The Rise of Gamification


ADOTAS – In 2010, the popularity of Farmville and Foursquare escalated the power of game mechanics into the mainstream. Techniques that game designers had used for years to motivate behavior – points, badges, levels, high score tables and virtual goods – made the leap into non-gaming contexts and demonstrated that they could drive meaningful results for businesses.

Media companies like USA Network, community sites like MySpace, B2B publishers like UBM TechWeb and product brands like Chiquita are now using “gamification” to drive participation, engagement and loyalty. But what took so long? Why didn’t gamification break out until 2010?

This is a particularly pertinent question for my company, Bunchball which has been selling gamification solutions since 2007. Our very first customer, in September 2007, was knocking on our door asking for our gamification platform before it was even completed. This led us to believe that the market was ripe with opportunity, but as it turned out, this was not the case.

We quickly found that not many companies were nearly as forward-thinking as this one in particular, and what followed was three years of trying to move the needle by educating companies about the art of gamification. In that time, we found ourselves dragging deals across the finish line because the market just wasn’t ready yet. Now, looking back, we have a much better sense of why that was.

New methodologies like gamification seem to follow a fairly predictable adoption curve – one which we were unaware of at the time. First, a large, high-visibility, successful role model for the methodology appears in the consumer world. Then, mainstream media, entertainment businesses and consumer communities adopt the mechanism a few years later. Eventually, an idea makes its way into the enterprise and onto the corporate intranet.

To understand this curve, consider the concept of social media. MySpace was on an explosive growth tear in the 2005-2006 timeframe. It was the role model that demonstrated to business owners of all types that social could drive meaningful engagement and revenue for their business, and within the next few years, every consumer facing website added social.

Years later, social made its way into the enterprise with platforms like Salesforce Chatter, Yammer, Socialcast and Rypple. Any attempt to short-circuit this timeline and sell social into websites and the enterprise without a giant consumer role model would have been met with the same results that we had trying to sell gamification in 2007.

Today social games and applications such as Foursquare (an example of game mechanics in a non-game application) have become successful role models in the space. We’re now seeing consumer businesses start to adopt gamification, and as more of them achieve success through the implementation of game mechanics, they will serve as an additional set of role models for the late-adopters.

Consider USA Network, who built a gamified loyalty program around its hit TV show, “Psych.” The network saw page views for the Psych website increase from 9 to 16 million, time on site increase from 14 to 22 minutes per session and visits per month escalate from 2 to 4.5. It also experienced a 40% increase in viewership of the TV show among the age 18-34 demographic. For USA Network, gamification was able to positively impact not only online participation, but on-air viewership.

Now, consumer sites are beginning to serve as role models for the enterprise, demonstrating to management, HR and IT that gamification works as a methodology to influence user behavior. The key idea for businesses to remember is that people do not change when they walk in the office door in the morning.

They are still motivated by the same things that influence them when they’re not at work: reward, status, achievement, competition, self-expression and social connection. By incorporating game mechanics into traditional work tasks, businesses can provide a framework for making work more engaging.

Gamification as a methodology is still in its early days, but it is currently working its way through the adoption curve. Moving forward, be sure to keep an eye out for gamification in brand advertising campaigns, communities, loyalty programs, mobile applications and/or corporate intranets near you – chances are, it’s already there.

For more of Rajat’s thoughts on gamification visit his blog at


  1. Bunchball has changed their business model at least 5 times since they began … a sure fire sign they have no idea what they are doing, no vision whatsoever, and merely chase the latest trend. This time its “Gamification” … wonder what it will be next year?


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