When it comes to explaining the growth of the gaming industry, many believe that humans are instinctively competitive in nature. As a collective, we spend a majority of our lives seeking to maximize our potential and in many cases, the presence of an outside influence will ignite a further desire for self-improvement. So here we have the premise for the wide spread appeal of multiplayer gaming and with a winning business strategy geared towards gamification, any business can find success similar to some of the biggest profitable game designers at present.
eBay, Facebook, BigDoor, Blizzard and their World of Warcraft franchise, Bunchball to implementations like the McDonald’s Monopoly Sweepstakes or the Pepsi Challenge, all indicate that gamification is a proven model for maximizing loyalty and popularity for any product or service.
What Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) does with great efficency is offer an almost intangible service that can best be described as ‘social competition’. For WoW players, they need to justify the cost of a monthly charge (that could add up to hundreds per year) for the rights to play the same game with their online friends. This justification comes through the unique rewards system that WoW features. Overall, players who ‘level up’ (or become stronger) in the game will be able to access more dangerous game areas, which can earn them the exclusivity of rare items in the gamified world.
These rare items are often capable of vastly improving the strength of your WoW character, making them formidable in defence and impossible to defeat by other players. This comes into play on WoW servers that feature a heavy amount of player-versus-player or PVP competition, as frequently defeating enemies will also open up chances for additional rare leaderboard-based items.
The camaraderie that is associated with WoW is another aspect of the design that is important for gamification strategy in general. The way WoW is set up (when playing the game in a way that avoids PVP conflicts) there is a requirement to attach yourself to a strong ‘Guild’.
Guilds are essentially a community of gamers who are at similar ‘levels’ and wish to travel through the virtual WoW game world supporting each other in their quests to optimize their armor and item collections. With a Guild Leader, Guild Officers, and formal applications for submitting as a new Guild member, these organizations create a heavy source for game loyalty with WoW, as a person who joins a Guild is essentially joining a business group and to some extent an online family.
Being a part of a Guild that travels through WoW dungeons on a set weekly schedule is one of the most effective ways to justify the monthly fee to play the game. Gamers are able to keep themselves and their armor/item collections optimized to enjoy the game to it’s fullest only by constantly participating with others over a long period of time.
The lessons from WoW and those before it (like the Pespi Challenge and the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion) have been analyzed and largely implemented in websites that feature gamification models. uBoost has a similar rewards system, set up to keep students loyal and socially competitive with other points earners via their auction system (a direct imitation of the eBay and WoW auction house systems).
Facebook understands the lure of social competition and uses the Facebook user’s own friends list to encourage them to have the best score out of their entire online social network. It’s a trend that now translates to mobile phone devices with them have applications with social competition in mind, encouraging users to share applications so that they will have more friends in competitive games (while giving the application creator more profits in sales). With Bunchball and BigDoor establishing themselves as two of the newest emerging companies, they are more than qualified experts in converting many struggling business strategies into profitable models based on gamification tenets. The future of commerce is here and it definitely seems like a fun one!