Gamification: The vital ingredient you simply cannot be without 

Gamification is one of many buzzwords that have been enjoying the limelight in recent years. At this week’s SBC Digital Summit CIS, a highly accomplished panel of experts in the field explored what gamification means for the betting and gaming industry and how the sector can look beyond tournaments.

The ‘Basic Strategy to Gamification’ panel outlined the phases of gamifying a product, from design to execution and, finally, user experience, while also seeking to challenge misconceptions that have led to gamification being viewed by sceptics as childish or intangible.

Leading the discussion, Karolina Pelc, Strategic Advisor at Basic Strategy, began by seeking to define gamification, a term that continues to evolve in the context of the industry.

“Gamification is a subject that has been around for a while,” said Pelc. “It’s been around at gaming conferences for at least five years, I’ve already run at least three sessions on the matter.

“We do have to start with understanding that there are some critical views on gamification in the context of the gaming industry. I often come across people asking the question, ‘What is there to gamify in an industry and in a product where the core experience is already a game and where we already have psychological engagement with the game itself?’”

However, the ever-increasing demand for the gamification of products suggests otherwise and Matthias Ciappara, a Specialist Consultant and Gamification Advocate, outlined similarities between the betting and film industries. He reaffirmed that gamification can transform the experience of betting to allow participants to feel as though they are instead playing something closer to a video game, such as Mario Kart or Call of Duty.

“As an industry we have to consider that we are competing for players’ time and spend not just between ourselves, but also with other industries. With other sectors investing so heavily in bringing entertainment to the next level, such as video gaming and the film industry, we have to be able to provide a much more exciting session so that players play our games, rather than going and watching a movie on Netflix or playing a video game.”

The logistics of gamifying a product and finding solutions for individual services is the specialist subject of Product Architecture and UX Specialist at Double Clap, Martin Sandstrom.

Sandstrom offered an holistic view of gamification, highlighting the importance of placing your target market at the heart of the design process and reiterating that companies should tailor products to their users, as opposed to replicating rival strategies.

“I will always start with looking at using insights, like our customer base and what they want, or if we want to acquire new customers and try to steal someone else’s, what makes them tick. That’s something we could all make more of, I think – user insights.

“You can look at gamification as a sprinkle on top of an existing feature, like small elements, or you can look at proper full-blown features that you either build in-house or use third parties to bolt it on,” Sandstrom theorised.

“We have to find ways of making
the experience feel so much more
than just a transaction
– Matthias Ciappara

Ciappara added that the process also has the potential to attract a younger audience to products ordinarily popular with a more mature demographic. This new audience can then be engaged and retained, producing more revenue for companies.

“We have to look into ways of making the experience feel so much more than just a transaction, where the player is depositing money and betting,” he continued. “Players need to feel they’re progressing in something and they’re also being competitive with each other.

“These game mechanics especially help in making our offering much more appealing to the younger demographic that are used to these mechanics in other applications and also their everyday lives.”

There was a general consensus from the panel of speakers that key performance indicators for gamification are difficult to quantify and can be attributed in several different ways.

For instance, Ciappara explained that his company monitors how long a customer has been active on their site and how they manage this time, in order to determine if their product has been a success.

“Obviously now sessions are shorter, we are no longer looking at a player as someone that has sat down on the computer for 30 minutes,” he explained. “It could be someone waiting for a bus that has five minutes to kill and we have to provide an entertaining experience for him or her in that session.”

Rewards and progress are two incentives that can be used to achieve this, the panel agreed. The narrative behind a product and related social elements can boost the user experience. For instance, something as simple as celebrating with customers through pop-up messages – providing assurance that their achievements are not going unnoticed – has proved to be effective.

Pelc expanded: “The gaming experience is quite often all about win or loss, and that’s exciting on its own. However, adding the gamification layer lets the operator react to so much more because you can progress players through the near-misses or the losses – and how they feel about them – with simple measures that the technology now allows.”

The panel discussed different solutions available in the market, from third-party event processing plugins and data science solutions, to jackpot-oriented products and provider promotional tools. 

Concluding, Pelc also stressed the importance of recognising the depth of the field and to look past tournaments and badges as the only means of gamification. She pointed towards the trends of community gaming and streaming as prime examples of taking a gamification initiative in a completely different direction

Watch the full panel discussion on the SBC YouTube channel here.

Further reading on the topic of gamification and player engagement, as recommended by the panelists:
Hooked, by Nir Eyal
Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom and the Secret of Games, by Ian Bogost
Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, by Natasha Dow Schüll
Indistractable, by Nir Eyal
Seductive Interaction Design, by Stephen P. Anderson
Thinking Fast And Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely