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10 Tips for Adding Game Mechanics to a Non-Gaming Service


Game mechanics have become a popular way of increasing user engagement and pushing user adoption, referral and retention, and many startups have sought ways to incorporate game mechanics into their sites.

In a recent blog post, David Feinleib, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, lists the following 10 ways to incorporate game mechanics into a non-game service:

  1. Your service: the game. Feinleib suggests that if you start thinking about your service as a game, you will identify some of the ways in which game mechanics — ideas of competition, rewards, and so on — will best fit in.
  2. Status / reputation. “People want status. It’s human nature,” he writes. “But the thing about status is, it has to be visible: both to the person who has it and to everyone else.” If you offer rewards, make sure you make them visibile and make some of them, at least, elite or special.
  3. Gifting and reciprocation. Feinleib points to the importance of giving and receiving gifts, noting the social pressures to reciprocate. He suggests letting high status users give away something to others (for free), and argues that others will return gifts (that they must buy).
  4. Hybrid monetization. “Let your users choose how they want to pay you: with their time or with their wallet.”
  5. Leaderboards and points. As he argues in #2, people like to compete, and even when points in a game don’t convert to an actual reward, “simply making them visible (in the form of a leaderboard) gives them value.”
  6. Free stuff. “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,” suggests Feinleib.
  7. Make the virtual real. Feinleib recommends adding sound and visual effects to make the virtual experience more “real.”
  8. Social proof. Make users’ actions visible to those in their networks so that they can, for example, see that everyone else has upgraded or bought the special featured item, for example.
  9. Create scarcity. Create items that are only available for a limited amount of time or offers that expire after a short while.
  10. A/B test and track the metrics. Adding game mechanics to your site isn’t as simple as merely adding a few badges or titles. You need to make sure to analyze the responses from users so that you can target the games and the rewards to them.

Of course, “badges, stickers, titles and the like are no substitute for having a solid product or service that people want to use. But game mechanics have become a useful mechanism for getting people “in the door,” so to speak.

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