The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition

The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition

5.0 3
by Gabe Zichermann, Joselin Linder

View All Available Formats & Editions



Gamification: It's the hottest new strategy in business, and for good reason—it's helping leading companies create unprecedented engagement with customers and employees. Gamification uses the latest innovations from game design,




Gamification: It's the hottest new strategy in business, and for good reason—it's helping leading companies create unprecedented engagement with customers and employees. Gamification uses the latest innovations from game design, loyalty programs, and behavioral economics to help you cut through the noise and transform your organization into a lean, mean machine ready to fight the battle for user attention and loyalty.

With The Gamification Revolution you'll learn how top companies:

  • Recruit and retain the best talent from the gamer generation and beyond
  • Train employees and drive excellence with noncash incentives
  • Cut through the market noise and ignite consumer sales growth
  • Generate unprecedented customer loyalty without breaking the bank

Drawing inspiration from the most popular games of all time—from Angry Birds to World of Warcraft—the authors reveal the secrets of market leaders that you can apply immediately to your business.

As a bonus, the book gives you full access to The Gamification Revolution app—a great way to optimize and enhance your experience with videos, tips, and social tools, including the ability to easily share the best ideas with your colleagues and workgroup.

You'll learn the new rules of engagement that are guaranteed to generate excitement and enthusiasm—in your employees and your customers. You'll understand how game designers predict and motivate behaviors—and how you can get the results you want. You'll also find a winning selection of fascinating case studies, best practices, and game-ready tools of the trade you can easily apply to your specific needs.

It's all here in one ready-to-use strategy guide filled with the best ideas and pitfalls you can avoid.

If you're going to play the game, this is how you play it. To win.

Praise for The Gamification Revolution:

"For consumer-facing businesses today, nothing matters more than delivering a great user experience and creating lasting engagement with your consumers and employees. The Gamification Revolution will show you how leaders have reached for the top and won." — ALEXANDRA WILKIS WILSON, Cofounder, Gilt Groupe, and author of the New York Times bestseller By Invitation Only

"In today's fast-paced world, people are more distracted than ever. To stand out, you'll need to cut through the noise and get them engaged. The Gamification
Revolution will teach you the essential building blocks for achieving long-term success and growth."

"From engaging customers to retaining a team, The Gamification Revolution will provide you with tactics that generate results. I know. Gabe's wisdom has helped the Founder Institute expand to every inhabited continent and change thousands of lives." — ADEO RESSI, CEO, Founder Institute

"Zichermann and Linder propose a pragmatic approach to gamification that will provide breakthrough results. Sales is the last bastion of corporate innovation, and this spectacular read is a must for any sales leader." — HI LEVA, Senior VP Sales Operations, Clear Channel Outdoor

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt




The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Gabriel Z Inc. and Joselin Linder
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-180832-3




Napoléon's Winning Game

When Napoléon invaded Egypt after the French Revolution, one in seven sailors could expect to develop—and eventually die from—scurvy. This deadly form of malnutrition had been the scourge of travelers for thousands of years, and despite Napoléon's successes, his military was still vulnerable to it. At- sea rations for the men tended toward the filling rather than the nutrient rich, and they were composed mostly of salted meats and weevil-ridden flour. For land- based troops, the problem was no less severe. War operations had the daunting task of securing rations for soldiers in enemy territory. This often meant paying colossal sums for food to opportunistic merchants and using other tactics necessary to secure supply lines.

What Napoléon needed was a way to keep food fresh and nutritious, but also transportable. France was a major agricultural power, after all, and along with its annexed territories, it could readily produce the entire nutritional needs of the country's far-flung armies. So if the country's farmers could produce the food consumed by French soldiers, Napoléon's power and reach would grow exponentially.

Emperor Bonaparte could have simply asked his fellow countrymen to hand over their ideas for the good of the military. After all, "love of country" has been a motivational mainstay during times of war throughout history and across borders. However, the number and quality of good ideas may have been limited if motivated by patriotism alone. Similarly, Napoléon might have conducted a headhunt, seeking out qualified candidates to employ in his food preservation project. But doing so would certainly have cost time and money—both of which were precious during wartime.

So Napoléon did something revolutionary: he proposed a game.

