January 4, 2012: Games People Play

Everyone is buzzing about gamification, but what exactly is it? Gabe Zichermann, the CEO of Gamification Co., defines gamification as “the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users.” Brian Burke, an analyst at Gartner, an international research firm, says it’s “the broad trend of employing game mechanics [in] non-game environments such as innovation, marketing, training, employee performance, health and social change.”

Gartner forecasts that by 2015 more than half of companies “that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes.” And “by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.” Gartner expects most (more than 70 percent) of big global brands to have at least one gamified application by then as well.

The game is already on: M2 Research says the gamification market is worth about $100 million today, but predicts it will reach around $2.8 billion by 2016. Today, clients are using gamification to help user engagement (47 percent), brand loyalty (22 percent) and brand awareness (15 percent). And a survey of Internet users conducted by the Pew Research Center reports that 19 percent of respondents purchased online games in just a three-month period. If you extrapolate that out to the approximately 2 billion Web users globally, you’re talking big numbers: 20 million big.

Social gaming is climbing as well. A survey from PopCap Games says nearly 120 million people in the U.S. and the United Kingdom play social games at least once a week. Up til now social gaming has mostly involved consumer behaviors. But all that is changing, or so says a report from Edelman Digital: “Look for gamification [to grow] in other areas, from HR to government, healthcare and even business management.”

Small business owners, you need to start exploring gamification now, and incorporate it into your company’s offerings. How do you find interested customers? PopCap suggests you place ads and other promotions on the major social networks and encourage word-of-mouth. Ads and referrals from friends, relatives and co-workers are the leading methods used to inform people about a new game. And optimize—33 percent of people are led to new games via online searches. Game on.