The Impact of Funware & Gamification on Video Game Developers
When gamification and funware made its way into the cultural lexicon back in 2008, Dan Takahashi wrote a piece for GamesBeat discussing funware as a threat to the traditional video game industry.
Several years later, the dust has settled enough to give us a better idea of exactly how gamification will affect the gaming industry and video game developers (not to mention entertainment, social media, and business as a whole). Will gamification alter the video game industry? Absolutely. Will it change the industry as Takahashi expected and many game designers feared? Probably not.
Gamification is here to stay, and it will change game developers' lives. But certainly for the better.
The Initial Fears
In 2008, Dean Takahashi warned that funware "just might steal the thunder from video games, which may no longer have a monopoly on either interactivity or fun."
He argued that new platforms such as Facebook and smartphones pose new places to play that will compete for video gamers' time, money and attention. He cited gamificaiton expert Gabe Zichermann who claimed that funware is the first thing to pose direct competition to video games.
Takahashi also pointed out that most of the earliest manifestations of funware were not created by game developers, but rather internet and social network entrepreneurs.
Is Gamificaiton Really a Threat?
Gamificaiton is hardly a threat to the video game industry.
For one thing, the industry continues to grow at a healthy pace. In 2010, the very same Dean Takahashi cited market researcher DFC Intelligence's prediction that the video game industry is expected to hit $70 billion by the year 2015, though growth is expected to slow. A bit of slowed growth is par for the course- all industries reach a certain level of saturation over time. That there is continued growth at all these days is a good sign.
If anything threatens the video game industry, it will not be gamificaiton. Gamification relates to the video game industry just like an increase in letters related to the invention of the printing press. Gamification results, to a great extent, from the rise of gaming culture, and is a successful movement because we are more and more attuned to and comfortable with gaming mechanics.
Gamification is actually a boon to video game designers and developers who may wish to branch out as the video game industry matures. Gamification creates opportunities for game designers and game developers in alternate industries that never existed before by creating a huge demand for experts in game design and game mechanics.
Will gamers cast aside video games in favor of funware? Probably not. While funware is interesting and compelling, it does not provide the transformative escape that most video games offer because it is based in reality. In short, the video game industry need not fear gamificaiton. In all fairness, those in the industry should do everything they can to leverage it instead.
Implications for Game Developers
Video game developers need not feel threatened - the video game industry is not going anywhere. Nevertheless, video game industry folks ought to consider branching out into gamification.
Video game developers and designers stand to benefit a great deal from considering game design as it might apply to the real world. There is immense room for growth, innovation, and exploration in the field of gamification, and video game experts have a strategic advantage compared to other professionals interested in developing funware. Why not start dabbling around in it?
Below is an excellent February 2011 Google Tech Talk by Sebastian Deterding on getting gamification right. It provides an excellent guide to not only game developers but anyone interested in applying game mechanics to everyday activities. If you're a video game designer or developer, consider this as starting point - you have much to gain from going further.