The Strategy Dashboard for Gamification Design

Gamification Strategy Dashboard

(Below is chapter excerpt from Yu-kai Chou’s upcoming book on Octalysis Gamification. Enjoy!)

At this point, we have a built a strong foundation for understanding the 8 Core Drives, their natures, and how they individually and collaboratively influence our behavior. However, this does not necessarily mean this knowledge can be easily applied to designing an engaging gamified experience that also fulfill business metrics. For that, we need another tool.

After some of my talks on Octalysis, some people ask me, “How do I actually start to design a gamified campaign with the 8 Core Drives? I can now create an experience that’s interesting and engaging but I’m not sure how that will drive business success.”

In order to design a successful project, they need the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard.

The Octalysis Strategy Dashboard is a constantly evolving document that clarifies the most important aspects of your gamification campaign by focusing your attention on the critical elements that will ultimately direct your efforts for maximum impact.

The Strategy Dashboard contains five critical elements:

  1. Business Metrics, leading to Game Objectives
  2. Users, leading to Players
  3. Desired actions, leading to Win-States
  4. Feedback Mechanics, leading to Triggers
  5. Incentives, leading to Rewards

Your Strategy Dashboard is not meant to be as comprehensive or as static as a business plan. It should provide a minimum amount of critical information to help you execute an actionable gamification campaign that drives your business metric goals.

It may take less than one or two hours to first define your Strategy Dashboard but can take months of iterations as your product or service evolves.

Let me explain each of the dashboard’s critical elements in turn:

  1. Business Metrics = Game Objectives

Business Metrics are the key numbers and results that the business wants to improve on. These are high-level items that the company may present to their executives or investors in order to show the campaign’s success.

Some Business Metrics include revenue, daily active users over monthly active users, time spent on site, retained users, registrations, etc. Again, these are the numbers that indicate success for your business. If these numbers are growing, your business is in good shape.

When defining Business Metrics, make sure they are quantifiable and prioritized in order of importance.

If you can’t Measure it, you can’t Manage it

Sometimes I have clients who ask me which gamification platform they should use to develop their campaign.

I believe the answer depends on what problem they want to solve. The problem isn’t that there is a lack of gamification. If that’s the problem, then it doesn’t matter what platform you use, as long as you include any kind of gamification your problem is solved!

Business metrics cannot be fluffy statements such as, “We want to make people feel great!” It has to be measurable and quantifiable. You need to be able to track success, benchmark against other campaigns, and even run split tests to see which of your efforts produce the best results.

Boiling the Ocean gets you no Tea

Business Metrics also needs to be prioritized in the order of importance to your business.

Most companies want all of their metrics to grow exponentially: they want a lot of revenue, new users signing up, more user time spent on their site; they want everything.

However, at this stage it is crucially important to focus on defining your top Business Metric, your number two Business Metric, and so on. Because when it comes to designing for motivation, often times you can only optimize for one Business Metric at each interface and so you have to refer back to your dashboard and be disciplined enough to choose your most important one. You can of course improve all the other Business Metrics to some degree too, but you can only optimize for one of them.

A good example of this is a login interface on the front page of your website. Is your top Business Metric to increase new user signups or to maximize weekly return rates? If you have decided the former is a higher business metric, you may design the interface that provides a text box for easy user registration with a simple “Sign-up” and “Sign-up through Facebook” button next to it. You would include a smaller section that says, “Already a user? Login here.”

If your top Business Metric is to maximize daily returns, then the interface may be the opposite, with a small section that says, “Not a user yet? Signup here!” This design may not be the best solution to maximize daily returns for all scenarios but you can see how an interface can often only allow for a single optimization of a key Desired Action.

If you look carefully at various front pages, you will see that Facebook, Pandora, and Twitter’s home pages are optimized for new user signups whereas Amazon and Paypal’s home pages are optimized for return user sign-ins. As eCommerce solutions, Amazon and Paypal decided that there is a higher return when an existing user logs in and spends money as opposed to having a random person sign-up just to see what they’re platforms are about. More often than not, that first-time user won’t result in strong commercial activity as that of an active user.

Obviously their other business metrics will also be increased through this optimized interface, but we want to always design in the main Desired Action for the user so that they always have a clear sense of how to reach the Win-State. If you try to get users to do everything on one screen, users will face decision paralysis, leave your site, and go back to their comfort zone.

If by implementing your gamified campaign, your Business Metrics have not improved, then you have failed the Game Objective.

  1. Users = Players

Users are the second element to define within the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard.

This may only require broadly defining your users by gender, profession, or even subject interest but can also entail more detailed and in-depth user specificity through using Richard Bartle’s Four Player Types (Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, Killers), Andrjez Marczewski’s Six Players Types (Disruptors, Socializers, Achievers, Free Spirits, Players, Philanthropists), or Myers-Briggs MBTI personality types.

In Enterprise Gamification, Mario Herger states that it is important to have the key personas of your target user identified.

Whatever model you use, make sure that you define your user categories based on how they are differently motivated. You don’t want groups that seem different, but are motivated in a similar fashion. This will make it more difficult to optimally design Desired Actions for the Win-State.

For instance, employees are likely more motivated based on their positions in the company, than by gender. As a result, it may be more productive to divide the users into “Managers” and “Workers” rather than “Males” and “Females”.

Creating Octalysis Charts for your User Personas

Once you have identified your users, you can start to apply custom Octalysis Charts for all these players using the Octalysis Tool (this can be found at

By considering which of the 8 Core Drives motivate which user types more, you can then identify and implement game elements that appeal best to those Core Drives.

Keep in mind that it is still possible to appeal to the Core Drives that are not utilized often, since all of the Core Drives motivate people to different extents. However, it is often easier to motivate people with drives that they’re already accustomed to (unless they are longing for something else in their lives).