In 1795 he offered 12,000 francs to the invention that could solve the food preservation problem, thereby launching a grand challenge that enthralled the middle class and scientific elite of France. Just over a decade later, a 61- year-old Parisian confectioner, Nicolas Appert, stepped forward with the solution that won the prize. His relatively simple approach involved heating food within an airtight container. Appert's discovery, largely similar to the basic canning process still in use today, made it possible to preserve fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables, which changed the lives of soldiers, sailors, and ultimately, all of humanity.

Whether or not Appert or someone else would have developed the technique on his own in spite of the game, we'll never know. However, the Food Preservation Prize was a rousing success for Napoléon, although it came too late to save his armies from defeat a few years later. In the 200 years since, the rest of us have gained immeasurably from the breakthrough with profound improvements in our nutritional health, thanks to the accessibility of safe food. (Appert himself lived into his nineties.) But beyond the crowning of a winner, the real success of grand challenge designs lies in their process and ancillary benefits:

* Discovery. Grand challenges solicit results from unexpected corners, including nonscientists and nonacademics, which raises the odds of obtaining truly novel approaches.

* Optionality. A grand challenge delivers dozens of solutions at no incremental cost. By comparison, structured research typically requires funding for each possible solution path.

* Cost arbitrage. Because the winners also usually receive major status and attention for having achieved public success, we don't need to pay them as much as we would under other circumstances.

Napoléon's grand challenge is an example of gamification: the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage people and solve problems—though it obviously predates the word by over a century. It also happened to be the perfect gamified design to solve the kind of problem the emperor had identified. Napoléon was far from the first person (or last) to design a grand challenge. Dozens of major advances have been generated in a similar fashion, including: determining longitude (1714), making the first flight across the Atlantic (1927), and launching the first privately manned spaceflight (2004)—just to name a few. And while the use of competition to drive extraordinary achievement is commonplace, it is not as easy as it seems, nor is it appropriate for every situation.

There are six core types of gamified approaches to driving engagement and problem solving. They can be used individually or together, and they can be applied to either of the two main stake-holder groups in an organization: customers or employees. The six approaches are listed in the following table.

If you are near a soccer or football field, those kids running by are engaged in a rapid feedback game. Your kids or grandkids are probably utilizing simulation-discovery games in their classroom at school. You are very likely engaging in some kind of status marathon when you go on social networking websites, waiting for "likes," "comments," and new contacts. In fact, status marathons are often central to such "gamified" systems as career tracks (from raises to promotions), religions (with titles indicating levels of importance like a "priest" or a "deacon" in Catholicism), and politics (rising through the ranks from city council to president). Meanwhile, frequent-flier members are regularly engaged in a commercial/negotiation system when they try to earn virtual currency in the form of "miles." And people everywhere—from business managers to school administrators to organizations that host question-and-answer websites on the Internet—are looking for ways to engage others in some kind of expressive game.

As you can see, these gamification patterns are all around us, and many have been for centuries. They are not new concepts. However, we have developed new frameworks, technologies, and design patterns to make them scalable and truly effective. While each one of these approaches is powerful, the key to successfully driving engagement is knowing when—and how—to deploy the right one. Fundamentally, it's all about matching the solution to the audience.

Growing Your Audience

Growing an audience is what McDonald's had in mind when in 1987 it launched its now famous Monopoly game. During the once-a-year promotional period, the company offers customers ordering specific menu items game pieces mirroring those found in the Parker Brothers' board game of the same name. When it comes to the value meals, the larger the size ordered, the more chances to win.

The game is the company's largest promotional project each year, and indeed it is the largest promotion in the fast-food and quick-serve restaurant industry as a whole. People who play the game claim they enjoy not just the immediate chance to win menu items with every purchase but also the long-term strategizing necessitated by a game that encourages players to collect whole sets, or "monopolies." This harder-to-accomplish goal awards big-ticket prizes like vacations and cars, as well as a million-dollar grand prize.

Devotees of the game claim to travel not just within their own cities and states to various McDonald's restaurants but also to McDonald's restaurants far away in the hopes of finding winning game pieces. Furthermore, some consumers admit that they are more likely to visit McDonald's more often, as well as increase the size of their orders, so that they can amass a greater number of game pieces. These same players admit that they will do so even if they are not hungry for the additional food they order. In other words, they will spend money to buy food they intend to throw away for the sake of the game. Countless articles describe strategies for winning, and they make suggestions for where to find the pieces you most want. Since 2003 the play has gone online, making the game's engagement factor even stickier. In a 2008 interview with Promo Magazine, Chris Hess, VP of the Marketing Store (the ad agency responsible for the game), said, "We've found that when people play the online Monopoly game, there's a level of consumer engagement that keeps them coming back."

