Browsing articles from "September, 2010"

Top 10 Ways to Apply Game Mechanics To Non-Game Services

One of the great benefits of investing in the social gaming space is the opportunity to be immersed in game mechanics. Game mechanics don’t just apply to gaming companies: they apply to virtually every web site on the net.

Here are my top 10 ways to apply game mechanics to non-game services:

1.       Your service: The game. Start thinking of your service as a game and it’s easy to envision all the subtle and not so subtle ways to take advantage of game mechanics in your service — whether it’s a consumer offering or an enterprise one.

2.       Status / reputation. People want status. It’s human nature. But the thing about status is, it has to be visible: both to the person who has it and to everyone else. The driver of the hot yellow Ferrari doesn’t drive it 20 miles per hour down the street so that he can see it: he drives it so that he can enjoy everyone else seeing him driving it. The easiest way to make status visible is through badges. Badges are simple and easy. Start with silver, gold, and platinum. Then add special badges – badges that are only available for completing a certain task, or in the case of a shopping site, a special, rare shopping cart for elite shoppers.

3.       Gifting and reciprocation. Surprise: People love to receive gifts! In the gaming world, that means giving high status users free coins with which they can buy goods – not for themselves, but to send to other people. What makes gifts so powerful is they cause a very personal feeling of reciprocation. In the gaming world, the gift recipients will reciprocate – the key is that they have to pay in order to do so. So by letting your highest status users give away something to others (for free), you get revenue in return.

4.       Hybrid monetization. Let your users choose how they want to pay you: with their time or with their wallet. As long as you get the money, you don’t care whether it comes from your user or from a third party who wants to pay you for access to that user. This doesn’t work for big purchases, but for small purchases, such as upgrades, it can be used to great effect. Let your user choose: they can pay you for the upgrade or they can watch an advertisement. It’s up to them. (Of course, you get to set the price on what the ad is worth.)

5.       Leaderboards and points. People are competitive by nature. Associate points with actions so that people can earn points. Those points don’t necessarily have to convert into anything – simply making them visible (in the form of a leaderboard) gives them value.

6.       Free stuff. Just like gifts, people also like to get good old free stuff. In the gaming world this comes in the form of “150 coins for logging in.” It feels good to get 150 coins for doing… well, almost nothing! Give people free stuff to get them to show up. Give away a little bit of what you offer (storage, for example) to users for completing certain tasks.

7.       Make the virtual real. How do you make a virtual good feel real? Through look and sound. If you’re going to use coins, for example, give them the look and sound of real money. Animate them. Add accurate sound. That’s why Vegas casinos have all that sound of money – because even though you can’t touch it, you can hear it.

8.       Social proof. One other thing that people want: social proof. When users see that their friends are doing something, they want to do it too.  If 80% of people have purchased a certain upgrade, let the rest of your users know that: they’ll wonder why they haven’t.

9.       Create scarcity. In games, this means things have a limited time – the special potion or weapon only has a life of a few minutes or a few hours. The same phenomenon can be implemented in non-game sites: coupons that quickly expire, countdown timers on items so that once they reach zero, the item is no longer available.

10.       A/B test and track the metrics. Game designers are constantly running side by side experiments on everything from the look and feel of their virtual coins to the optimum path for a user to make a purchase in an online store. You can do the same even down to the animated versus non-animated buy button. The key is to measure the results like there’s no tomorrow and track the resulting metrics.

Of course, there are many more ways to apply game mechanics to your service. Hopefully, this list will get you off to a great start.

Sep 14, 2010