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15 Million Downloads to $100 Million Revenue: How To Boost User Engagement With Gamification

Updated: Feb 27

October 1958.

A physicist with the name William Higinbotham was heading a research institute called Brookhaven National Laboratory.

During that time, the lab would host thousands of people on their Annual Visitors’ Day where researchers would exhibit their work.

The problem was - Most of these exhibits were extremely dull. Higinbotham wanted to do something that could better capture audiences’ attention.

The lab had a small analog computer that could display various curves, including the path of a bouncing ball. He made some drawings, blueprints and put together the basic pieces.

Within a month, Tennis for Two was born - the world's first ever video game.

The game was displayed on an oscilloscope and played with two controllers. The screen displayed a tennis court from the side, and players had to adjust the angle of their shots with a knob on their controller and try to hit the ball over the net by pressing a button.

It was a hit at the Annual Visitor’s Day with hundreds of people standing in long lines to get a chance to play. It brought people together and was an important step towards Gamification as we know it today.

Tennis for Two was born out of Higinbotham’s concern that the science community were unable to show the importance of their work to society.

He added game mechanics to a boring non-game situation and made Annual Visitor’s Day fun and engaging.

That’s exactly what Gamification is.

Fast forward to 2022, running has been transformed into a dash against zombie hordes, productivity apps motivate us to complete our to-do lists, and something as boring as paying bills have become more enjoyable with rewards and cashback.

With the right principles in place, the potential of Gamification is immense.

Here are 4 examples of Apps that have implemented Gamification to create engaging products.

1) Duolingo makes learning fun

Duolingo is a language learning App. If you have tried learning a new language online, you must have come across Duolingo. It is the global leader in educational apps, with 42 million monthly active users.

Duolingo has made the tricky process of learning a language more entertaining and challenging by judiciously employing game mechanics like points, badges, levels, challenges, and prizes.

  • Level-system: Like any other game, it has divided its lessons into distinct stages. You may only go to the next level after completing the current lesson.

  • Competency Level: Each level is balanced between being easy and difficult. It introduces 2 to 3 new terms in each class to maintain user proficiency.

  • Reward: When learners finish a lesson in Duolingo, they are rewarded with lingots. The more a person accumulates, the more perks they will use in the App.

  • Badges: Users keep achieving badges when they reach a new milestone or beat their previous record. These badges are visible on their public profile, boosting learners' self-esteem when their friends and family view them. Referrals increased by 116% when badges were introduced.

  • Streak: Daily streaks motivate users to use the App regularly and get rewards.

Duolingo achieved a 10x increase in revenue from $13 million in 2017 to $161 million in 2020.

2) Nike+ Run Club becomes your accountability partner

Nike+ Run is a fitness app with GPS monitoring, guided running workouts, and personalised coaching programs. It aims to help runners bridge the motivation gap, pushing them to continue training and achieving their objectives while still having fun.

The Nike Run Club uses gamification to boost app engagement and retention.

Here are some tactics the app uses:

  • Increase user retention by using your community: Nike Run Club cultivates a sense of belonging that satisfies the human desire to socialise. Users are encouraged to communicate and keep each other motivated.

  • Create timed challenges to entice users to participate: Timed challenges are a perfect example of gamification for simulating user interaction. Setting deadlines instils a feeling of urgency in consumers, encouraging them to act before it's too late.

  • Recognize accomplishments to boost app usage: The App uses digital confetti to celebrate accomplishments. While financial incentives are one way to recognize user achievement, digital confetti can be equally effective..

  • Leaderboards are used to create a sense of competition: Never underestimate the strength of rivalry! A leaderboard allows users to keep track of their progress and compete with others.

  • Personalization should be used to empower users: Users may listen to their music while exercising, thanks to Spotify and Apple Music integration. They can even choose the weather conditions they want to work out in.

The App's downloads increased by nearly 45 percent, compared to a global gain of only 10 percent.

3) Todoist gamifies your to-do list

Todoist is a productivity app that allows users to keep track of everything from substantial professional projects to minor household chores.

Todoist has gamified its App by rewarding users with Karma Points for each task completed—and negative credit for missing a deadline.

It taps into two core drives - Accomplishment and Avoidance.

Users are driven by a sense of mastery when rewarded for completing their tasks. As users accumulate more karma points, they access new levels, ranging from 'Beginner' to 'Enlightened' [Accomplishment].

On the contrary, negative points tap into the fear of failure, motivating users not to miss a task [Avoidance].

Todoist is the No.1 productivity App in the world with over five million users.

4) Headspace helps you slow down

Headspace is a wellness App that helps users achieve peace of mind. It uses Gamification to make meditation a habit. Here’s how -

  • Fear of failure with streaks

Users can see their ‘current run streak’ on the App along with other data like session completed and average duration.

Streaks play an important role to create a habit of meditation. Users nudge themselves to meditate just to avoid breaking the streak.

  • Gives a feeling of accomplishment with Badges and Leaderboard

Achieving badges in the early stages is relatively easy. This is to give the users a sense of progress and accomplishment in the early days.

While users can’t share badges, they can help their friends to meditate daily with a ‘Buddy Board’. Users can see which friend has used the App and can also nudge those who haven’t meditated in a long time.

  • Surprise rewards

One of the best aspects of Headspace is how users are rewarded randomly based on their progress. Imagine you have logged in to the App and meditated for 30 days straight. Headspace might send you an email with a free one month trial that you can gift a friend.

The user may not win anything for herself, but the fact that she can share the positivity of meditation with her friends is a gratifying experience.

Headspace has over two million paid subscribers. It is set to be valued at $3 billion in 2022 with over $100 million in revenues.

In Conclusion - Success of Gamification depends on the focus given to personal transformation

If you have observed carefully the common factor in all the above Gamification examples is - Personal Transformation

All of us have a burning desire to improve. It is deeply-rooted in our nature. And every Gamification system should tap into this very nature for it to be successful.

Points, badges, leaderboards or even cash are tools to help users assess their progress & achievements.

Always remember this - Personal transformation is the backbone of great gamification.


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