Game is the new normal

It might not be something new, but what trend blog is it if we don’t talk about gamification. The search volume of this term rocketed in 2011. It certainly means something. Last year at the Games for Change conference in New York, former US Vice President Al Gore said: “Games are the new normal”. Yes, this phenomenon has emerged from social media to other sectors.

Companies are trying to gamify – apply game design techniques and mechanics – to their offering in order to engage customers. Earning badges/ levels, using virtual currencies and challenging users are common techniques being used right now. Foursquare is probably the prime example of building gaming mechanism into the product. It engaged users by giving them badges/ points to frequently visited places and finally “mayorship” of that place. The gaming mechanism helps to get the users hooked.  Gartner analysts predict, “By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.”

Some of the forerunners in art and fashion retail industry have already jumped on the bandwagon of gamification. For example, Tate Modern released an iPhone game earlier this year called Race Against Time, which blends gameplay with history of modern art. Though the gaming part is not particularly interesting, but it is a fantastic way to let us and esp. children to learn about art while enjoying ourselves.

Glit, a luxury discount site, enjoys its success by build up a strong urge to visit their site frequently for daily-updated sales item. Small group of customers is rewarded with invitation to the VIP program Gilt Noir, with privilege of buying earlier in the same sales. It fires up the eagerness of competition in their customers. Last year, Bluefly.com partnered with Badgeville to reward active users with badges, and subsequently let badge-holders gain access to special discounts. When Jimmy Choo introduced the first sneaker collection in 2010, it cooperated with Foursquare for a virtual scavenger hunt in London. Those who were able the hunt the sneaker first could take home with a new pair of their choice. Swarovski also rolled out a treasure hunt campaign last September on SCVNGR, another location-based app, in order to celebrate its first cinema spot. Players are guided around a series of locations in London, hoping to win luxury prize such as trip to Austria and Florence.

Branding expert Martin Lindstrom gave some insights to this phenomenon in his new book Brainwashed. He said, “repeated playing doesn’t only get us hooked on that game itself; it can actually rewire our brains to addict us to the act of buying and shopping.” A study carried out by International Game Developers Association pointed out that gaming leads to release of pleasure-inducing dopamine, and repetitive activity with rising difficulty increases the amount of dopamine in our brain. We buy more when we are happy right? Marketers definitely got the reason to gamify everything.

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