This is really where context matters. For instance, an accountant wants to feel smart and organized and usually does not like the sense Unpredictability and Curiosity (Core Drive 7) as much as an artist does.

Personal Assistants are motivated similarly but perhaps a bit more influenced by Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive 5) – both towards the person they are assisting as well as the people they are interacting with on a daily basis.

Identifying the Anti-Core Drives

Beyond developing an Octalysis Graph for each user type, it may also be advantageous to create an Anti-Core Drive Chart.

The Anti-Core Drives are basically why users do not want to commit the actions you want them to. Since every single action you take is based on one or more of these 8 (+1) Core Drives, this means that when you don’t do something you’re likely not doing it because of one of the 8 Core Drives as well.

Often times people do not commit the Desired Actions because of Status Quo Sloth (Game Technique #85) – they simply don’t want to change their actions. When Status Quo Sloth is designed in your own campaign, it is an Endgame technique that prevents people from leaving your system. When it is part of an Anti-Core Drive, it prevents people from joining your system.

When you identify that a person’s Anti-Core Drive is Loss & Avoidance, your system can attempt to turn it around by conveying that they would be losing more if they did not take action immediately (Note: this is clearly Black Hat Gamification and should not be used without understanding its implications).

Similarly, if someone’s Anti-Core Drive is Epic Meaning & Calling, it may not be useful to use other Core Drives to motivate them.

If you are trying to encourage a person to drink at a company gathering, and he says, “No, I can’t drink alcohol because I just became a Christian.” It often doesn’t matter if you appeal to the other Core Drives by saying, “Come on! All your friends are drinking!” (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) or “You’ve earned it through high performance!” (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) because the reason why he refuses is for something bigger than his own personal gains, social status, or enjoyment.

Rather, it may be more fruitful to address the Anti-Core Drive of Epic Meaning & Calling by saying, “Really? I thought Christians could drink. Wasn’t Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine? And didn’t he give his disciples wine in the last supper and said it symbolized his blood? As far as I know, Christians can drink…just not get drunk.” (Disclaimer: I myself am of the Christian faith).

Once you have addressed the Anti-Core Drive, then you can add other Core Drives like Social Influence & Relatedness: “See, our other colleague over there has been a faithful Christian who fasts and tithes regularly for twenty years, but he drinks a little wine at company events from time to time. Why don’t you just take this wine glass, and we won’t ask you to drink more beyond that?” (Note: make sure to remember the lessons learned in Chapter 15 on the Moral and Ethics of Gamification, especially if the scenario involves a form of manipulation like above).

Another example is seen in the Disney Movie Saving Mr. Banks (Spoiler Alert). In the movie, Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, was only able to convince Mrs. Trevor, played by Emma Thompson, to assign him the rights of her popular novel Mary Poppins when he found out the real issue of her resistance: her history with her father and the inability to forgive herself (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession and Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness).

Walt Disney finally persuades her, after twenty years of rejection, by incorporating her issue in his movie, Mr. Banks. He has the main character, symbolizing Mrs. Trevor’s father, find redemption in a happy ending. Note that another motivator in Saving Mr. Banks behind her decision to meet with Walt Disney was Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance as she was running out of money and needed to keep her house.

By understanding why the user does not take the desired actions, one can address it authentically and constructively engage the issue instead of chasing around the bush on topics that are irrelevant to the user.

Once the Users are defined, you now have the Players for the gamified system.

Gamification Strategy Dashboard 1

  1. Desired Actions = Win-States

Desired Actions are the third element to define in any Octalysis Gamification campaign.

Desired Actions are the little steps you want users to take such as: go onto the website, fill out the form, register, come back every day, click on the ad, sign up for the newsletter, etc.

These are different than your Business Metrics because “Clicking the Okay Button” is hardly a success metric that you would report to your investors. But to your users, Desired Actions are a commitment they can choose to or choose not to do.

Whereas the Business Metrics are laid out in the order of importance, you want to lay out all the Desired Actions in chronological order based on the player’s journey. This is important because oftentimes what happens ten minutes before a Desired Action will significantly affect whether the user will do it or not.

No Step Too Small

One thing to remember when defining Desired Actions is that no action is too small to be included.

Sometimes my clients ask me if one of their steps are too small to be defined as a Desired Action. How much value should be assigned to a simple clicking of a button?

If you dismiss that button-click as too small and do not design motivation towards it, you can very well disrupt all further progress and as a result, the user may drop out as she is no longer motivated towards subsequent actions.

In Octalysis Gamification, each Desired Action leads to a Win-State.

This means that every time the user commits the Desired Action, she has reached a Win-State and may receive some type of reward.

Note that when a user commits the Desired Action, at least according to my own system, they automatically hit a Win-State. However, whether the Win-State is rewarding or not is undefined at this point. The designer has to make sure that when the User hits the Win-State, there is a gratifying experience that reinforces their behavior. With badly designed experiences, the user commits a Desired Action, hits the Win-State, and then receives a punishing experience within that Win-State. Think about employees who are encouraged to take risks but get chastised when they fail or web users that click on a flashy glowing “friends” button, just to see a page that says, “You have no friends.”

We will talk about how to make the Win-State actually rewarding for users when we cover Incentives and Rewards below.

The Golden Triforce

Gamification Strategy Dashboard

Whenever you are designing a gamified campaign, the Win-State in the user’s mind should always be accomplished by committing the Desired Action, which increases your Business Metrics. These three elements should always be aligned.

Now, this may seem very intuitive, but you would be surprised to learn how many companies do not have these elements streamlined together.

When a client asks me, “Hey Yu-Kai, why don’t we add this really cool feature! Users will love it!” I often respond, “How does this motivate users to commit the Desired Actions and how does this help you improve your Business Metrics?”

More often than not, the client says, “Hm…, I guess the feature doesn’t add much. It’s just a really cool idea.”

