The gamification is on

Gamification has broken through to mainstream coverage and threatens future ubiquity.
This week saw a slew of stories on the trend. An ABC News roundup covered applications ranging from health to finance and dating. Of course it’s not just consumers who are targeted with the technology, as employees are coaxed to better performance through an increasing number of applications as well.
The Guardian offered a sampling of gamification apps used by charities, including games designed to create empathy and increase awareness for the plight of youth the streets or in developing countries, reward abstinence in recovering alcoholics or pitch in with crowdsourcing on cancer research.
The principles have long been understood
The principles of gamification have been applied for millennia in education, where simple rewards, peer recognition, and ladders of achievement have long held sway. Recognition has motored groups from Weight Watchers to Alcoholics Anonymous and the Shriners. Top sales people have likewise been rewarded by more than straight cash commissions. And marketers have similarly used gamification incentives, such as to sell candy bars and get Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop into the Chocolate Factory.
Gamification at work
Sales, marketing and customer support might be the most obvious applications for the automation of gamification, as the consumerization of the workforce continues to gain ground. But employees are prime candidates for behavior modification in a host of areas.  WestJet was recently profiled for its impending application of gamification to ERP in four areas of expense reporting:

  • timely submission of expense reports,
  • timely approval or rejection of reports,
  • the attachment of receipts to expense reports, and
  • the use of corporate, rather than personal, credit cards.

Further ERP applications, from the supply chain to the factory floor are inevitable. The gamification of hiring is likely to gain pace as well. While this may be good news for job candidates who’d like to punch through the limits of their traditional resume, it could also be seen as a growing burden for those asked to do more for consideration in a competitive hiring market.
Social media
Social media applications for customer support and online forums are among the earliest widespread uses for gamification. Rewards including badges, trusted reviewer, and moderator status have been thoroughly tested, and both virtual and real prizes clearly drive participant behavior in guidable directions. Providers like Gigya and Badgeville continue to find ways to steer users to crank out reviews, post more comments, join more live events, and the like.
More experimentation
More refinement of gamification techniques is inevitable in the workplace, too, as the technology is more widely applied. Already, it is clear that various personality types respond differently to the recognition of status and to various rewards. Great engineers, sales people and customer service reps all tend to have different motivations. For example, as we have seen with consumers, some people volunteer for punishments. (E.g., Pact users have cash on the line if they falter in their diet or exercise regimens.) But in the workplace, will such discipline and punishment always be voluntary?
The backlash begins?
Backlash against this incipient ubiquity is inevitable, and in a small way may have already begun. 2048 is a math game recently launched by a teenage developer. Apparently it was something of a phenomenon when in its simplicity it lacked ease of use, sophisticated graphics, and a leaderboard. Once those elements were added, making it adhere more closely to the recognized principles of gamification, interest waned.
The sinister underbelly
Some technologists are already dismayed that the Internet has become a modern version of Bentham’s Panopticon, as foretold and warned against in Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”, providing surveillance at a level seldom imagined. Now gamification threatens to make the use of technology, especially at work, a modern version of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber. Although gamification promises more carrot than stick, we can all expect more mazes, intentionally moved cheese, and the occasional, mild shock.
Just as the cubicle became an icon of corporate conformity in the ‘80s and ‘90s, as an update to the Man in a Grey Flannel Suit, gamification may become a symbol of work in the Twenty-teens and beyond.
Implications for the enterprise
But we have shorter attention spans than previous generations, new entrants to the workforce were reared on computer games, and the science is finding more ways to make repetitive work fun. So enterprise managements and IT departments can look happily toward the positive gains that the technology promises.
A workforce that is satisfied and feels valued is always a competitive advantage, and businesses would do well with combining the broader experience of vendors and users in corporate environments with their own limited, gradual and carefully tested experiments. The close study of psychological literature in the field can help to align game rewards with the intrinsic, deeper satisfaction and purpose that various employees seek.
Still, less will likely prove to be more. Overkill is a real risk in this application, and a spirit of employee involvement in creating, testing, and sometimes ditching new uses is probably in order. For the near term at least, once the sense of playing a game is lost, so, likely, is lost the value of gamification.

Apple incorporates new iPhone sales strategies to tap into budding Indian market

Apple’s (s aapl) sales of the iPhone continue to do very well domestically, with the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c boasting record numbers last year, but the Cupertino company struggles to bring its products to countries that are just now embracing smartphones. A feature in the New York Times on Sunday showed the intricacies of Apple’s iPhone sales in India, employing monthly plans and special discount deals to sell phones — key in an area where incomes can be just a few hundred a month. It’s a good glimpse into the brand’s attempt to crack developing markets and gain crucial users.

Nintendo boasts the sales of its favorite son, Nintendo 3DS

In case you weren’t already convinced, Nintendo has a favorite console, and that would be its successful 3DS line of mobile handhelds. In a press release on Friday, the Japanese company boasted that more than 11.5 million units of the 3DS console line (including the 3DS XL and the 2DS) have sold in the U.S. alone since its release in 2011. In addition, the company sold roughly 16 million units of software — both physical and digital — for the year 2013. It’s definitely a positive note for Nintendo, if a bit glossy: Despite extolling the virtues of the 3DS, the still-struggling Wii U was not mentioned at all.

Sony and Xbox release 2013 sales numbers for latest consoles

The holidays are over, and both Microsoft(s msft) and Sony(s sne) have numbers on how their latest-gen consoles have fared. In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft said that it sold more than 3 million Xbox One units by the end of 2013. And onstage at CES on Tuesday, Sony exec Andrew House said the company passed 4.2 million PlayStation 4 units sold on December 28. While it appears that Sony has the upper hand, there are a lot of factors in play to make it too early to call it the winner of these so-called “console wars.” However, it does show how hot both consoles have been running since their November debuts.

Microsoft also sold more than 1 million XBox One units in 24 hours

Like Sony(s adr) before it, it seems that Microsoft(s msft) is benefitting from next-gen hype: the company said that more than a million Xbox One consoles were sold in less than 24 hours after launch last Friday — a feat that apparently shatters the initial sales record of the Xbox 360. However, its important to note that the Xbox One had a worldwide release while the similar sales numbers of the PlayStation4 were limited to the U.S. and Canada. But the strong reception both consoles have already received is a sign that next-gen fever will hit holiday shoppers hard.

Sony to release PlayStation 4/PS Vita bundle in the U.K.

The PlayStation 4 has only been in out in the U.S. and Canada for less than a week (and done gangbusters in that short time), but Sony (s SNE)  is already sweetening the deal for U.K. customers with a bundle pack offering both the next-gen console and a PS Vita, according to IGN. While the advertisement IGN points to does not have any price listed, there’s no doubt that it’ll be of significant value, especially when considering the Vita’s remote play capabilities with the PS4. There’s no word on whether a bundle like this will be available Stateside for the holidays, but it could be a game-changer for Sony.