Gamification is no game, as competition heats up between companies offering game-like techniques to increase customer and employee engagement. In its latest move to keep up with the accelerated pace of this field, Bunchball released this week the next generation of its Nitro gamification platform. 

Nitro 5.0 Studio, UI

Central to the new Nitro Version 5.0 is the Nitro Studio control center, where users can plan, build, deploy and measure their gamification efforts.

New features include a drag-and-drop user interface that is designed for ease of use in setting up activities, enhanced personalization to tailor missions for the right end users at the right time, and in-context analytics for on-demand insights into users’ motivations. Search is now universal across the platform, and the HTML5-based interface is optimized for mobile devices like the iPad.

Rajat Paharia, Bunchball’s Founder and Chief Product Officer, said in a statement that Nitro 5.0 sets “a new standard in gamification usability, by bringing consumer-level design to building, deploying and optimizing” such programs.

Bunchball 5-0.png

In a posting this week on the company’s blog, VP of Products Joe Fisher said that “people typically don’t think ‘enterprise software’ and imagine a slick, consumer-friendly experience built for a generation that wants everything to be iPad easy.” But, he added, the new version will help to change that expectation.

Gartner’s Criticism

Fisher cited a report last year from industry research firm Gartner, that predicted many gamification efforts would fail not because the tools of adding badges, points and missions were unavailable, but because companies lack the skills required to create meaningful and useful game experiences where, for instance, competition and collaboration are balanced, or end users are engaged but not overwhelmed, or the game mechanics support the company’s goals.

Fisher indicated that the answer to Gartner’s criticism is to make the operation so easy that “you can hang a sign on your platform that says, ‘Gamification guy wanted. No experience needed.’ ” He added that Nitro 5.0 is a gamification platform that is sophisticated and infinitely customizable but not complex, and users do not need to be gamification experts to get expert results.

But it’s not clear if version 5.0, or any other gamification platform, is answering Gartner’s key objection -- that it’s not the ease of use of the tools, but the quality and usefulness of the experience to the end user. Game-like experiences can seem lame, or irrelevant, or a waste of time to either employees or consumers, and good game designers know how to design gaming activities for the targeted audience and purpose.

Earlier this week, for instance, Bunchball competitor Badgeville announced integration of its Behavior Platform with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, in order to combine Adobe’s marketing metrics with Badgeville’s behavioral data.

Do new levels of data analysis, better indicating if customers are engaging in the desired behaviors, answer Gartner’s objections about the quality of game design? Can easy-to-use gamification platforms make good designers? These are key questions for gamification vendors.