Consequently, I regularly get approached by companies telling me, “Yu-kai, we’re from company X. We really believe in the power of gamification and have tried a few different campaigns. Our users love it and everyone engages with our campaign on our social media platforms. However, we seem to have a hard time getting them to do the next step, which is actually signing up on our website. Do you know what we are doing wrong?”

More often than not, they do not have the Golden Triforce aligned.

And this, again, is actually the core difference between Games and Gamification. Games can simply be fun and engaging, but gamification has to improve your Business Metrics, and it has to drive behavior towards a certain productive activity. If a gamification feature is not designed to improve your Business Metrics, it is a distraction and needs be taken out, or else the gamification campaign will become useless and fluffy.

The First Major Win-State

One of the key practices to define your Win-States is to identify the First Major Win-State. The First Major Win-State is when a User first says, “Wow! This service/experience is awesome!”

Interestingly, many businesses scratch their heads and think of whether they even have Major Win-States. If your experience does not offer any Major Win-States, your experience is not emotionally compelling.

Once the First Major Win-State is determined, you want to count exactly how many minutes it takes for users to reach that First Major Win-State. This is essential, because with every second that goes by before a user hits the First Major Win-State, there will be dropout. The longer it takes to reach this experience, the higher your dropout rate will be.

Product managers or startup founders can be very biased on where they believe the First Major Win-State should be. They have a tendency to think that everything a user goes through is awesome, which more often than not, does not reflect the actual experience.

Creating a profile is not a First Major Win-State. Uploading a photo is not either. If it was 20 years ago, uploading your photo might be a First Major Win-State. “Wow! I can see my photo on a screen!” Not in today’s world, unfortunately.

Even for a music discovery site like Pandora, the First Major Win-State is not where you first enter the music you like, nor the part where you hear your first song being played.

The First Major Win-State happens when Pandora has played four to five songs, and you realize that you liked every single song it played. Perhaps this included one or two songs you’ve never heard of before. That’s when you say, “Wow! Pandora is awesome!”

Strong Win-State design is critical for the success of a gamification campaign and their identification and masterful creation is fundamental in Level 4 Octalysis.

  1. Feedback Mechanics = Triggers

Feedback Mechanics are the fourth element to define in any Octalysis Gamification Campaign.

Feedback Mechanics are cues (often visual, but can be audio or use other senses) that users have to keep track of their progress towards the Win-State. These often come in the form of points, badges, levels, trophies, progress bars, and even avatars. In the end, Feedback Mechanics are meant to Trigger users to commit more Desired Actions.

Of course, people may ask, “I don’t have a gamified campaign yet! How will I know what Feedback Mechanics or Triggers to implement?”

Not to worry, this is why the Strategy Dashboard is a constantly evolving document. Business Metrics may adjust to reflect new needs, User information may become more in-depth with more research, Desired Actions often increase, and Feedback Mechanics are fully fleshed out.

That said, at the initial stage of your Strategy Dashboard creation, you should identify any preliminary Feedback Mechanics that will help your user understand the results of their actions. These could be a grade, a year-end report, a handshake, a welcome email, a search result, or a thank-you page.

If you don’t have any Feedback Mechanics in your motivational system, things are quite dire indeed, and I’m glad you are reading this book.

Metrics of Love

One very important thing to keep in mind is that the User Metrics should align as much as possible with the Desired Actions and the Business Metrics.

They should also be what users actually care about. You don’t want to include “How much total money you were penalized by returning your DVD to the rental store late in the past 5 years” as a long-term engagement User Metric, since Loss & Avoidance will not make users feel good in the long run (this can be compelling if your number one Business Metric is to get people to return their DVDs on time).

Rather, it is better to display top movies that the users ordered by genre, reviews of those, and better recommendations for future movies to rent. Can you think of a service that implicitly deployed the former model, and a service that explicitly deployed the latter one?

Also, if your user does not care about how much money they paid your company, don’t include that as a User Metric; show them what they’ve accomplished or achieved while using your system.

Examples of Feedback Mechanics within the 8 Core Drives

Feedback Mechanics can variously affect different Core Drives.

For Epic Meaning & Calling, a Feedback Mechanic could be visually showing a user all the people that are being helped by the Desired Actions they are committing. As mentioned earlier, this is why when you donate money to disadvantaged children in developing countries, many organizations will send you pictures of the child being helped along with a handwritten thank you note.

One of the cool things about the language learning app Duolingo is that it allows users to seamlessly translate the internet into a different language as they are learning. That’s a great form of Epic Meaning & Calling – you aren’t just learning Spanish, you are translating the English Wikipedia into the Spanish Wikipedia! However, I’m constantly surprised by how many people I know who use the app and don’t know about this feature. Upon learning about it, they often tell me how much more they now love the app. I’m not sure why Duolingo does not implement Feedback Mechanics that communicate this Core Drive 1 to their users. Perhaps they can include a metric that reads, “21,000 Words Translated on the Internet.” I imagine their usage and retention rates increasing if they did.

For Development & Accomplishment, you can use the usual suspects like  points, badges, and trophies. However, make sure these Feedback Mechanics actually track actions that are meaningful, instead of useless things that the user could care less about.

For Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, the response generated from the creative action can serve as a Feedback Mechanic. These are generally the output of Meaningful Choices, which allows the user to make adjustments and get feedback on their decisions. If the user feels like they aren’t receiving meaningful or timely feedback from their actions, Core Drive 3 will not prevail.

For Ownership & Possession, the Feedback Mechanic would be the representation of what is owned in the form of virtual sheep, stock symbols, dollar signs, stamps, or profile pages. Sometimes these Feedback Mechanics show users that the system is continuously learning about their preferences.

