Tips for Startups on Gamification: A Chat with Gabe Zichermann [Wamda TV]

by Gulay Ozkan,   January 29, 2013

Is gamification a marketing fad or does it have the potential to build a market in the U.S. worth $2.8 billion by 2016, with some vendors expecting revenue growth of nearly 200%?

Opinion is divided. A recent article in The New York Times lauds the business potential of gamification, which makes marketing and other social activities into fun activities by offering quests and rewards. Meanwhile, in an article for The Atlantic, video games researcher, designer and critic Ian Bogost believes the idea misuses what makes games appealing in the first place when transformed into simple marketing strategies.

Whatever side of the debate you fall on, the predictions make for interesting reading. IT research and consultancy firm Gartner Group forecasts that by 2015, 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes, and 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will use a “gamified app."

I talked to Gabe Zichermann, founder of the Gamification Summit, author of upcoming book Gamification by Design and “Game-based Marketing”, and co-director of the Founder Institute in New York, during a visit to Istanbul where he gave a talk on gamification at FI Istanbul on Jan 2nd, 2013.

“Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems,” Zicherman says when asked to define the term. “It’s, most importantly, a kind of process where we think about how we make things in the world more engaging, more fun, more meaningful [and] more useful.”

He points out that while some of its uses are new, humans have been gamifying their actions throughout history. “It’s a core part of our personality. What’s different now is that we have new technologies [and] new techniques and we have new processes that make it possible to create engagement with gamification in a more scalable way.”

The key ideas can be used to enhance engagement across different sectors, especially the entertainment, publishing, consumer goods and health markets, according to research by M2 Research. But Zicherman cautions start-ups considering deploying gamification to promote their businesses. “The biggest mistake is that they think that they should make everything into a game. You don’t need a princess, a dragon, shooting… but the underlying ideas, the mechanics of games, can be very useful,” he says.

His new book, Gamification Revolution, will come out in the spring of 2013, and the next Gamification Summit will bring together startups, big companies, government, and enterprise consumers to partake in workshops and lectures over three days.


Gulay Ozkan has more than 12 years experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. During this time, she has met more than a thousand entrepreneurs and evaluated many startups in incubation centers, techno-parks and universities. She was one of the key figures behind Turkey’s first technology incubation center, launched by Ericsson in 2000, where she worked with leading telecoms operators from China to South America. She and the team were instrumental in building the Turkish mobile VAS market. In 2007, Gulay founded GEDS Business, a consultancy company focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in technology industries across Europe and the Middle East. She is also the founding president of a Turkish project-management NGO called PMI TR. She holds a BSc and an MSc in electrical engineering from ITU in Turkey and UNL-Lincoln in the US. She can be found on her website, or on Twitter at @GulayOzkan.

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