Earlier this week, Gartner Research released a study with the headline “Gartner predicts that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily because of poor design.” 

"First, I’d like to know how they arrived at that number. But that's absolutely right. Poor implementations are going to fail. That's not news; poor implementations of anything are going to fail", said Rajat Paharia, founder and Chief Product Officer of one of the first gamification companies, Bunchball. Paharia also take some issue with the 80% figure for which he says, "No justification for the number, at all.” But for the most part, he agrees with the statement.

Adena DeMonte, director of marketing at Badgeville, feels the same way. “Companies will put a badge on their site and say, ‘Hey, we gamified’,” DeMonte said. When those companies are counted among the 80% who try to implement gamification techniques, of course it will bring those numbers down, she continues.

Paharia names one of the two main reasons why gamified applications fail as misaligned incentives. For example, “If you reward your call center for shorter call times, you’re likely going to come up with poor customer reviews.” And if you try to reduce poor customer reviews, call center workers will bounce customers from one worker to another so they don’t get left with that bad review, he continues.

The other reason, he says, is not providing meaningful value. In some cases of failed gamified implementations, “Businesses derive all the value, and users get meaningless points and badges.” At the end of the day, he says, “Game mechanics alone can’t carry the experience. Businesses need to provide meaningful value for their customers. It doesn’t even have to be dollars.”

DeMonte feels that another problem is that some companies who gamify their processes do so in a short-lived capacity, instead of understanding that it’s not a one-off event. “Like any good marketing strategy or campaign, it’s something you have to invest in for the long term to get the results you want out of it.”

And Gartner itself admits there’s still a future in gamification. Despite the 80% failure rate in 2014, in 2015 Gartner believes “40% of Global 1000 corporations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform primary business operations. By 2016, gamification will be an essential element for brands and retailers to drive customer marketing and loyalty. By 2017 50% of Global 1000 will use gamification and learning for recruitment processes. A gamification program will be a key organizational enabler for 75% of enterprise-oriented dev ops initiatives, up from less than 1% today.”

These forecasts don’t suggest a future without gamification as much as they do a present of still trying to figure it out. How have your gamification efforts paid off, and are you still planning a future with them?

"Gamification: Engagement Strategies for Business and IT” (Subscription required)