Podcast 33: What are the gamification trends for 2020?

Welcome to a Question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the Chief Gamechanger at Gamification Nation. And first of all we with our first episode of 2020, I would like to say Happy New Year to all of our listeners and followers. And if you watch this or listen to this later in the year, not to worry, we still wish you a Happy New Year and I hope it’s going great for you.


We want to kick off 2020 with our glass bowl in front of us and a bit of predictions, trends, what we were expecting for this year in the space of Gamification and everything has to do with game design that’s applied to business purposes. First thing that we think or I think personally is going to happen is that we’ll see more market consolidation. In the past year and in the past number of years we’ve seen bigger business systems buying up smaller players in the Gamification space.

ERP’s and gamification, continued market consolidation

Some of the big enterprise resource planning systems, which you may have come across the likes of SAP, Oracle, those named companies have been probably around for some time in buying Gamification platforms and how they apply to learning and development. We have seen a few of those acquisitions in the past year. I think that trend will continue. I also believe that on the other side we’ll also have more startups entering the market, which is something we’ve seen last year. I think every month we’ve heard at least of two or three or four new platforms, new applications, sometimes very specifically zoning in on, for example, lead generation. Another one focusing in on just purely educational technology and Gamification. No matter where you look, there’s new players entering the market and in some sense that’s a good thing because that means that there’s still a market and the market is still growing.

On the other side, it makes it also more crowded and a bit more aggressive. People fighting for their slice of the pie. We think that’s going to increase and continue to increase in 2020. I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. In some of the market segments like marketing, like business efficiency, like supply chain, we still have plenty of scope for a new platform so if you’re still looking to enter into that space. And some market segments are quite hard to break into or to upset the existing big name platforms that have been traditionally in place and the ERP systems are a case in point.

That’s why they’re buying the other systems. What I always found fascinating about the enterprise resource planning systems is that they were built to support business processes mainly for industrial style companies. They came from the accounting function, typically speaking and then audit in typically engineering, manufacturing, etcetera, and they have since evolved to force fit a little bit into the service space, which is probably the biggest space for most businesses and most countries. Where most money is made, at least in Europe, that’s definitely very much the case.

I questioned how useful and reflective of work practices these systems are for real because some of the time, my question is when a client comes to us and asks us, “Oh well I want to add the Gamification on top of my X big name system.” I often ask why. And typically the answer is, “My people aren’t using it.” And then the question really should be why?  It’s also my first question, why are they not using it? Typically the answer is a combination of factors. Some don’t see the purpose for it, some think it’s too slow, some feel it’s not up to the job. Let’s not forget that a lot of these systems were designed in the 50s to serve businesses in the 50s. Business has moved on, systems have been developed, but are expensive and often the contracts in place are not easy to break.

That’s why people don’t move on. And the bigger the organization, the less easy it is to just jump into another system. There are many reasons for that. When you’re looking to add Gamification into a platform, do it for the right reasons. If not, buy a platform that suits your needs better and that can be a gamified system out of the box to solve specific problems you’re dealing with or it can be a completely different system that maybe today hasn’t been designed yet. There’s your market opportunity. First trend is that the market will continue to consolidate, but that will also still see a large volume of new solutions, new platforms entering the market.

Blended and immersive gamification

The other thing that we see as a big trend, and it’s a continuation of a trend because in previous years I’ve also put it on my trend list, is that Gamification will be blended and immersive.

Now what’s the difference and how does that work? Well, blended means that you use it as part of a mix of things that you do. Just like in a learning environment, you can have classroom training, e-learning, learning games. Gamification can be the bit that basically pulls the learning quest together and pushes you through the variety of blended technologies or blended modalities for learning, for generating content or for assimilating content. Immersive is also where you bring in experiences where the person gets so engrossed into the experience that they forget about time. It’s as if you got stuck into a piece of work and you just completely lost all sense of time and all of a sudden it’s lunchtime. It happens to all of us. We’ve all had it. That’s what I mean with immersive. To recreate that through Gamification is not an easy task and I actually think not some of the work focused platforms already are edging in that way.

