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Badgeville Introduces Social Gaming Engine, Widgets

Gamification tools encourage user loyalty by bringing badges and virtual rewards to any website or mobile experience.

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Badges and virtual rewards for participation and achievement are increasingly common on social websites, and a startup has launched tools that it says it will make it easier to add those features to any website.

On Tuesday, Badgeville released its Dynamic Game Engine and an accompanying Gamification Widget Studio. Provided as a hosted Web service, the game engine tracks and scores user activity, based on the business logic dictated by the application. That can include rules that reward activities completed within a given timeframe, or the completion of a mission.

Badgeville said the software can also work across a network of websites and provide a consistent experience across web, mobile, and social sites. The widget studio helps website owners generate common user interface widgets such as leader boards, activity streams, and user showcases. Badges for different accomplishments can be customized to match website and business branding. While most rule and widget generation can be accomplished through the administrative user interface, Badgeville also provides an application programming interface that developers can use if they need to customize the system at a deeper level.

Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan said his target market reaches far beyond the companies who are hosting actual online games. "Loyalty is actually the goal--user engagement and behavioral engagement," he said in an interview. "Gamification is about using techniques from gaming and social gaming to motivate and inspire consumer behavior." Users can be recognized for doing the things they are doing anyway, like commenting on or recommending articles, and that recognition will tend to drive more of the desirable behavior, he said.

Other social software companies that embrace gamification techniques include Lithium Technologies, which encourages the use of user rankings and recognitions as a way of stimulating participation in its online communities. Duggan said Badgeville is working with some Lithium customers who want to take that concept farther and "expose that reputational layer across everything the brand touches."

One early customer is Beat the GMAT, a social network for people who are preparing to take the business graduate school entrance exams. Founder Eric Bahn and CEO David Park said they launched Badgeville on their site last week and have already seen a jump in user engagement and participation on the website, which is supported by advertising and partnerships.

"At the core, we want to make studying for the GMAT and applying to business school fun. We think it's possible to do that," Park said. "So we're giving people little rewards and incentives to get them to do the things that will help them do better on the exam." Beat the GMAT is also experimenting with prizes and promotions to drive traffic and incentives for tagging articles and forum posts, to make the website better indexed and easier to search.

The website already had some gamification features, such as a ranking of the people who participated most in the discussion forums. "Could we have extended what we had? Sure, that's what we were planning to do," Park said. But Badgeville added a richer set of features and a more flexible framework for managing rewards and promotions, he said. "In one day, we launched 120-plus badges based on 30 different behaviors. There's no way we could have done that on our own with a very small budget."

Enterprise software companies such as SAP are also beginning to take an interest in how they might incorporate gamification techniques into their applications, Duggan said. Deloitte recently signed on as a Badgeville customer to experiment with ways of incentivizing consultant performance, he said.

"We say, if you can record it, you can reward it. All you need is some kind of digital signal that the behavior has occurred, and then you can track it, optimize it, and incentivize it," Duggan said.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Boston to see the latest social business tools and technologies. Register with code CPBJEB03 and save $100 off conference passes or for a free expo pass. It happens June 20-23. Find out more.

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