For Social Influence & Relatedness, the Feedback Mechanic can be showing how many likes, endorsements, pageviews one has or perhaps statistics on her group’s actions (think and their micro-loan communities).

For Scarcity & Impatience, a Countdown Timer, a lock, a gatekeeper, or moat can all instill a sense of scarcity in users.

For Unpredictability & Curiosity, integrating a pair of Dice, a Spinning Wheel, or a question mark are all Feedback Mechanics that display the unpredictable nature of the experience and brings out the user’s curiosity.

For Loss & Avoidance, the Feedback Mechanics may be Lost Progress, a sad tune, or a physical penalty. If you show users how much time they have already spent on the product, it will also make it more difficult for the user to quit and give it all up. Note: this only works if the user feels proud of the time they already spent there. Showing users that they wasted 2,000 hours on a mindless casino slot machine game might actually trigger an epiphany that causes the user to quit (which becomes an Anti-Core Drive).

Again, no matter what the Feedback Mechanics are, they should motivate users and be relevant to the flow of the experience. In addition, they should all be Triggers for users to further take the Desired Actions.

  1. Incentives = Rewards

Incentives are the fifth and final element to define in the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard. Incentives are basically what you can give users within your power that rewards their behavior and entices them to further action.

In this case, the term “within your power” is very important to consider because every company has limitations. Even the largest Fortune 500 firms could easily give users cash, but may not be able to put the users’ names on their website.

After you have determined what you can give users, you obviously don’t want to give them everything they wanted at the beginning. You want to strategically place these incentives in the different Win-States that you have designed to motivate players to feel great about committing the Desired Actions. These Incentives become Rewards in a game, and as mentioned before, rewards do not have to be merely physical rewards such as gift cards or cash, which is what most companies like to think about. Rewards can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual.

A Marriage is for SAPS

A catchy and easy model to think about in terms of rewards is Gabe Zichermann’s SAPS model: Status, Access, Power, Stuff.

The interesting thing about SAPS, is that as you go from Status to Access to Power to Stuff, the reward becomes more and more expensive for the company, but less and less sticky for the user.

It doesn’t cost anything for me to tell you that you are amazing and you’re the #1 User on my site, and you will likely be excited about it for weeks or months and tell all your friends about your new status.

But if I gave you cash, you likely will become excited for a few hours or a day, and then you may spend the money at a mall and then emotionally forget about it. Now your emotional state is wondering about when you will receive your next injection of cash.

Again, most companies like to give their employees stuff to incentivize them but it’s actually a lot more effective if you can figure out how to give them more status, exclusive access, or more power to control their environment..

The Best Reward: Boosters

From my own experience, the best type of reward is what I call Boosters. We already know that cash is not the best incentive because once the user hits the Win-State and takes their cash, they won’t care about the Desired Actions anymore (unless they are strung by the next carrot). Even with Status, sometimes when a user works hard towards a status reward and finally achieves it, she now feels like she has proven she can do it and decides to quit after that.

When Starcraft II came out, I started playing it as I was such a big fan of Starcraft I in my teenage years. I played it rigorously and tried to master my play. I also tried to climb the leaderboards, going from Copper league to Bronze League to Silver League to Gold League, and finally to Diamond League, which was the highest league at the time. After a bit more play, I was ranked a Top 5 Player within my Diamond League Division (out of a hundred players). At that point, I took a screenshot to prove I had done it, and quit the game forever so I could focus on my work again.

Starcraft Gamification


As you can see with this example, as soon as I hit the Win-State, the reward actually demotivated me to continue playing.

Therefore, I believe the best type of rewards are those that help reinforce the Desired Actions and loop you back into the ecosystem.

In games, when a person plays a game and works hard towards defeating a thousand monsters, oftentimes his reward is a very powerful sword. At that point, it makes zero sense for the player to quit the game at that point. The only thing that makes sense is for the user to take that powerful Booster, go back into the game, and defeat more monsters, faster.

In Farmville, users start out growing a small farm, one square at a time. But as the user continues to commit the Desired Actions and hit the Win-States, his farm starts to expand and he is now able to plant more plants. That in itself is a Booster and encourages the user to come back and play more upon receiving of each reward. However, as the farm size expands, it becomes more labor intensive to take care of the farm. Then suddenly, after weeks or months of hard work, the user finally unlocks the next phenomenal reward – a tractor! This tractor allows the user to farm four squares upon each click, instead of one square per click. Now it is much easier to commit the Desired Actions!

Again, at that point, it makes zero sense for the user to rejoice and quit the game. The only thing that makes sense is for the user to go back to the game and commit more of the Desired Actions to farm faster, until he unlocks the next tractor which can farm nine squares at once.

Boosters in Call Centers

The principle of Boosters can be applied to reward structures in the real world too. I regularly talk to Call Centers that want to motivate their cold callers and decrease their turnover rates.

Cold calling is like the anti-game. Games are usually about positive reinforcement and incentives, while cold calling is often about continuously being rejected, yelled at, and hung up on. It’s easy to feel demoralized and quit the job.

Now there are many ways to make the experience intrinsically more rewarding by using the 8 Core Drives, but for the sake of this section, we’ll instead focus on using Boosters to “upgrade their gear” in place of the common tactic of using money as the primary incentive. I should note that even though cash has been proven to be far from the strongest motivator, taking peoples’ cash away is definitely one of the strongest demotivators. Once you pay people a certain amount, lowering that pay becomes detrimental.

For instance, the best cold callers would have the most expensive tables and the most comfortable chairs. Their call station should have the most high-tech upgrades, and they perhaps can just press a button on their headset and talk directly to the supervisor, while others have to walk to the supervisor’s office to talk to her.

This is also a Status upgrade, as everyone who walks by the caller’s station would think, “Wow, that’s a top level salesperson!” And of course, the caller would think in response, “That’s right. I’m a top level salesperson.”

