August 22, 2013

Can Gamification Avoid Failure?

In November of last year, Gartner released a report stating that 80% of gamified apps will fail by 2014. This startling figure stands in stark contrast to the hype that gamification has been receiving. Often in modern business media, gamification is treated as a bulletproof deliverer of business dreams. Low sales numbers? Gamify the customers. Poor employee retention? Gamify the workplace. But, is gamification a façade at risk of crumbling? The short answer is ‘no’. Instead, the study is merely an important warning for businesses in any stage of gamification implementation.

Individual gamification platforms are at risk of failure, not gamification itself. Gartner reasoned that applications will not meet business objectives because of poor design. Gartner’s vice president of research Brian Burke stated in the study that “the focus is on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration.” 1 Game dynamics are still powerful and full of possibility, but strategy and care is essential for proper implementation.

As we discussed in our article “It’s Not All Fun and Games; Potential Risks of Gamification,” it is crucial to remember that gamification won’t act in place of good management. Participants of a gamified system don’t immediately become robots to the game. Instead, they have needs and desires that are instrumental in defining the extent of their participation. Furthermore, if the participants don’t connect, the platform will only waste time and money. For broad scale gamification, a game designer or outside consultant can help maintain compelling design. Gamification wizard Jim Wexler re-iterated this idea by rationing that an “aspect of any game that needs to come to a gamification platform is meaning and meaningfulness.” Tools like leaderboards and badges are important, but aren’t enough by themselves. A way to avoid joining the 80% is to make sure that your gamification platform is deeply integrated with employee desires and motivation. Additionally, as an alternative to focusing fully on end figures, consider how gamification can be integrated throughout your business as a whole. Gamification can enhance your results through indirect paths like employee training and education.2

What’s emerging is a deeper understanding of the necessary components of a successful gamification platform. Game dynamics have been a part of business for centuries, maybe millennia, but gamification as a marketable entity is still in its infancy. Like a growing child, the weaknesses and problems will make themselves apparent over time. More importantly, the gamification of the future can learn from present failures. For businesses interested in implementing a gamification platform, don’t run because of the numbers. Use the high risk of failure as a chance to implement a thorough and well developed platform. It is essential to make sure that your gamification strategy accounts for subtle game dynamics and human interests.

1.”Newsroom.” Gartner Says by 2014, 80 Percent of Current Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives Primarily Due to Poor Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2013.

2. Myers, Anthony. “Gartner Gamification Report: 80% of Implementations Will Fail by 2014 From Poor Design.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2013.

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