Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Why many gamification projects fail: Part 1

Gamification; Human-focused design, behavioural science, motivation, OctalyisGamification has grown to be more than a buzzword. We see many examples of Gamification being used in banking, education, retail, healthcare, entertainment, media and more. According to Credence Research, the Global Gamification Market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.4 percent from 2016 until 2023. Another research by Research and Markets shows that the Global Education Gamification market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 66.22 percent till 2020.

Clearly, the benefits of Gamification have now been recognised as a way to achieve competitive advantage and high ROI. That said, Gartner’s predicted that more than 80 % of Gamification projects would fail. Why such a harsh prediction? What do you need to know for your project to succeed? What are the most common errors in the industry?

In a series of posts, The Octalysis Group will address common misconceptions, misunderstandings and mistakes that occur during the design and implementation of gamification. Our goal is to address these issues. Why? Because we believe that gamification is not only business but also a cause. A cause to change the world for the better. The better we design, the more positive change we can bring to the world.


Gamification must be integrated into your product design


  • “So when does the Gamification come in?”
  • “After that, we will start with the Gamification”


We hear these types of statements all the time, coming not only from clients but also from industry experts, but this approach misses a crucial point. In The Octalysis Group, we know that Gamification is not just adding points, badges, leaderboards or other game mechanics. Designing engaging experiences has more to do with behavioural science and motivation, than just adding these add-on mechanics. It’s like building a game first, and only after starting to think about how to make that game fun!

Behavioural design and motivation are built into successful games the same way it should be in Gamification projects. Ideally, we build for long or even ever-lasting engagement.

Think about a game like chess. Its history can be traced back more than 1500 years, and there are still no signs that the game is getting boring or out-of-date any time soon. In fact, chess doesn’t need patches and updates, new bricks or badges for people to come back to play it. The game is designed to bring endless opportunities and possibilities to construct and test strategies within the game itself; it becomes unnecessary to add more features.

A truly engaging experience has motivation incorporated in its DNA, and that’s where great Gamification must start too. Engagement and motivation start by designing for human motivation throughout the experience and in all phases. Nearly all movies have movie elements in them (actors, sound, visual effects), but those elements alone do not guarantee the director a seat at the Oscars…


Why plug and play solutions often fail to increase long-term engagement

On the market today there are many ready-to-go Gamification solutions that boast of being able to achieve high ROIs in engagement, motivation, loyalty and so on. Unfortunately, the real return is mostly not that impressive, especially in the medium to long term.They may have incorporated a whole host of funky looking game mechanics, but they will not lead to much traction with your target users.

Why? The main reason is that ready-to-go solutions are designed and implemented without considering the specifics of your business and your target audience in full (What are your users motivated by? What’s the motivation for doing these actions already? What are the motivations not to do them?). They do not adequately address specific business metrics (your key goals and the desired actions you want the user to take) and do not take into full consideration power and motivational push of each feature.

In the end, ready-to-go solutions can help increase short term engagement. But due to their lack of customizability, they often become too general to increase long-term engagement.

Gamification, human-focused design, motivation, Octalysis, engagement

The game of chess has truly mastered human engagement and does not need regular patches, updates or new bricks to stay engaging.


How to design a successful Gamification project?

Successful Gamification should start from scratch with defining the business metrics first (the results you want to improve). This should be followed by a thorough analysis of the users you want to engage. If you do this correctly you are on the right path to set up the Strategy Dashboard.

  1. Define what actions do users need to take for your business metrics to improve. No step is too trivial; think about all the actions that require motivation from the user. Examples are entering a web page, creating an account, finding a product, and finally buying a product.
  2. Try to optimise the experience by grouping those actions the 4 different phases of the player journey (discovery, onboarding, scaffolding and endgame). Remember that the first time you open a Macbook you feel different from when you’ve had it for 2 years.
  3. Then think how those different player types will be motivated at all stages of your user experience and only after that start creating your visual and functional designs.

Levelling up the industry

So, great Gamification cannot be just added as a layer to an existing solution. It must be designed by following a meticulously laid out design path. It needs to address human core drive motivation, throughout all the 4 phases of the user experience and for your main user. Only in this way will you be successful in getting really high and sustainable return on investment for your business goals. Your employees will be engaged and your customers will be coming back again and again. For what product or service you bring but, even more so, to re-live the experience around your offering.

Curious to find out how we can help to design a truly engaging experience for your organisation?


Contact one of our experts:

Gaute [at]

Ivan [at]

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The Happiness Science behind Octalysis

The Happiness Science behind Octalysis

Octalysis picture happiness science

We often get asked what the science is behind the Octalysis Framework and what exactly makes Octalysis so powerful. Our answer normally relates to human focused design, and how designing for the 8 Core Drives leads to more motivation of users and employees. And this is true: Octalysis Designed Products (apps, websites, policies etc) are much more effective and have impressive ROIs. Octalysis Employee Gamification leads to very significant increases in employee engagement, and retention. As importantly though, we want to create fun and happiness through our Gamification efforts.