Now in this sense, even if the caller was offered a slightly higher paying job, he may or may not want to leave because if he joins the new company, he would lose all his high quality gear and immediately become a newbie again.

When you design for incentives, think about rewards that empower the Desired Actions and create a flourishing gratification loop that continuously builds on itself.

6 Reward Context Derived from Octalysis

While SAPS describes the nature of the reward, there’s also a variety of Reward Contexts that can be derived from the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis.

With Octalysis, I’ve loosely defined six reward contexts that can be utilized, including:

  1. Fix Action Rewards (Earned Lunch)
  2. Random Rewards (Mystery Box)
  3. Sudden Rewards (Easter Egg)
  4. Rolling Rewards (Lottery)
  5. Social Treasure (Gifting)
  6. Reward Pacing (Collection Set)

We have seen how these reward contexts play into a variety of Core Drives in previous chapters, and I hope you still remember the lessons. Those are all meant to be defined in the Incentives and Rewards section of the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard.

Ultimately, these reward contexts are derived from Octalysis, because we are all incentivized by the Core Drives. Even if it’s not something you gain, avoiding a loss or satisfying your curiosity are also very strong rewards that can be strategically placed in every single one of your Win-States. Without them, users will have no reason to commit the Design Actions moving forward.

Conclusion on Octalysis Gamification

Before you do any audit of your product or design a new campaign using the Octalysis Framework, I highly encourage you to go through the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard to really understand how you can align your behavioral design strategy with your actual goals. Even if you decide to hire consultants who are extremely knowledgeable in Octalysis, if you can’t decide on what your Business Metrics are, who your Users are, and what Desired Actions you want users to take to become successful, there is very little that the consultant can do for you.

A Comprehensive List of 90+ Gamification Cases with ROI Stats


(This post would not have been possible without the help of Mario Malkav Colombo and Massimiliano Currobolo, students at University of Milan – Bicocca and high scorers on my blog engagement system on the right)

It’s all about the Gamification Case Study

I still get questions these days about whether gamification is just a fad and whether it has any market impact whatsoever. Who can blame them? There’s still a ton of people who call themselves experts in gamification, but all they know how to do is to slap on PBLs (Points, Badges, Leaderboards), hoping something will miraculously be fun just because you have some game mechanics that are found in every single failed game too.

Luckily, there are enough case studies out there that can actually show numbers of multiple digit improvement of core metrics and KPIs that I believe Gamification will end up staying in multiple industries as a way to engage users and make experiences more enjoyable.

Of course, when you add gamification, you still need to focus on the 8 Core Drives and make sure there is a balance between White Hat and Black Hat Gamification Techniques (this leads to the topic of ethics in gamification, which I talk about a lot too), but overall, what is factual now is the ROI (return on investment) it can bring to companies if designed correctly.

Below are a list of gamification cases with ROI stats and figures, with links to the case studies, so you can see for yourself the huge impact it is causing on businesses.

Many of these examples and lists can be seen on other websites such as the Enterprise Gamification Consultancy and Barnraisers, which are great sites, but I wanted to make this list only focus on cases that have pure numbers or %s that can be measured as ROI.


Enterprise Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. SAP: The SAP Community Network regamified its already-mature reputation system, increasing usage by 400% and community feedback by 96%
  2. SAP Streamwork: added gamification in brainstorming groups and grew generated ideas by 58%
  3. Onmicare: introduces gamification to its IT service desk, getting a 100% participation rate from teams members
  4. Astra Zeneca: gamified medicine training gets 97% of their large network of agents to participate, with a 99% Completion Rate
  5. CaLLogix: reduces attrition by 50% and absenteeism by 80%. The company saves $380,000 per year
  6. Slalom Consulting: participation of employee name recognition program increased from 5% to 90%, and recognition scores improved from 45% to 89%
  7. Galderma: pharmaceutical company, uses gamification to train their sales division regarding new products. Despite the voluntary participation, nearly 92% of targeted employees ended up playing
  8. Spotify and Living Social: replaced annual reviews with a mobile, gamified solution with over 90% of employees participating voluntarily
  9. Objective Logistics: the company motivates the employees through behavioral rewards and increases their profit margin by 40%
  10. Inside View: gamifies their employee social media usage and increased Twitter updates by 312%
  11. Keas: employment wellness program that increased employee engagement with healthy activities by 10,000% (100x)
  12. Danske Statsbaner: through their “Engaged” platform, employees share their actions that support the value and strategy of the company, resulting in 92% positive ratings in content
  13. Google: designed a Travel Expense System resulting in close to 100% of employee compliance for travel expenses
  14. Deloitte: training programs that are gamified took 50% less time to complete and massively improved longterm engagement
  15. Engine Yard: increased the response rate for its customer service representatives by 40% after posting response-time leaders to all employees
  16. Nextjump: uses gamification to get 67% of their employees to go to the gym
  17. Bluewolf: gamified online conversations and posting increased employee community activity by 57%
  18. Ford Canada: gamified it’s learning portal for employees and increased actions per user by 100% within 5 weeks
  19. Blueshield’s Wellivolution: Team gamified system resulted in 80% of employees participating in at least one wellness program, and 50% of employees dropped smoking behavioral
  20. Idea Street: the Department of work In UK used game mechanics to get 120,000 people to contribute 4000 ideas, with 63 of them implemented in the marketing department
  21. EMC RAMP: with their gamification platform, the company rewarded positive behavior from employees, partners and customers which led to a 10% increase in documentation, 40% more videos watched and 15% more discussions