The Monopoly game—one of the most successful and longest-running gamified projects in the customer-facing world—is a good example of a gamified system leading to an impressive level of customer engagement. It targets a desire to explore (finding the next game piece), and it helps to create value and profit from a virtual currency (trading and even buying missing properties, while technically against the rules, is not uncommon). Monopoly at McDonald's has driven marginal customers to its stores, and it has raised incremental spending among the restaurant's loyalists. According to the company, the game itself was responsible for a 5.5 percent same-store revenue lift in a single month in the fourth quarter of 2011. This equates to approximately $350 million in incremental revenue over the 60 days of the promotion.

From a game.

From Napoléon's nineteenth-century Food Preservation Prize to McDonald's twenty-first-century Monopoly game, some of the best solutions have been gamified. These two examples, and the dozens that follow in subsequent chapters, herald The Gamification Revolution, where the power of games is being harnessed to build the enterprises of the future. By looking at case studies from leading organizations, businesses, and governments with games already in play and those on the horizon, we will explore all the ways games can better strengthen everything about your business from reinventing your strategic process to raising employee engagement, innovation, and wellness while driving customer loyalty and community.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Learn What Works and Use It

When Premal Shah, CEO of Kiva, a nonprofit that helps facilitate microlending in the developing world, was asked who his biggest competition was, his answer was simple:


Yes, that Zynga. The very same Zynga whose name appears as you are waiting for your Words With Friends app to open on your iPad. The very same company that's behind the social and casual games that reinvented the genre on social networks and mobile devices. So, you might wonder, is Kiva on the verge of launching the next great social networking–based lending game? Is it in the throes of developing some kind of investment-based soccer league? Because, if not, what does an international microlender have to fear from the social games developer Zynga?

A lot, as Shah understands, because not only is Zynga Kiva's biggest competitor, it is everyone's.

And the biggest competitor isn't just Zynga, PopCap, Gameloft, QQ, or any of the other dozen high-flying social game superstars, but rather games as a whole. People are playing in epidemic numbers—from the casual games they use to unwind between meetings (such as Tetris or the previously mentioned Words With Friends) to the massively multiplayer online games, also called MMOGs, they play at night in lieu of sleeping (such as the community-based World of Warcraft) to the console games they play to the detriment of their social lives (such as the violent but popular Call of Duty). And while those players might be thinking about accruing points, winning prizes, or advancing on a leaderboard, they are not thinking about your brand or product.

What's more, mobile games, especially social and casual games (like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Tiny Wings), are rapidly taking over where console and MMOGs once were king. A recent study from MocoSpace found that while 80 percent of social gamers play while commuting or waiting to begin appointments, a whopping 96 percent admit that they are playing these games at home, from their couch, bed, or front porch. In 2009, the research firm TNS Global reported that over 60 percent of the population in the western world—including the United States—played computer and/or video games on a regular basis. These hundreds of millions of players—and their numbers are growing all the time—are changing the way we think about the games and the gamers, and they are demanding a more gamelike experience from the rest of their world.

No matter what you think of games, and regardless of the prognosis for specific game developers like Zynga, their core achievement is undeniable: they have driven an extraordinary amount of engagement, clearly to the detriment of all other activities. And this trend is accelerating.

Your Customer Is Changing

In 2012 cable provider Optimum (the New York division of Cable-Vision) aired a television commercial that featured three generations of a family using Optimum services to stay in touch. The college-age son lamented being beaten by his grandmother while playing a word game with her. His mother, meanwhile, let out an exasperated laugh as she talked about how she had been trying to get her mother online for years and that it wasn't until the senior citizen took up online gaming that any headway could be made. Finally, the feisty old matriarch revealed that it wasn't until the games came along that the experience of learning how to use the Internet held any appeal for her.

While grandmothers might not be the number one gaming demographic just yet, their numbers are steadily on the rise. Casual game leader PopCap commissioned a study in late 2010, and the study revealed something that many women could have told you: the average gamer is no longer a 13- to 34-year-old male. She is a 43- year-old woman. And things are no different in the rapidly growing mobile channel. Flurry, the mobile analytics firm, found that women are 53 percent more likely to be playing games than men—up to three times per day on average.

