Trends: Gaming as a Game changer

Gaming is in the air right now and it’s a growing trend within the industries that are dependent on engaged customers. (Well, in fact; most are.) There’s no coincident that games like Farmville, Foursquare and, even classic gaming games such as, World of Warcraft is growing steadily; the gamer generation has grown up and kept its habits. There’s nothing childish about playing games. – It’s just great fun.

What is interesting though, is that more and more industries are realizing that game dynamics actually could be one of the keys to building engagement and influencing the behavior of their customers.

Gaming is the new Social

Seth Priebatsch held a Talk in July this year during TEDx Boston, where he declared his vision of building a gaming layer on top of the world. Seth, who”s behind the service SCVNGR that got plenty of venture capital from Google last year, brought up reason why gaming will be a key new viable services.

The key takeaways from Seth’s talk

  • The last decade were all about social, that is; building the framework on where we connect. It’s done, fixed, zipped, zapped and made. It’s called the OpenGraph and it’s created by Facebook.
  • What’s happening now is that the gaming layer is being built, that in a simple sense is the framework of influencing behavior. How we are gong to do that in the future is based of what is happening now.
  • The gaming dynamics are already beeing used, but in a form that (quote) ”sucks”.

The layers of engagement

So is really Gaming a replacement for Social? – Well, not really.  While it is possible to create services that are only using Game dynamics, for instance ”Happy Hour – Drinks half price”, they tend to become more powerful if a social layer is applied to it, like ”Happy hour – Show up with a friend an get an extra drink for each you order”.

Engagment and Onions DO have things in common. Layers for instance. (CC photo by Darwin Bell » http://www.flickr.com/photos/darwinbell/)

In order to get a grip on what’s happening, let’s have a look how engagement on web pages has evolved: From Informative to Game Driven.

  • Informative -What information can I find here?
  • Interactive -What are my choices? What do I think of this?
  • Social -What does other think of this? Who are talking about what?
  • Realtime driven -Who are engaged in the activity right now?
  • Location based -Where is that activity taking place? – Who are in my surroundings?
  • Mechanical/Game driven -What drives the behavior when I’m involved in an activity?

Each of the layers contains the preceding one.

Games has become social

Games are, as we are familiar with, interactive. The ones that are really successful today are using social dimension. The success of the Bejeweled Blitz App to the Iphone,  had a lot to do with the Facebook integrationt that allowed gamers to compare highscore and statistics with each other. (And let’s not forget; it’s an awesome game.)

OpenFeint is used to connect players in e.g. the supercool game "Meow Meow Happy Fight"

Today there are emerging services as Chrystal SDK , Plus+ and OpenFeint, that makes gaming social, realtime and localbased. The games are closing up on the web services, or to be even more precise; web services are growing together with games as a concept. Still following?

3 examples of the emerging gaming trend:

Epic Win – The Iphone App thata tranforms GTD into a RPG game. A social RPG game. You gain experience points for each task you finish. You’ll even level up and will find object as you progress in ticking your todo list. When you gain levels or object you’ll post it to Twitter.

Reco provides you with a dashboard from the start, that in a lot of ways reminds me of game stats. (Where are my weapons and my magic potions?)

Reco – Is a Swedish version of Yelp is using score boards that lists people within your social circle that done a lot of ratings or has contributed to the site. The user profile encourage you to connect other social services by offering a badge for each ”connecting” achievement.

Foursquare provides nice dashboards, but I still think that the killer feature is the Mayorship. (I'm currently fighting hard to keep my mayorship at my office.)

Foursquare – The reason why this geo cast service didn’t became another Brightkite, was just because it wasn’t just a geo cast service. With a point system that encourage you to check in, give and recieve tips, this service just grew more and more. Engaged people tend to engage. Competitions tend to make people more competitive.

Conclusion

There’s no question that this will be one of key ingredients when new services are developed. It won’t simply be enough to just deliver information, give the users the opportunity to be social and provide the correct coordinates. If you build something that require user engagement, you’ll need to be the perfect Game Show Host and provide the perfect reasons why the users should engage themselves.

We are heading towards more services that are fun to use. Game dynamics can motivate people to do things that are necessary, but boring. Perhaps we can regard it as the spoonful of sugar that marketeers with boring product have been looking for.

– Take it away, Mary!