 Sales Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. Autodesk: gamified the free trial, incentivizing users to learn how to use the program and offering both in game and real word prizes, increasing trial usage by 54%, buy clicks by 15% and channel revenue by 29%
  2. ePrize: increased the participation in their sales event by 10% by creating a participation-based point economy 
  3. LiveOps: call center reduces call time by 15% and increases sales by over 8%
  4. Step2: children’s retailer used PowerReview’s social loyalty scheme to boost up sales with a 300% increase in revenue from Facebook and 600% in contents uploaded
  5. Domino’s Pizza: created the gaming app Pizza Hero and increased sales revenue by 30% by letting customers create their own pizza with an app
  6. Moosejaw, clothing company, that used an innovative gamified system that saw 76% of sales revenue come from gamified activities, including 240k social media impressions, resulting in a 560% ROI from initial marketing expenditures
  7. Silver Grill Cafe: received a 66% Return on Investment for having its waiters/waitresses play a cross-selling game
  8. Cisco: used gaming strategies to enhance its virtual global sales meeting and call centers to reduce call time by 15% and improved sales by around 10%
  9. Popchips: uses games to personalize mobile advertising and has seen its sales rise 40% leading to $100 million in sales.
  10. Teleflora gamified its store with a social engagement scheme offering points for actions, increasing traffic from facebook by 105% and conversion rates by 92%
  11. America’s Army: 30% of americans age to 16 to 24 had a more positive impression towards and has recruited more people than all the other methods combined while costing a fraction of the marketing cost 
  12. Extraco Bank: raised customer acquisition by 700% through gamified system
  13. Lawley Insurance: with a 2-week contest, the company closed more sales than the previous 7 months combined
  14. Playboy: in its Miss Social game, 85% of their users play more than once, with 50% returning a month later, resulting in a 60% increase in monthly revenue
  15. Kill The Paper Invoice: increased website visits by 108.5%, and a conversion rate of 9.38% through a gamfiied system
  16. increased their conversion rate by 18% with a 3000% lift in total numer of click-per-buy
  17. Ford Escape Route: with this game, Ford’s customers bought over $8 million in vehicles, with 600% increased likes on FB page, and over 100 million impressions on Twitter
  18. Investorville: with a property-investing game, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank created 600 new loans
  19. Hewlett Packard: launched Project Everest to give rewards like holidays and other goods to the best reseller teams and saw a 56.4%.

Product Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. Microsoft: improved it’s translations for Windows OS through the Language Quality game with over 900 employees completing 26,000 tasks with 170 additional errors reported
  2. Leadership Academy: within three months, daily visitors increased by 46.6% with one user earning the Leadership Academy Graduate Badge, which was expected to take 12 months
  3. Microsoft: obtained 16x more feedback by people through its Communicate Hope gamified system
  4. EMC2: increased the amount of feedback it received by 41%
  5.  got a 26% response rate from teen audience to a scavenger hunt game
  6. OpenText: implementation of a leaderboard contributed to a 250% increase in business usage and adoption
  7. Volkswagen: got 33 million webpage hits and 119,000 ideas through its People’s Car Project that lets people design their “perfect car”
  8. Samsung Nation: 500% increase in customer product reviews, and 66% increase in site’s visits when using a gamified system
  9. Beta One: Microsoft’s Testing Division get a 400% increase in participation for the pre-release testing

Lifestyle Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. OPower: reduced measurable energy consumption by over $100M
  2. Aetna: increased daily healthy activities by 50% with an average engagement of 14 minutes on the site
  3. embedded a social platform that improved user submission by 300%, comments by 400%, and Slideshow Visualizations by 53%
  4. Bottle Bank Arcade: gamified bottle bank was used 50 times more than conventional bottle bank.
  5. The World’s Deepest Bin: 132% more trash collected compared to conventional bin
  6. Piano Stairs: 66% more of people use the stairs, if they can produce music with it
  7. Speed Camera Lottery: a lottery system that causes a 22% reduction of driving speed
  8. Toilette Seat: 44% of increase in lifting the toilet seat when urinating
  9. Nike: used gamified feedback to drive over 5,000,000 users to beat their personal fitness goals every day of the year
  10. Recycle Bank grew a community of 4 million members by providing a gamified recycling platform.
  11. Chevrolet Volt: uses a green/amber indicator to give drivers visual feedback of their driving style and reduced the number of people exceeding the speed limit by 53%

Consumer Behavior Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. MTV My Chart: lets users create their video chart based on various game dynamics, and obtained 500,000 votes and 150,000 videos viewed within 3 months
  2. Joiz: a Swiss television network increased sharing by 100% and social referral traffic by 54% with social infrastructure and gamification technologies
  3. increased their music userbase by 59%
  4. Marketo: layered a game platform on their community and saw a 71% lift in daily activities, 36% increase in ideas submitted and 48% increase in question replies.
  5. Interscope Records: the company obtained a 650% increase in engagement and interaction with the website
  6. Verizon: users spend over 30% more time on-site with social login games versus a regular site login
  7. Allkpop: during the week long promotion of game mechanics, the online news site experienced a 104% increase in shares, 36% in comments, and 24% in pageviews.
  8. SessionM: offers mobile publishers a platform for adding game mechanics into apps, increasing 35% in retention and reduced bounce rate by 25%, all while seeing 40x increase in engagement rate in social activities
  9. Buffalo Wild Wings: the campaign generated more than 100 million social impressions on SN, as well as a 500% increase in participation rate
  10. Green Giant: generated 420,000 likes on Facebook through their gamified system
  11. NickTV: introduces a game-based role-playing platform as heroes and within 2 months obtained 750,000 pages views (200% the amount of the usual traffic for the entire website), over 50,000 users and over 4,000,000 sessions on the website, with an increase in time spent on site by 25%
  12. More than a Game: The interviewer changed the formulation of surveys, obtaining a 98% response rate and a 87.5% in descriptive words within answers
  13. BlurbIQ: introduced Interactive Video Interruptions and within two weeks obtained 915% more interaction, 1400% increase in click through rate and 95% increase in recollection
  14. Bell Media: increased customer retention by 33% by incorporating “social loyalty” rewards on its website
  15. Club Psych USA: saw a 130% jump in page views and a 40% increase in return visits towards the game 
  16. American Express: the company has gotten over 2 millions likes on Facebook through their Nextpedition gamified system
  17. Boyd Game: the casino gets over 700,000 visits each month by introducing gamification on its website
  18. Verizon Wireless: more than 50% of site’s user participate in this gamified environment and spend 30% more time on the site
  19. Topliners: introducing the gamification in the community lifted active users by 55%
  20. SAP ERP: introducing game mechanics improved user participation with telepresence increasing by 29.75%
  21. GetGlue: Has build a community of 2 million users around a gamified t.v. feedback platform, 20% of all social media posts to dedicated t.v. show pages during primetime come through GetGlue. (Link in Italian)
  22. uses game mechanics to increase user engagement through real-time notifications and activity streams, increasing answered questions by 23% and votes by 58%
  23. implemented a social loyalty program, rewarding users with tangible gifts such as concert tickets and led to weekly activity increase by 59%

