, what is gamification exactly?

According to Wikipedia, gamification “is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviours”. Take Foursquare as an example. Users can claim mayorships, unlock badges, receive special offers and rewards such as discounts to specific retailers while also competing against friends via a leaderboard. This gives the user positive reinforcement for undertaking an action and offers an incentive to interact further. Foursquare’s entire concept and business is built around gamification.

Benefits of gamification

For companies and brands the benefit of gamification is that it engages people in the kind of reward-seeking behaviour that can lead to increased brand loyalty and increased profits. If you integrate it in your social media marketing campaign, you might find it easier to get people to engage with your brand, spend more time on your page, contribute with more content and help you spread your marketing message in a fun way. By tracking the online activities of people who sign up, companies will also be able to gain a huge amount of detailed information and metrics about every single user.

The Three F’s of gamification

The Gamification Blog writes about the “Three F’s of Gamification”: Fun, friends and feedback. Brands or companies interested in gamifying a product or a service should always try to incorporate these 3 touch points. Firstly, a gaming element has to be fun. The Facebook statistics show us how many people want to play games but also how many apps they actually have to choose between. If the game is not fun then no one is going to want to participate. While big prizes will help, they will not be the only point of success. Giving players feedback on their performance offers an additional way to keep them engaged and ensures an on-going dialogue and thus longer interaction with your brand. This will hopefully increase the user’s positive perception of and experience with the brand meaning they will be more likely to recommend or share the application with friends.

A small example

YO! Sushi, a British sushi chain, created their own small branded game called YO! Gotchi. The game is based on the virtual pet toy Tamagotchi. Players could sign up via Facebook and create their own YO! Gotchi pet. The game is very simple – the players need to keep their YO! Gotchi alive for four consecutive days in order to receive 20% off their next food bill at YO! Sushi. Even though the game is very simple it’s engaging, addictive and most importantly rewarding and fun.

Have you seen any great examples of gamification recently?