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The Evolution of 5 Gamification Trends

The Evolution of 5 Gamification Trends

Gamification has become an integral part of many industries in recent years. As technology advances, gamification continues to evolve in innovative ways. Understanding key gamification trends can help companies utilise them more effectively to engage users and achieve goals.

Defining Gamification

Before diving into the major trends, it helps to set the level of what gamification means. At a basic level, gamification refers to applying game-like elements to non-game environments. This could involve introducing points, levels, challenges, rewards, leaderboards, etc. The goal is to tap into people's intrinsic motivations and drive specific behaviours.

Some common examples of gamification include:

  • Loyalty programs at retailers that provide points and rewards
  • Exercise apps that give you badges for workouts
  • Educational sites with quests and levelling up
  • Corporate training that utilises game mechanics

Key hallmarks of gamification are that it should be enjoyable, drive meaningful engagement, and incorporate progression elements that give a sense of achievement.

The Rise of Gamification

Duolingo Gamification Design

While games have been used for learning and motivation for millennia, the modern concept of gamification only emerged in the digital era. Early pioneers like FourSquare began incorporating game mechanics into non-game environments in the late 2000s.

However, the actual acceleration happened along with the rapid rise of smartphones and apps in the 2010s. Suddenly, gamification had a ubiquitous delivery mechanism that allowed integration into nearly any service. Growth exploded.

By 2012, Gartner was highlighting gamification as a significant trend. By 2014, over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies were using gamification. The early 2020s see gamification continuing to increase across industries.

Key Gamification Trends

Several interrelated trends are shaping the future of gamification in 2023 and beyond. Understanding these can help companies utilise gamification more effectively.

Gamification Will Become Far More Sophisticated

Until now, most gamification deployments have been relatively basic, focusing on classical mechanics like points, badges and leaderboards. But as researchers understand what drives intrinsic motivation, gamification becomes more nuanced and personalised. A few developments to expect:

More Focus on “Autotelic” Game Elements

Autotelic activities are ones we do for their own sake because they are intrinsically enjoyable and satisfying. Well-designed games incorporate many autotelic elements – challenges to master, narratives to uncover, characters to relate to, etc.

As the gamification industry matures, expect less reliance on simple rewards and more incorporation of autotelic mechanics that provide feedback loops separate from external prizes or recognition.

Autotelic Game Elements Gamification Trends

Rapid Growth of Adaptive Gamification

One-size-fits-all point systems appeal to general psychological drives but rarely cater to individual needs and preferences. The next wave of gamification will leverage AI and big data to tailor game mechanics to different users and contexts in real-time.

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For example, Duolingo uses complex algorithms to create new challenges and feedback based on your unique strengths and weaknesses while learning a language. Enterprise training programs are also starting to incorporate similar adaptive elements.

Key Stat: The adaptive gamification market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 30% to reach $5 billion by 2028.

Integration of Game Elements Earlier into Workflows

Thus far, most gamification deployments have been tacked onto existing workflows as incentives for already-defined behaviours. However, as research reveals the processes that genuinely drive motivation and engagement at a psychological level, game dynamics will become increasingly central to the design process from the beginning.

For instance, the latest wave of productivity apps uses quests, limited resources and friendly competition not just as ancillary rewards but as core drivers of daily motivation.

Gamification Will Become an Expected Part of Services

Over the past decade, gamification has been considered an intriguing but optional supplement for boosting engagement. But driven by younger demographics and the broader software-ification of services, gamified experiences will increasingly become the default expectation.

Millennials and Gen Z Driving Adoption

Growing up with video games and social internet, younger generations respond strongly to game-based motivation schemes and interfaces. Gamification has proven to be one of the best ways to engage fickle and distracted millennials and Gen Z consumers continually.

As these demographics gain more spending power and influence over the next decade, they will drive gamification from a “nice-to-have” perk into an essential service component. Brands that don’t gamify risk falling behind competitors who do.

Gamification 1536X922 1

Software as a Service Dependence

Another critical reason gamification will become standard is the growing reliance of consumers and businesses on always-online software services. Unlike physical products, digitally delivered apps and platforms remain under continual development and require ongoing driving of user engagement.

And nothing keeps fickle modern subscribers locked in as effectively as well-tuned game mechanics layered onto core activities. Whether for entertainment, communications or productivity, gamification offers the hooks to keep users opening the app day after day.