Education Gamification Case Stats and Figures

  1. Beat the GMAT: students increase their time spent on site by 370% through a gamified system
  2. OTT, an e-learning provider, increased by 65% user engagement, with some users peaking at over 300%, by adding a reward system
  3. Deloitte Leadership Academy, an executive training program, increased by 46.6% the number of users that returned daily to their platform by embedding gamification mechanics into it
  4. Stray Boots & A.L.Penenberg: the professor taught journalism through gamification and saw student grades increase by more than a letter grade
  5. Devhub: a place for Web developers, added gaming feedback and watched in awe as the percentage of users who finished their sites shot up from 10% to 80%
  6. Foldit: gamers have solved a 15-Year AIDS Virus Protein problem within 10 days

Scientific research related to the effect of Gamification

  1. Research findings support the impact of levels, badges and a (dummy) feedback system connected to a study course, results were significant, with 18.5% higher average grade for students enrolled in the gamified course. 
  2. Research findings support the impact of levels, points, leaderboards, streaking and visual storytelling to improve participation in crowdsourced assessments. Results were significant with an increase of 347% of participants returning for recurrent participation. (compared to control group)
  3. Research findings support the impact of point based levels (Status titles) and leaderboards to IBM’s internal social network service. Short term impact showed 92% increase in comments posted, within this research long term engagement was also measured and  an increase of 299% more comments posted was found compared to the control group. 
  4. A subsequent research in the same social network service above showed the effects of removing the point based levels, status titles and leaderboards. The removal of the game mechanics showed a significant result as across the board activities on the social network service dropped by 52%. 
  5. Research findings support the impact of narrative, leaderboards and countdown timers to an online training. Results were significant with a 61% increase in participation for an online training.
  6. Research findings support the impact of narrative, levels, quests, countdown timers, immediate feedback, guidance systems, visual story telling, surprise events and flow (matching ability and difficulty) to an online tutorial. Results were significant with users learning via the gamified tutorial showing increased ability by finishing tasks 135% faster compared to the control group. Additionally the users expressed much higher satisfaction in regards to using the system.

Behavior Principles and Good Game Design

Image of multi-colored letters spelling Behavior

Written by Christine Yee

For those of you who are truly interested in creating compelling games, here is something to consider: Should a game be judged favorably because players find it hard to break away from and spend countless hours immersed in it?

It would seem so, wouldn’t it? However, it is quite possible to feel compelled to keep playing even though the entire experience has become tedious and the novelty has worn off. Likewise, this same game might instead conjure the strong emotional rewards of true gratification and accomplishment which motivates the player to keep playing.

The difference has to do with two key areas:

  1. The standard use of behavioral conditioning principles

  2. The strategies which engage a sense of Unpredictability as well as Curiosity (Core Drive #7), inspiring the player to find out more.

An understanding of “operant conditioning” will help you understand the fundamental principles that drive behavior. But to go beyond this level, it is important to engage the players’ mental and emotional thirst for curiosity so that they would want to continue playing and explore circumstances that are unpredictable, despite having little sense of control. This experience is vastly more rewarding than simply being in a conditioned state, practically on autopilot. Knowing this distinction will help you become better at recognizing and discerning the finer points of quality game design.

BF Skinner and Operant Conditioning

Some games compel players to reliably perform certain behaviors again and again. Why is this? Psychologists have discovered that  behaviors are fundamentally learned through a process of association. Individuals learn to react in a certain way in response to a particular stimulus. This is done by rewarding the behavior. The subject ultimately learns to react in a specific way to the stimulus.

Skinner’s Experiments

Initial studies in this area involved animals and involuntary reactions such as salivation. Later, a psychologist named BF Skinner took these findings by applying reward associations to voluntary behaviors.

Continue reading

Power of Unpredictability & Curiosity: Sweepstakes and Raffles

Extrinsic Motivation

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

Sweepstakes and Raffles in Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

In Chapter 5 on Epic Meaning & Calling, I mentioned how I started my first business because of a small raffle held at a UCLA barbeque. Raffles are fairly popular because they add an element of “fun” to an event, as people are drawn by the possibility of winning a prize. Most of the time, the “Desired Action” is for people to stay until the end of the event, and therefore the results of the raffle is announced towards the end of the schedule. Though primarily driven by Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (in the Octalysis Framework), these events draw power from CD5: Ownership & Possession (the desire to win a prize), and a bit of CD8: Loss & Avoidance (if I leave too early, I’ll lose my chance to win…)

As you remember when I first recounted my story, when I drew my own name out of the hat, I was also hit by a strong sense of *Calling* (from Core Drive 1) as I felt I was destined to start my own business.