The spread of games to a wider population than ever before is an even bigger story—the long-term demographic shift is in fact propelling us toward an ever more gamelike future. In fact, as more women and seniors take up gaming, so do those demographics you most expect to play games. Teens, it turns out, are not only playing games, they are living them. And it is this fundamental shift in their behavior that has them leading the trend toward gamification—and making its arrival an inevitability.

How to Land a Plane Without Experience

Walk down any street and you'll pass dozens of kids like Remy, a 12-year-old of average height, looks, and demeanor. There's not much to distinguish him from any other tween you'll notice in your neighborhood. You might even call him unremarkable—that is, until he lands a commercial airliner with virtually no instruction or training.

Filmed for the TV series The Aviators, Remy was brought in off the street to a professional flight simulator facility. With minimal instruction, he was asked to bring a Boeing 737 down for a simulated landing at the Los Angeles airport (LAX) using visual flight conditions without the assistance of an autopilot—a task that only pilots with thousands of hours of literal experience get to do in the real world. Within minutes, and without any training, Remy safely brought the aircraft to a halt on the apron at one of the world's busiest airports.

For those of us who fly regularly, this is an astounding story. How can a child with no experience do something that adult professionals with extensive experience find so challenging? Can flying a plane really be that easy or intuitive, or is there something else going on? The answer comes from the owner of the simulator facility in an aside to the producers: "They [tweens] pick up on this quite quickly ... because they have their computer and video game experiences, so this becomes like second nature to them."

Today's kids are being raised on games, a reality that is profoundly changing both their brains and our world. From before some can talk, they are learning how to interact with technology, in many cases through games. This long- simmering trend has picked up steam since the advent of iOS devices like iPads and other mobile technologies. Common Sense Media (CSM) research has shown that a staggering 70 percent of parents allow their toddlers and young kids to use them. Further, CSM research has also shown that as of 2010, 38 percent of all kids under the age of eight have used a smartphone or tablet, including 10 percent of children under the age of one. Whether or not you agree with the choices of their parents, there is no choice other than to face facts: these are how the employees and consumers of tomorrow are being raised. There's no better time than now to get into the game.

Much of the momentum is being fueled by the powerful bond between young kids and games, which was well established even before Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007. But as a result of these games and the mobile technologies that have allowed them to become ubiquitous, today's kids are smarter, better coordinated, and better able to multitask than ever before. The same CSM study showed that 23 percent of five- to eight-year-olds use more than one technology medium at a time—suggesting that by the time this generation comes of age, they will need more stimulation and excitement than any other generation in history. This need—and their evolving brains—will change our world, whether we're ready for it or not.

Somewhere near the top of those changes will be a move toward products that provide today's kids—tomorrow's adults—with deeper and more meaningful interactions. They will seek these interactions through entertainment and engagement, with games and game mechanics becoming the expectation rather than an exception woven through most facets of their lives. It will be up to each of us to provide them with it, or you can be certain that they will find it somewhere else. And with kids as intuitively smart as Remy, you certainly won't be able to hold them back for long.

Excerpted from THE GAMIFICATION REVOLUTION by GABE ZICHERMANN. Copyright © 2013 by Gabriel Z Inc. and Joselin Linder. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gabe Zichermann is CEO of Gamification Co and Dopamine and is considered the world's foremost expert on designing engagement strategies for customers and employees.

Joselin Linder coauthored the acclaimed Game-Based Marketing with Gabe Zichermann. She is a writer/contributor to NPR's This American Life and Morning Edition, AOL, and

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
CEOAccelOne More than 1 year ago
These writers hit the nail on the head in the application of gamesmanship in business. Many valuable pointers for our organization and it will be required reading for all our department heads.
James-McD More than 1 year ago
I was able to review an early draft of this book for the publisher, but i wanted to note that reading it again with the companion was an even better experience. If you can gamify reading, you can gamify anything.
Nicole1978 More than 1 year ago
As a filmmaker, I work collaboratively and am always looking for ways to help motivate people to complete projects. I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but this book has gotten me thinking in ways I've never considered before. Like if on my next film I need to get people to set on time I could use a points system and whoever has the most points at the end of the shoot could win an Associate Producer credit, even if they were hired as a PA, or something like that. This book gave me intriguing ideas about how to use gamification to get the outcome I need, and would apply to people in many fields. It is really well-written book, entertaining and accessible to the gamification novice. I'm so glad I got to read an early copy!