For example, we have inbox zero or inbox management systems that basically act on your behalf and help you through teaching your system to act on your behalf in the best way through machine learning and Gamification combined to set it up so that it helps you be the most focused. We have focus mode on some of the platforms we use. I see it on Microsoft, I see it on WordPress, I see it on other systems we use where you can basically block all out all distractions and then things like nudgers, feedback loops are the bits not Gamification adds into the question where Gamification can actually find value. I think there is a few things that are into the mix. I also believe that virtual worlds can assist us in creating immersive experiences. You don’t necessarily have to step into full VR experience if locking yourself out of the real world is an inhibitor, but stepping into a virtual space where you can try and assimilate learning or work can also be very useful in this space.

I think the combination of good practice will make the experience better. Will also set people up to take charge of how they want to experience and how they basically get the best out of Gamification and game based work environment. In my view, blended and immersive is going to continue. Augmented reality, virtual reality are in the mix. I think they will become more standard practice and they serve a great purpose. Each of them in their own rights. I think that’s only going to grow.

Climate and sustainability

In terms of topics of Gamification, I think this year the focus will be more around climate and sustainability and as this is a very much, I think driven by what’s all around us. I think global warming is not out of the news since well before Christmas from the bushfires in Australia to all sorts of eruptions with volcanoes, flooding in regions.

We all see it, we all feel it, we all experience it. And I reckon you have to have been living under a rock if you haven’t followed any of the stories last year of young people standing up to their governments and taking time from their classes to go and protest in favor of climate change. I think it’s topical, but I also think it has brought a bad behavior shaming to the floor, which I don’t necessarily think is always a positive, but pointing out that look, you can do better, you can improve. And how can you individually contribute to make a difference? I think that’s where we’ve seen the shift from debates to actual activity and action. I know for sure that’s a lot of organizations are putting more effort into more climate friendly manufacturing procedures, more climate friendly ways of meeting, more climate friendly approaches to running the business.

And one of the big industries that responded quite quickly to this protesting and what’s alive in the market is the industry of entertainment where concerts and some bands decided, “Okay, we want to take an approach that’s different. We don’t know how we’re trying to figure it out.” And I think this year will be the year where a lot of companies are figuring it out. A lot of cities, a lot of regions and nations are spending money in this space. And in a corporate sector, the corporate sustainability function, which typically was tasked with looking at climate and sustainability and reporting on it will also be tasked with, “Look, what can we actively get our people or employees to do to make a difference.” We on our side have won a project with the city of Brugge to assist companies but also schools in encouraging people to take the most climate friendly commute.

If you’re interested in that, we’ll be keeping an update and a live project schedule relating to this project because they actively encourage us to share. Keep an eye out. If you’re interested for your organization or your area of city, nation, let us know. We’d happily talk to you and explain what we’re doing and how this may work for you.

Multi-device design

The other trend we see, and this is a trend more from a practical I suppose, design perspective because we’re in the design space, we would have to include some design trends. Multi devices. Bring your own device has been a thing for some time in the workplace and with many more organizations operating in a virtual sense where people work from home or from different locations. More and more freedom is given to what types of devices are being used.

Now in terms of Gamification design, that means that we have to make sure that it works on all devices. We have had a number of projects in the last number of years where cross-platform was a requirement and that for some of the older Legacy platforms, we had an instance last year or the year before, even with Windows phones. They were no longer supported. Similar with [inaudible 00:09:09] operating systems that were no longer supported or very bespoke Legacy systems that have been developed in some industries to support their very specific workflows. And making Gamification work in these environments is sometimes a challenge, sometimes tricky and sometimes outright not possible.

I think the trend for multi device and that means Mac, PC, iOS, Android, those things will keep increasing. But integrating things like machinery through interfaces that work with the machines, interfaces that work with points of sales software or tools will be on the increase. I think multi-device, multi-platform, cross platform is something as Gamification practitioners, we cannot go around and if you are a platform provider, your APIs, your SDKs need to be able to connect with many platforms and perform equally well on all of them.