“Any digital service that people are meant to use daily or weekly now pretty much requires some level of gamification to drive habit formation and retention.” – Jane McGonigal, Gamification Guru.

The services that gamify most effectively will gain the lion’s share of our collective attention. Expect vital domains like personal health and finances to take on heads-up displays, quest trackers and social competition.

Gamification Design Will Become a Key Field

As more organisations recognise the power of tapping into human drives for mastery, achievement and competition, gamification designers will become highly sought-after specialists. Already, professional certifications for gamification training have emerged alongside university degree programs.

Crafting “Autotelic” Systems as a Crucial Skillset

We’ve already covered the importance of intrinsically satisfying, autotelic game elements that provide feedback and rewards. As noted psychology researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi emphasises, the hallmark of excellent game design is the state of “flow” – deep, immersive engagement through the balance of challenge and ability.

Crafting this magical balance requires subtle artistry and rigorous testing. Expect gamification designers who can reliably build autotelic systems that get users into the flow to land the hottest jobs.

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Ethical Gamification Design

Like many emerging technologies, unchecked gamification brings dystopian perils alongside utopian promise. As warned in the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”, scoring fundamental human interactions can foster obsession, anxiety and conformity. And gamified interfaces often exploit the same psychological vulnerabilities as addictive drugs or predatory ads.

Thankfully, prominent industry thought leaders are already advocating for ethical standards in gamification. But regulation and corporate policies almost always lag behind abuse. Conscientious gamification designers who voluntarily adopt ethical practices will emerge as coveted voices of reason.

Key Stat: Poor design causes 67% of enterprise gamification efforts to fail.

Real World / Digital World Convergence

Thus far, most gamification has lived within purely digital interfaces. But as virtual and augmented reality mature, game layers will increasingly be projected onto natural spaces and activities.

Augmented Reality Overlays

Imagine walking through a historical site and unlocking informative pop-up quests and challenges that overlay onto statues and architecture. Or a mixed reality treasure hunt at the mall, blending digital clues with physical locations.

Consumer AR services are coalescing around games and play far faster than business applications. And by making personal spaces more interactive and playful, AR gamification will drive mainstream adoption of augmented reality gear.

Augmented Reality Design Skills

Internet of Things Integration

Very soon, nearly every appliance and system in homes and offices will connect to the Internet – an emerging reality known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Game elements can bridge tactile activities with online feedback and rewards as ordinary objects gain digital counterparts.

For instance, Peloton brought social competition and telemetry to stationary bikes by integrating workout data with gamified online dashboards. Similar integrations will enhance fitness gear, household appliances, public transit and more with challenges, points and level-ups mapped to actual world actions.

Mixed Reality Social Spaces

One of the most exciting horizons in gamification is interactive virtual spaces blended with physical gatherings. Imagine conference halls or offices digitally overlaid with scored activities, group quests and playful interfaces visible only through AR glasses.

Early pioneering platforms like Rec Room point to a future where professional and social gatherings mix the best of digitally enhanced games with the subtle cues of face-to-face interaction. The global pandemic has only hastened interest in hybrid digital/physical event technology.

New Frontiers for Gamified Learning

Education has always presented prime territory for gamification, with research confirming game elements boost knowledge retention and skill development. But most current edtech gamification focuses on relatively shallow points and badge overlays. Two huge frontiers in gamified learning will open up in the coming years:

Ultra-Adaptive Edtech

We’ve already covered the explosion of interest in adaptive gamification, which tailors challenges and suggestions to individual progress. Nowhere will this revolution be felt more profoundly than in education.

AI-powered tutors like Carnegie Learning leverage complex algorithms to assess students' unique psychological drivers and obstacles. They then tune curricular game elements accordingly with incredible precision and ongoing tweaking.

Early results confirm adaptive ed-tech gamification drives faster mastery with much wider accessibility. It represents a seismic shift from outdated “teach to the middle” approaches still prevalent in public schools.

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Immersive XR Courseware

Extended Reality (XR) collectively refers to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality that immerse users in interactive digital environments. After years of hype around VR/AR, the coming decade will see mass adoption across consumer, enterprise and education sectors driven by rapidly advancing headset technology.

