Live from Digital Directions 2011- Rajat Paharia @ Bunchball #DD11

First up after lunch was Bunchball founder and chief product officer Rajat Paharia, who started by talking about gamification and the infiltration of virtual goods into real-world relationships.

“It’s about integrating game dynamics into your service to drive participation and loyalty,” Paharia said. “Gamification drives participation, participation drives business value. It’s all based off our fundamental needs for rewards. Games designers have known for years how to do this”

This notion of gamification is being used by a wide range of companies, from Starbucks to media companies, who are seeing increases in visits, duration and interaction on their sites. The television station NBC created a site for fans of The Office, where you can join as an employee of Dunder Mifflin and earn virtual currency as a reward for participation in the site. They can also earn currency for creating content on the site.

He also talked about IMHO, a media player with an inbuilt virtual currency where you are rewarded for interaction with the application (such as watching an add) and its spread into the community. Club Psych also rewards fans of the TV series of the same name, even to the point of giving them the ability to redeem points for real-world goods relating to the show.

The concept has even been used by Microsoft to encourage beta testers to interact and work with its products. And a plug-in called Ribbon Hero turns learning Office products into a game.

“People are going in and playing PowerPoint and Word and mastering the product,” Paharia said.

But you need to have good core content. “Game mechanics can ramp you up, but they can’t sustain … if there’s no experience at the core,” Paharia said.

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