Artificial intelligence and adaptivity

The next trend shouldn’t come as a surprise and is probably again an extension from one of the trends we spotted last year and that is artificial intelligence and adaptivity. Now adaptivity is an algorithmic based construction that basically allows for a gamification or a game to adapt to the ability of the user and the performance of the user. So if you do well, it should make it harder for you so you remain challenged. If you do badly, it should make it slightly easier for you so you can catch up and also learn what’s most important for you or where you next need to focus. So I think those integrations are seeing their way into more and more applications. I know in the past year quite a number of platforms have received generous funding to build this internet platforms. Going forward, I think we cannot go around the fact that this will become a regular demand for practices.

If you are still working on a one size fits all products or style gamification, I urge you to start looking into tools that make personalization adaptation possible because I think your users expect more. Of course, ask your users both their systems that they play with at home. The systems that they use on their way into work from social media to games, all are adaptive in most cases. All give very personalized feedback, personalized messages, et cetera. So one size fits all I think is on the way out. But artificial intelligence on the way in, the key thing to realize with artificial intelligence and gamification is that one can train the other. So a lot of artificial intelligence improves with true machine learning. Machine learning often uses game mechanics to get the feedback for the machine to improve and get better. A game mechanics like upvoting downvoting plus one minus one or like a dislike different emojis.

Those are the kinds of feedback mechanisms not algorithms use or machine learning uses to improve the algorithm that’s inside and behind everything. It also poses a risk. And this is something that I think from an ethical perspective we need to be mindful of is that it could technically drive for a very one sided and very one spectrum focused experience. For example, if we choose to only be friends with people that like us are like us, think like us and behave like us, we start living more and more in a bubble. So having some way of encouraging people to engage with differences of opinions, different viewpoints and world points, I think from an ethical perspective will be something that we have to monitor as humans in how we structure our artificial intelligence, especially when it comes to the workplace. And I think that’s where our social media platforms aren’t doing enough at this point.

Some are taking some right moves, but some of the big ones are still lagging well behind in that space. So ethical behavior and artificial intelligence is something to watch out for. Machine learning is used to train in combination with gamification. It’s used to train in algorithms. It makes them more effective for user, but it also makes them more narrow. So be mindful of that and make sure that when you are setting them up that you keep a wide spectrum and that you may have the alternative algorithm that’s actually gives the opposite kind of information from time to time to, to test. The person is still widening their perspectives enough.

Voice-enabled gamification

Voice enabled is the next trend. I think we need to, as designers take a close look at what we bring into the home and wanting, we’ve all started getting used to is devices that we can talk to, whether it’s an Alexa or your car kits or your in phone assistants, whether it’s Google assistant or Siri, they all have a place or have found a place into our pockets, into our homes, into our toys from cars to watches, to all sorts of different things.

Sometimes even household tools. So gamification will also find a place there. This is where gamification becomes like your friend that gives you a Pat on the back. Hey, great job. Or a bit of a more abrupt saying, Hey, that didn’t go so well, did it? To remind you that you have improvements to, to make so gamification is possible even in voice technology. It just means that you have to think more like conversation more like real life. And I personally think that’s a good thing cause some of the constructs I’ve seen in gamification designs. I’ve been very, I suppose superficial, mechanical and not reflective of what would happen in real life. And one specific game mechanic comes to mind. The Poke used to be on Facebook. I’ve never ever understood it. It’s not something you would do in real life. It’s not something you would use regularly but hate ups.

Maybe just my personal perspective, but I do think a voice and conversational feedback will become a standard practice. Will it make it into the workplace? I think in those workplaces where hands-free usage is essential, yes. A lot quicker than others in workplaces where for example, knowledge based work is more topical, it will take more time.

I think those are the key trends I see for 2020. I would love to see your thoughts on it and we’d love to expand on it with you if you’re interested. And by all means, read up on our previous years. One’s on our blog, so thank you for listening. If you like it give us a good rating, and if you have further questions, we’d love to answer your question. Thank you.

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