You’ve heard about the rise of Farmville on Facebook– 63 million users and growing, representing 20% of Facebook’s users, not to mention that Facebook represents 25% of pageviews in the United States.
But have you considered how game dynamics are beginning to permeate your life and that of your friends in ways that aren’t directly like video games? Examples:
- Frequent flyer programs are another form of “more than virtual” currency. When I was at American Airlines, we saw grown men do nutty things for points. For example, they would fly from Dallas to Austin and back on December 31st, just to keep their Executive Platinum status. Other friends will pay $300 more per night for a hotel room just because they can earn points on it if they pay the regular price. The inside joke at American was that it was amazing what people will pay for a free ticket.
- Facebook itself is a video game: Consider the factors of game dynamics of collection, unlocking, immediate feedback, levels, and randomization and you have the most addictive video game ever– that also draws in your friends. Not a gamer, you say? What apps are you playing?
- Las Vegas: These guys are the granddaddy of points-based mechanisms. I think of that city as a giant hotel chain that levies a tax on people who are bad at math. But really– you have to appreciate how much effort went into every little detail of the casino experience– the exact sounds that slot machines make, the reward cards that give you “comps”, and the way you’re in general just sucked in.
Now consider examples of what the future holds:
- Multi-level marketing: MLM has historically been known as a system where you sell out your friends to make a little more money. At worst, it’s a pyramid scheme — at best, it’s a way for some people to make a nice side income. But now that social networks have made visible the connections between people– imagine what is possible when you unleash a points-based referral scheme on Facebook. It’s already happening.
- Local Internet marketing: We already talked about how Content Factory is building an army of local entrepreneurs, driven by an expert system, points, and real hard cash earnings. Imagine playing a fun video game, but where you can make real money and help your friends who own businesses in real life. Instead of fertilizing their crops, you can drive calls and use our system to learn how in a step-by-step way. It’s already happening.
- Time management: Imagine earning points to brush your teeth, get your oil changed, and weigh yourself in the morning. Now, productivity management can be a video game that’s fun. It’s your life but like FarmVille. Systems like lifehacker.com and GTD (Getting Things Done) apply points-based tracking to make the mundane enjoyable. It’s already happening.
We have joked about naming our system ContentFactoryVille, but I think that would send the wrong message. Regardless, you can’t discount the power of points-based motivation, especially when compounded by the peer pressure effects of a social network that allows for video game-like measurement and leveling.
Now I’m off to harvest my peas before they wilt…