Anastasia Lushyna · Business Development Expert

Gamifying a Mobile App: Benefits, Dangers, and a Bit of Psychology

Gamifying a Mobile App: Benefits, Dangers, and a Bit of Psychology

You have an idea of a cool mobile app, and then another thought strikes your mind: what if you and your team apply game design elements and principles to your application? What if you gamify it?

Before starting implementing this idea, check our introductory guide to the world of gamification.

Why You Should Gamify Your Mobile App

Here are three advantages of gamification:

1. Increased user engagement and an extra source of revenue.

An opportunity to earn rewards while using an app can increase user engagement and give you a chance to monetize your app. People are competitive by their nature, and you have probably experienced this yourself. Have you ever been captured by a game? Have you spent hours on completing one level after another? If yes, then you know how things work.

Games can be extremely captivating, especially when players level up every time they complete a challenge. With gamification, apps work in the same way. When users know that they can get something for using your app, they will spend more time in it. Rewards can be given for completion of certain challenges, making in-app purchases or spending time in the app.

2. A higher number of users.

Unlocking different achievements and earning rewards is great, but some users are looking not only for recognition — they want to become the best! If you allow your users to compete on the leaderboard, you will motivate them to play and use your app more often. And if they share their achievements, for instance, on popular social networks, your mobile app will attract new users.

And it is not only about competition and social networks — a properly gamified app can be much more interesting than its analog without any gamification. This is especially true for education, fitness, and other apps for life improvement.

For instance, Zombies, Run! became one of the biggest fitness games ever. It has already attracted over 1 million players, and it is not going to stop. Apart from helping users to keep fit, this app boasts an amazing scenario. Users have to run away from zombies and collect diverse supplies to rebuild the city — there are 200 missions to complete! And just to compare: Wahoo RunFit, another app for those users who like running, was downloaded around 10 thousand times (from Play Market). Not bad, but Zombies, Run! is still much more popular.

3. A greater acquaintance with your users.

If your users are able to share their progress on social networks, it will be easier for you to keep in touch with them and provide them with better experience. The better the experience is — the wider audience you get.

When Gamification is Not the Best Strategy Ever

Not every app needs to be gamified — this highly depends on your product’s purposes. For instance, Wuppermann Steel, a Dutch company, once created a special board displaying stoppages and accidents. The purpose was noble — to reduce the number of incidents.

However, workers found the dashboard very depressing. What is worse, employees were divided into teams and compared for unprofessional behavior. To maintain the high score, teams did their best to leave problems for other teams. That was not an app, only a dashboard, but you got the idea — gamification shouldn’t harm your users and make them feel depressed.

Implementing gamification just because you want your app to be gamified is also a bad thing to do — if you go for gamification strategy, it must have some kind of sense. Zappos is a great example here.

Zappos rewards

Screenshot from Zappos site

They have a really nice rewards program. Users earn points, climb the VIP ladder, and enjoy diverse cool things: free shipping, early access to products, and so on. That’s amazing, but at some point they were giving out badges with no value. They were just meaningless, and that’s it. The badges program is already over, and it was not the best page in the Zappos history.

Gamifying your application can also be a wrong choice if your app is going to be focused on a very wide audience — not all users appreciate gamification apps. However, in this case you can make the gamification feature optional.

How Gamification Works on a Psychological Level

Let’s remember a few interesting things from the school anthropology course. When a person experiences a pleasant situation, dopamine, one of those chemicals which bring happiness, is released in the brain. Then, the mind tells a person to look for the same experience again, as it was good to have it. This is where the addiction may start.

When users take part in diverse competitions, complete challenges, get rewards, and level up, they gain positive user experience. As a result, their brain gets some dopamine, and they want to have this experience again. Being a part of a community is another reason why users download and install gamification apps. People are social creatures, and for most of them it is important to be a community or team member.

That’s what Waze offers — it is something more than a simple app for drivers. It is an entire community of people working together to share information about accidents, traffic jams, and diverse road hazards. The maps are constantly updated, so users can always reach their destinations without any problems.

Besides, the app allows saving on gasoline, as drivers share reports about gas prices. Currently, Waze unites around 100 million drivers. They earn points (even for having the app running while driving!), level up, and help each other to deal with the traffic.

Gamification Can Pay Off Even Before it’s Done

Users love gamification, and they are ready to support such projects even before they are released. Zombies, Run! collected money on Kickstarter, and they raised an amount six times larger than their initial goal. So if you are looking for funds on the development of your app, gamification can become a reason of your project’s success on Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding platform.

All the more, gamifying a mobile app is not that expensive. No one makes you to equip your app with an entire set of features at once — you can start, for example, with adding only badges or competitions.

According to TechNavio and Business Wire, the value of the gamification market is expected to reach almost 12 billion by 2021, while in 2016 it was a bit less than 5 billion. The market of gamification apps exist, and it is developing, so why not to join the trend and release your own application? Thanks to gamification, your mobile app can attract more users and retain the existing ones, and bring you profit. Besides, now you know not only the advantages, but also what things to avoid. So don’t hesitate to develop your application — we would be happy to try it one day!

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