Game Over? New Study Says Gamification Not Built to Last

Gartner says by 2014, current gamification products won't keep up with their business objectives—though all is not lost.

Don’t tell Foursquare, but gamification is a fad. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some organizations are already beginning to cast off poorly designed gamified applications.

That’s the assessment of Gartner, the widely cited information technology research firm, which says obvious game mechanics could start feeling clunky within a couple of years. More assessments:

A high failure rate: The group predicts that by 2014, 80 percent of currently enacted gamification systems will fail to meet business objectives—no matter whether the goals are to reach consumers, employees, or potential clients.

Gamification for the sake of gamification: The report specifically calls out organizations that use “obvious game mechanics” rather than mechanics that may be a better fit for the specific audience. “As a result, in many cases, organizations are simply counting points, slapping meaningless badges on activities, and creating gamified applications that are simply not engaging for the target audience,” said Brian Burke, Gartner’s research vice president. “Some organizations are already beginning to cast off poorly designed gamified applications.”

Fewer mechanics, more rewards: Rather than focusing on adding the structure of a game in an obvious way, the report suggests a process that encourages development of skills or changes in behavior, or that solves larger problems using innovation. “Game mechanics like points, badges, and leader boards are simply the tools that implement the underlying engagement models,” the group says.

An example of meaningful gamification: Computer programming is often one of the more difficult skills to learn later in life, akin to playing a piano. But the programming startup Codecademy uses a points-scoring process to help encourage end users to learn skills on their own time. It’s a method that can teach fundamentals in a way that encourages stronger interaction with the material. Could your association do something similar for its educational materials?

A number of closed association communities use gamification systems to encourage people to write and comment on posts within the community. How is yours working out? Let us know in the comments.

(Hemera Technologies/

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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