My perceived *calling* compelled me to be persistent in the face of some dark days and difficult challenges throughout my entrepreneurial career. Many times at the brink of failure I felt like giving up, but because I believed that I was meant to walk this path, I pressed on and became more convinced that I could persevere in the startup world as a young entreprenuer. As you can see, being “lucky” in a scenario of chance can install a higher sense of mission and purpose. The same goes with the effects of Beginner’s Luck (Game Technique #23), where people who are extremely lucky the first time they do something feel that they are somehow destined to do it.

As you can see, the power of the raffle is more than the value of any individual reward. Beyond the prize itself (which is extrinsic in nature, stemming from Core Drive 4), the intrinsic motivation behind the “will I be lucky?” thought plays an important role in ensuring people remain engaged with the process.

Companies that use Sweepstakes and Raffles

On a larger scale, many companies that utilize social media marketing are now successfully deploy techniques such as sweepstakes to engage users with their brand and message.

Often times, these companies will give out a quest where those who commit the Desired Actions will have a chance at winning some promotional prize. Sweepstakes can vary quite a bit. The Desired Actions can be as simple as “liking” the company website on Facebook (an example of such a campaign is Macy’s marketing campaign where “liking” their Facebook profile gave fans a chance to win $500-$1,000 in gift cards.

Kellogg’s The Great Eggo Waffle Off Sweepstakes

The Desired Actions can also be something more complex, such as Kelloggs’ “The Great Eggo Waffle Off!” challenge, where entrants submitted their best waffle recipes for a chance to win $5,000.

They also utilized Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness by incorporating the Social Treasure game technique into their sweepstakes. The odds of an entrant winning the competition could either be entirely based on, or at least partially affected, by community voting.

In that way, an added Desired Action of “promoting our brand to all your friends!” comes into effect. This works great for a challenge like The Great Eggo Waffle Off since users are sending images of guilty-pleasure waffles to their friends, asking the friends to vote up their submissions. Eye candy works like a charm.

Some Sweepstakes are theme-based, tying in some Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession or even Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Dove’s Real Beauty Should Be Share Sweepstakes

Dove applies a theme-based sweepstake that is visually appealing to users. In their “Real Beauty Should Be Shared” contest, Dove asked their fans to share why their friend “represents Real Beauty.”

Instead of receiving monetary prizes, the winner gets to be the new “Faces of Dove” at various local Shoppers Drug Mart.

Dove Sweepstakes


This is a great design, because the campaign involves photos of beautiful/confident women that attract attention, a cause that contestant friends can all get behind and support contestants on, and a prize that appeals to status while giving users a higher sense of ownership.

Tires Plus Father’s day Clock Giveaway Sweepstakes

Another example of a theme-based sweepstake is Tires Plus’ *Father’s Day Clock Giveaway*, which used an essay contest asking contestants to write about who they think qualifies as the best dad. Then participants voted for their favorite dad to determine who would ultimately take home a Michelin Man clock.

The good part about the sweepstake’s design was that its theme fit Tires Plus’ target demographics- guys who like cars. The slight flaw in its implementation was that the Desired Action required significant effort: although they used the same gamification techniques as Dove, the writing and reading of essays is a Desired Action that requires a lot of time and non-car-related effort just for a simple extrinsic prize. Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance prevented many people from participating. This is known as an Anti Core Drive in my framework which we will cover in detail in Chapter 16.

Coca-Cola’s Chok Sweepstakes

Some brands decide to double down on Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity by making everything about the sweepstakes unpredictable. Coca-Cola is one of those brands that has been at the forefront of developing creative and innovative product promotions.

You can often see that Coca-Cola commercials often try to turn simple acts of drinking carbonated sugar water into a Core Drive 1: Epic meaning and Calling experience through using magical kingdoms, promoting happiness, and using friendly polar bears.

Coca-Cola launched an especially appealing sweepstakes contest for teenagers in Hong Kong. Users are offered a free app called “Chok.”

During each evening, a television commercial will run, asking fans to open the app and shake their phones to catch virtual bottle caps and earn mobile games, discounts, and sweepstakes entries.

This prompted users to enthusiastically shake their phones in front of the television screen, hoping for prizes that may or may not pop out. Because the time of the activity, whether one will win or not, and what the winner will get are all unknown, there’s a strong sense of excitement. Even in the campaign’s Discovery Phase (the phase where users decide to first try out a product or experience, which works hand-in-hand through marketing and so-called *growth hacking*), if you are watching TV with a group and you see someone suddenly shake her phone when a commercial comes on, your curiosity will surely be piqued and perhaps compel you to join.

Coca Cola strategically aligned this campaign with its brand strategy and Chok received 380,000 downloads from Hong Kong users alone within a month of launch. The beverage conglomerate claimed this campaign was their most successful marketing effort in Hong Kong for 35 years.

Commercially Unskippable: Power of Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl Ads

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

Commercially Unskippable: Power of Super Bowl Ads

Another system that has successfully implemented Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity is the iconic Super Bowl championship of American Football – however, I’m not talking about the game itself.

Super Bowl commercials have generated a strong reputation for being very creative, funny, and interesting. Even people who don’t like to watch football want to catch the Super Bowl commercials because it’s well-known that companies had to pay millions of dollars just to snag a 30-second spot. With such a high price tag, it’s expected that the commercials will be high quality and shareworthy too.

Super Bowl commercials even receive attention from big media sites such as Yahoo! and Google which upload snippets of each commercial immediately after they’re aired.

This is very unique because for most of the time, television viewers purposely try to avoid commercials — some even pay to receive programming that allows them to skip commercials entirely.

However, because of the suspense factor, instead of turning the channel away from the commercials, people are tuning in to watch them. And because these ads are seen by millions of people, the National Football League can continue to charge high prices for their Super Bowl commercial spots.

Make your experiences suspenseful and unpredictable, and users will make sure they don’t miss what you launch next.