VR and AR gamification brings incredibly profound implications for learning. Why? Immersive simulators allow safe first-hand experimentation with high-risk or impossible scenarios. Medical students already train through VR surgery simulations. Expect XR courseware to cover everything from ethics to physics soon.

Key Stat: The VR training market is set to grow from $300 million to over $4 billion by 2026.

Driving Customer-Centric Experiences

Customer Psychology

Why is gamification becoming so critical across industries and applications? At its core, effective gamification drives customer-centricity.

In a fragmented market flooded with competing options, delivering engaging and personalised user experiences is how brands differentiate themselves. Gamification provides a framework to delight customers continually based on their unique needs and motivations.

Done well, gamification creates positive loops where your solution offers increasing value over time while learning more about each individual. This cultivates loyalty in an era where customers have unlimited choice.

Compare a retailer without any loyalty program to one that lets you accumulate status, unlock gifts, and connect with other shoppers. Which would you consistently revisit?

Or contrast dull corporate training that checks a box on compliance to an interactive upskilling platform where you field promotes your fully customised avatar. Where will employees be more motivated to develop career skills?

Progression paths give users a sense they are constantly advancing towards mastery. Social connections tap our innate desires to be part of tribes and communities. This drives sustainable engagement that plain informational resources cannot match.

Increasingly personalised and ethical applications of gamification create this customer-centric competitive advantage. Companies are not embracing gamification risk irrelevance as expectations evolve.

Those leveraging the latest innovations in human-focused design, progression mechanics, hybrid experiences and platform convergence are best positioned for the coming decade as gamification proliferates.

Key Gamification Statistics

  • 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies utilised gamification in 2014
  • The global gamification market was $9.1 billion in 2020
  • Expected to reach $40.3 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 24%
  • 94% of employees say gamification improves productivity
  • 43% of marketers say gamification lifts customer retention by over 20%
  • Students retain 5-10x more content via gamified learning vs traditional methods
  • Patient adherence to treatment plans improved by 60-80% with gamification
  • 44% of younger Millennials prefer gamified health apps over traditional ones
  • 57% of older Baby Boomers also show a preference for gamified health apps

(Sources: FinancesOnline, Mordor Intelligence, TalentLMS, Armada Employee Incentives)

These numbers highlight the explosive growth gamification is seeing across nearly all verticals. Tapping games' competitive motivation and replayability drives superior business results – whether learning new skills, forming healthier habits, or boosting brand loyalty.


Effective gamification is not just tacking simplistic points and badges onto existing services. Proper integration considers deep psychological motivations and crafts increasingly personalised experiences that evolve with the user.

With human-focused design and advanced mechanics promoting progression, social connections, and platform convergence, gamification enters a new era where hybrid digital/physical implementations drive the next wave of innovation.

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This proliferation of gamification is critical for creating delightfully addictive customer experiences that foster loyalty. Those not embracing gamification risk irrelevance as both consumer and employee expectations advance.

Proactive focus on these core gamification trends places companies in a position to drive sustainable engagement and results, leveraging our intrinsic human needs for achievement, mastery and connection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is gamification just a fad?

While early gamification deployments focused too heavily on superficial point and badge overlays, research confirms game elements drive real motivation and behaviour change. As understanding of human psychology and game design matures, gamification becomes more subtly personalised and integral to core services.

What are some examples of adaptive gamification?

Duolingo’s language learning platform leverages complex algorithms to serve up precisely calibrated challenges and feedback for each learner. Productivity services like Habitica tie quests and resources to unique goals and workflows. Many enterprise training programs now incorporate AI elements to tune challenges to individual strengths, weaknesses and psychological needs.

Could gamification ever replace traditional learning approaches?

Unlikely. Well-designed gamification intelligently motivates students to push beyond their usual efforts and comfort zones. However, sound curricular scaffolds like explicit instruction worked examples, and guided practice will remain essential to anchor the wilder exploratory play of gamified environments.

What are some ethical risks of gamification?

Potential issues range from fostering obsession/addiction to facilitating surveillance capitalism. Ranking fundamental human interactions can enable dangerous social conformity and control. And optimised motivational design often exploits the same dopamine vulnerabilities as addictive drugs or predatory advertising. Policies, regulations and professional ethical standards are critical.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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