Is creating happiness not a luxury problem? Is that important for my investors? Creating engagement, OK. Motivation, sure. But surely some things like paying your bills, checking your bank account or filing your expenses cannot make you happy? And why do they need to be made fun?

That makes sense right? Can some things just be left boring or serious? Yes, some things should be left serious and should not be made fun. Funerals are a case in point. However, the large majority of our activities should be: the way we buy things online; the way we learn; the way we cooperate; the way we discover… The list is endless.

So why happiness? Because having more fun and happy moments leads to more creativity and better results. It leads to happier customers for example as well. Happy customers are much more likely to return to your website or app and are much more likely to recommend your product to their friends. All of this on the basis of their happiness with the experience, even when their interest in the product they are buying was not that great at the start of the experience. Did you know that people judge the work of happy people in a more positive light, and therefore are more likely to try out their recommendations?

Employee happiness & Positive Emotions
With around 70% of the current workforce not engaged and around 20% actively disgruntled, most people now agree that something has to change on the work floor. But not that many people look at ways on how to create employee happiness by creating positive emotions.

This is sad, as supervisors evaluate happy individuals more positively, show superior performance and productivity, and handle managerial jobs better. They are also less likely to show counterproductive workplace behavior and job burnout. In several studies, the mean corrected correlation between having positive experiences and job satisfaction was .49 (1 being a 100% correlation, 0 being no correlation). Why is this?


The Power of Positivity
Positive emotions make people approach new situations rather than avoid them and make them analyze situations better. Because happy people experience frequent positive moods, they more actively work towards new goals while experiencing those moods. Second, happy people are more thorough as they have already built up an array of positive skills and resources over time. One short-term example of the effect in practice: physicians who received a small present before they were asked to analyze a medical problem, were much more creative in their solutions and obtained much better results.

Finally, work performance is more strongly related to happiness and well-being on the job than by whether your job “objectively” is more fun or not (Wright and Cropanzano (2000)). In turn, a positive organizational climate was correlated with productivity (r _ .31) and profitability (r _ .36; Foster, Hebl, West, & Dawson, 2004).


Octalysis brings it all together: scientifically

Scientists know that there are 5 things that bring about happiness if you experience them regularly. Octalysis was developed in close relation to these findings:

1. Positive emotion: feelings of pleasure, glee, satisfaction, amazement.
Positive emotions are correlated with Core Drive 3 (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback) when you feel satisfied that your way of solving challenge was the right one, which leads to Core Drive 2 (Progress and Development). Similarly Core Drive 7 (Curiosity and Unpredictability) leads to dopamine spikes when we get something unexpected like winning a lottery.

2. Engagement: Flow, or being fully immersed in what we’re doing.
In our Octalysis Designs we install a learning curve and a path to achieve mastery during the experience and use our Core Drives as a tool to keep users in “flow” (this is still where Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s flow theory comes in)
3. Accomplishment: Mastery and success.
Core Drive 2 (Progress and Development) give you proof of progressing by achieving XP, badges, level ups etc and this often leads to Core Drive 4 (Ownership and Possession) when users build up their Trophy Hall, Armouries and other Collection Set holders.

4. Relationships
Regular and supportive social interaction and influence is a hallmark of the Octalysis Framework (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). In our designs we make sure that relationships in and outside of the experience are strengthened and expanded. Great for happiness, great for engagement, great for motivation, great for sales!

5. Meaning
Belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. Most likely the most quoted Core Drive, Octalysis Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning and Calling). The link between happiness and meaning in scientific literature is quite strong. Short to medium term happiness can exist without meaning but having a meaningful life often leads to happier people (although you can argue that the human rights worker who is thrown in jail in North Korea may experience some very unhappy moments of course).


welcome-to-happinessOctalysis: the path to happiness and success
We discussed Core Drive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and how they are related to science in happiness (whilst Core Drive 7 is related through happiness by creating positive emotions).
Core Drives 6 (Scarcity and Impatience) and Core Drive 8 (Loss & Avoidance) are less directly related to happiness. Also Core Drive 7 can lead to unhappy outcomes if applied in extremes, like addictive gambling. These Black Hat Octalysis Drives often do not give you a happy feeling. However, we use them to help start people up, and keep them locked in, in their path to fun-fuelled engagement. So paradoxically, even if we use negative motivators, the users of our designs always end up happier!

And happiness leads to? Yes, better productivity, more sales, more referrals, more creativity, more ideas, more cooperation, and more engagement. We at The Octalysis Group think it leads to a new and better world, where in a decade or so the difference fun and work will have disappeared. Experiencing happiness will be the norm, not the exception!


Let us help you create happiness success with Octalysis:

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