那么所谓的“游戏化”指的到底是什么？所谓游戏化，指的就是利用从视频游戏中借鉴的科技手段来吸引顾客。《超级玛丽》（Super Mario）中的闯关机制和游戏金币就是一个例子，它们能促使玩家不断前进，积累奖励。应用到商业上，游戏化的目的就是要使人们反复购买更多的产品和服务。上个月在纽约召开的第二届年度游戏化峰会（Gamification Summit）上，来自微软（Microsoft）、美国运通（American Express）、家得宝（Home Depot）等企业的代表与最早采用游戏化策略的企业家们——如个人理财网站Mint.com的艾伦•佛斯和采取秒杀模式的电子商务网站吉尔特集团（Gilt Group）的亚里山德拉•威尔基斯•威尔森等进行了座谈，希望能从他们那里取到真经。Mint.com和吉尔特集团的服务都深受消费者欢迎，而且增长得十分迅速。他们的服务之所以会取得成功，多多少少都离不开游戏化的帮助。
Badgeville网络公司的首席执行官克里斯•杜根说：吉尔特集团成功的秘诀就是令顾客觉得他们“马上要赢了”。Badgeville公司主要为Bluefly网站、环球音乐集团（Universal Music Group）、Beat the GMAT和德勤会计事务所（Deloitte）等企业客户建立游戏机制。杜根称，这种游戏机制的关键是要影响顾客的行为，而不是简单地根据客户的品牌创造一个游戏。本次游戏化峰会的主持人，行业博客Gamification.co的主笔、作家盖布•兹切曼称：现在许多目标顾客都把游戏当成了一种核心体验，这不仅有助于产品的普及，也有助于让人了解游戏机制和游戏的区别。同时，地理定位网站FourSquare和社交游戏开发商Zynga的成功也让高管们相信采用游戏机制的商业策略是可以赚到钱的。
"It's very much like the Wild West," Brayden Olson, founder of Novel Inc., says emphatically. "There's gold out there, gold for anyone, but a lot of companies are not going to find it." Olson's describing the burgeoning field of gamification. The term was barely known eighteen months ago, and you're not likely to find it in any dictionary. But, suddenly, gamification is the hot new business concept, with many of the world's most admired companies signing on.
So what is it? Gamification -- pronounced "game-if-ication" -- is an attempt to engage customers using techniques glommed from video games. Think the levels and coins in Super Mario, which create a building sense of progress and reward. Applied to business, gamification promises to make more people buy more products and services, on a repeat basis. At the second annual Gamification Summit in New York City last month, 400 guests representing companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), American Express (AXP) and Home Depot (HD), rubbed shoulders with early adopters like personal finance site Mint.com's Aaron Forth and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson of flash-sale e-commerce site Gilt Groupe. Big business wants in on what Forth and Wilson know. They both help run popular and rapidly growing services that rely, in part, on game mechanics to drive their success.
Since 2007 Gilt Groupe, for example, has offered short-term online sales of designer clothes to its members. Its discounts can be as much as 60% off list price. While Gilt's profitability is largely derived from its low cost structure, its real success has been deeply engaging customers through a series of game-like elements that keep users coming back. The short-term nature of the sales, for one, creates an incentive to snap up deals quickly. And because new sales are launched daily, many customers develop a routine around Gilt. At noon every weekday, thousands of urbane customers around the country momentarily put aside their lunch plans to browse the site's newly available wares. Big spenders may be invited to Gilt Noir, with access to previews, special events and sales, and a concierge-like customer service number. (Read more about Gilt boss Susan Lyne here.)
Gilt's secret sauce is to make consumers feel like they are "almost winning," says Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, a company that provides game mechanics to clients such as Bluefly, Universal Music Group, Beat the GMAT and Deloitte. The key, according to Duggan, is to influence behavior, not to simply make a game sporting a client's brand. Many target consumers have now grown up with gaming as a central experience, says author Gabe Zichermann, who as head of Gamification.co chaired the September summit. That's helped not only adoption, but also understanding of the difference between game mechanics and games full-stop. The success of FourSquare and Zynga, meanwhile, helped convince the C-suite that there was money to be made adopting game-like tactics.