By 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one "gamified" application, according to Gartner. Analysts said that while the current success of gamification is largely driven by novelty and hype, gamification is positioned to become a highly significant trend over the next five years.
Gamification describes the broad trend of applying game mechanics to non-game environments to motivate people and change behavior.
"Gamification aims to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behavior, but it needs to be implemented thoughtfully," said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. "Most attempts at gamification currently miss the mark, but successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy. The potential is enormous."
For a gamified application truly to engage its audience, three key ingredients must be present and correctly positioned: motivation, momentum and meaning (collectively known as "M³"). According to Mr Burke, "The vast majority of gamified applications today lack or misplace at least one of these ingredients, which means gamified applications run the risk of falling into disuse, once their novelty wears off."
Motivation is inspired by most of today's gamified applications primarily by offering extrinsic rewards and/or weak intrinsic rewards to direct behavioral changes. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside an individual and is inspired by rewards such as money and grades. Intrinsic motivation exists within an individual and derives from that person's interest in, or enjoyment of, the task. "Framing the right motivations is an important consideration when designing gamified applications," said Mr. Burke. "It's essential to use the right mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, combined with appropriate player relationships — competitive or collaborative."
Momentum depends on sustained engagement. In gaming, momentum is achieved by balancing the difficulty of the challenges presented with the skill levels of the players. If players find challenges too easy, they will soon get bored. On the other hand, if challenges are too difficult, players will become frustrated. Gamified applications need to engage players quickly and maintain their engagement through deft use of game mechanics such as challenges, rules, chance, rewards and levels.
Meaning is about serving a larger purpose. To succeed, gamified applications must provide rewards that are meaningful to the participants. Different people will find different rewards and incentives meaningful, but many will value opportunities to help charities through donations, lose weight, master a specific skill or achieve a significant task.
"Gamification could become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon," said Mr. Burke. "During 2012, 20 percent of Global 2000 organizations will deploy a gamified application. IT leaders must start exploring opportunities to use gamification to increase engagement with customers and employees, with the aim of deploying a gamified application next year. Understanding how to apply game mechanics to motivate positive behavioral change is critical to success."