Badges Beware: 80% Of Gamification Apps Will End Up Being Losers, Says Gartner

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After hype cometh the fall. Gamification — the catch-all term for rewards, incentives and loyalty services — has become a very popular way to get users engaged in an increasingly noisy world of apps and online life. But Gartner says in a new study that many of the apps using the technique are becoming noise in themselves: by 2014, 80% of all gamified apps will fail to do what they’ve set out to do, the analyst house predicts.

So what’s the problem? According to Gartner research VP Brian Burke, who has been looking at gamification techniques with Brian Blau, it boils down to bad design: companies/developers get fixated on bells and whistles like points and badges, while not creating meaningful enough motivations and objectives. Without the latter, the former become meaningless.

This doesn’t mean it can’t work, or that Gartner thinks gamification is a non-starter: “I’m positive on gamification overall, but as the tech gets hyped there are a lot of misled expectations on what can be achieved. People are just doing it badly,” Burke tells TechCrunch. “You can’t just put badges on something and expect it to work.”

I’d probably add something else, too: one the one hand people are creatures of habit, but on the other, the novelty of some of these things will inevitably start to wear off after a point. As we saw with daily deals and the rush of companies looking to offer these, too many gamified experience will lead to fatigue.

Gamification, Burke notes, is currently approaching the “peak” of Gartner’s hype cycle, just one step away from being in the trough of disillusionment. (Note: some of the techniques that do and don’t work are covered really well in this post by Tadhg Kelly from over the weekend.)

This prediction, if it’s true, has some negative implications for gamified startups and bigger companies looking to use these social techniques to get things done. Among the companies that have worked gamification into their business models are Foursquare, SCVNGR and shopkick, as well as those who let others integrate gamification into third-party apps, such as Badgeville, BigDoor, and Bunchball. For every Nike+ app (one of Burke’s picks for a successful gamification app), we’ll see 7 or 8 others fall by the wayside or have to change their ways to succeed, by Gartner’s estimates.

What’s interesting is that rather than seeing gamification platforms change their game objectives, we are seeing consolidation and transformation.

Foursquare has moved considerably away from being focused around check-ins and mayorships, into providing pure information services, competing more closely with Yelp. That strategy, however, is also raising a lot of questions about the challenges the company faces and whether it may be overvalued as it reportedly looks to raise another $50 million.

Meanwhile, one of the more notable gamification “exits” was Gowalla getting sold to Facebook, although that was for only $3 million. That may not be the end of the consolidation: some are predicting gamification platforms as the next big acquisition target for companies that sell services to brands and enterprises.

Indeed, what’s interesting is that while consumer apps have the highest visibility, the trend of consumerization in business services has played a part here, too. Enterprises have become some of the biggest adopters of gamification techniques and Gartner predicts that by 2015, some 40% of Global 1000 organizations use gamified elements in their IT to get employees to be more productive and to help win over more enterprise business.