Gamification and Social Gaming

June 13, 2011
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Gamification and social gaming are two trends that are taking social network communities to an entirely new level.  Although very different animals, the growing popularity and fast-moving industry is catching the eyes of both investors and the technology-savvy public.  As recently as this week, RIM acquired Scoreloop and is pushing to get into the mobile social gaming network.

Gamification and social gaming are two trends that are taking social network communities to an entirely new level.  Although very different animals, the growing popularity and fast-moving industry is catching the eyes of both investors and the technology-savvy public.  As recently as this week, RIM acquired Scoreloop and is pushing to get into the mobile social gaming network.  Why?  The possibility to be a part of another LinkedIn IPO in the games industry makes the possibly substantial return on investment very alluring. Even the most financially-shy investor is watching to see what happens (See Up Next for Tech IPO’s: Social Gaming).

First of all, what are the key differences between gamification and social gaming?  Why are investors ready to jump into the already heavily-crowded gaming industry? Gamification is a consumer-oriented, reward-based gaming system that can be ported into a customer engagement strategy.  There’s the ability to lure a consumer, through a reward, status or leader board and insert prizing, brand messaging and ultimately a sale on a product.  Current examples are My Star Bucks Rewards or icokerewards . By buying the product you get to play against other consumers. The beauty of this platform has almost unlimited geographic restrictions.  I can buy a Coca-Cola in Canada, and compete with individuals in Europe.

Social gaming, on the other hand, is about the user experience and competition. Take Farmville for example. You must have a Facebook account in order to be able to play, and can request, compete and socialize with friends to grow your status.  Social gaming is also heavily app-driven, with most social based games available on your smartphone.  Consider how often you may find yourself commuting to work, or waiting for someone, and automatically log onto your phone and start playing a game.  It’s become a second nature reaction, and one that start-ups are hoping to catch the interest of investors.

Console games as a whole are starting to flatline.  Even Call of Duty: Black Ops, which hit record sales upon release, has slowed significantly, with interest turning more and more towards online, social and incentive-based game experiences. Strong game titles and potentially repetitive story lines are starting to lose the interest of the gaming community.  With the prospect of Zynga Preparing to File for IPO [REPORT], the gaming industry is about to take a new step with investors salivating to get a piece of the action.

The beauty of social gaming and gamification alike is that the demographic is no longer narrow or typical of the gaming community. Both women and men, in multiple age groups are participating by downloading and engaging in activities in both styles of game play. The average age for participation is also widening, with children in the United States as young as two playing (see Kids Online Game Moshi Monsters Hits 50 Million Registered Users).

This coupled with mobile access is looking to be one of the largest trends in social media for 2011.