Why Your Startup Needs to Use Game Mechanics

If you are a startup in the technology field, you are definitely in a competitive environment. Whether you are a news blog, daily deals site, social network or mobile application, you are probably facing some tough competitors. You need to find some real qualitative differentiating factors between you and them. Game mechanics may be the solution to all of your problems.

First off, you may be immediately asking yourself, what is game mechanics? Basically, game mechanics can be briefly described as a construct of rules and ideas that allow for structured and enjoyable game play. Yes, I am sure more questions are arising. The best way to exemplify it is to look at a popular startup that is using game mechanics extremely well. A prime example is Foursquare.

The popular mobile application that allows people to check-in to locations and share it with their friends succeeds partially due to the fact that the concept of earning badges and mayorships excites its users. People inherently like to compete, earn and get rewarded for activities, even if it doesn’t equate to tangible or monetary rewards. Fortunately for Foursquare users, the startup has become successful to the point that certain venues do offer price discounts and rewards for checking in. Think about it in terms of a creative and participatory way of implementing a loyalty or rewards program.

Clearly your business model may not warrant the distribution of badges or mayorships, but it may be viable to find a similar game-like experience. Consider virtual currency, leaderboards or some deviation. By creating an environment where your users, website visitors or customers have added incentives to return to your site or can compete against friends, peers or community users, you have immediately added a new level of value to your user groups. This will change the way that people interact with your company and its product or service. By utilizing this concept, your users will stay longer on your product and will come back more often, both which will increase the revenues that you can potentially earn.

So now you may be wondering, how can I implement such a concept without overhauling my entire product? Enter BigDoor.com. This website is one example of the emerging movement to allow a variety of companies to integrate game-like features into your product. BigDoor.com allows you to easily implement a variety of game features that can immediately transform your website or application into something that people will feel rewarded for using. You will be surprised how this addition changes the user dynamic of your product.

As this concept may not apply to all startups, it does become critical to understand the intrinsic psychology behind it. As it may often be viewed as “childish” or “petty” to introduce game-like features into your product, it is also unwise to believe that there aren’t particular things that make us all tick as consumers. As much as we all would like freebies and tangible prizes, we are often appreciative when we accomplish something and get recognized for it, whether it be through our name being published on a website as the “Most Frequent Visitor” or it be through earning a free coffee for checking in with five of your friends.

I encourage you to consider implementing some variation of game mechanics and test it out to see what the results are. I would be surprised to find any negative effects if a well thought out game was implemented into your website or application. Begin by understanding why and how your users interact with your content or product, and how they navigate through it. This should be the basis of the game-like features. You should incentivize people to do more of what they currently enjoy doing and recognize them for it. Create a competitive community environment that encourages more frequent and engaging activity. This will start you in the right direction. Good luck implementing it. If you have already implemented game mechanics or have anything to add, please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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