"Gamification Gone Wrong: Lessons from Failed Projects and the Future of Search"


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 29, 2023

4 min read


"Gamification Gone Wrong: Lessons from Failed Projects and the Future of Search"


In the ever-evolving world of technology, gamification has become a popular strategy for engaging users and driving desired behaviors. However, not every gamification attempt is successful. In this article, we will explore 10 examples of failed gamification projects and the valuable lessons we can learn from them. Additionally, we will delve into the future of search and how it can be transformed into a more engaging and personalized experience.

Pokémon Go: Engaging but Not Sustaining:

Pokémon Go took the world by storm, captivating millions with its immersive gameplay. However, the game struggled to maintain long-term engagement. While it successfully tapped into the nostalgia of 90s kids and created a collector's mindset, it failed to provide sufficient motivation beyond catching Pokémon. The constant need for rewards and the feeling of being forced to go outside eventually led to a decline in user interest.

Frequent Flyer Programs: Adding Gamification Elements Isn't Enough:

Many frequent flyer programs attempted to incorporate gamification elements such as award and status miles. However, simply adding these elements did not make the experience exceptionally fun or engaging. These programs failed to tie these elements together cohesively and set the bar too high for users to achieve interesting rewards.

Classroom Gamification: Focusing Solely on Points, Leaderboards, and Badges:

One common mistake in implementing gamification in the classroom is solely focusing on points, leaderboards, and badges. By neglecting to insert real motivation into the student's study cycle, these gamified experiences often fall flat. True engagement requires a deeper understanding of what motivates individuals to learn and progress.

Google News: Meaningless Badges:

Google News attempted to incorporate badges as rewards for user activity. However, these badges lacked any real meaning or value to the users. As a result, many users quit using Google News because they didn't see the purpose in displaying their reading habits.

Zappos: Lack of Value Explanation for Rewards:

In Zappos' attempt at gamification, badges, levels, and points were introduced without properly explaining their value. This lack of clarity left users confused about how to earn and utilize these rewards effectively. Without understanding the purpose behind the rewards, users were left unengaged.

Sales Contests at Telecom Companies: Unmotivating for Lower-Ranked Employees:

Sales contests in telecom companies often offer rewards to the top-ranked performers. However, this approach fails to motivate lower-ranked employees who see the competition as too fierce. Unless there is a dire consequence for not participating, these employees often choose not to engage, leading to missed opportunities.

Wuppermann Steel: Focusing on Highlighting Failures:

Highlighting failures as a form of competition can be demoralizing and frustrating for employees. When there is no emphasis on rewards and the focus is solely on what went wrong, employees can become disengaged and lose motivation.

Disney's Gamification: Creating Unreasonable Pace:

Disney's attempt at gamification in the workplace resulted in a competitive environment where employees felt pressured to race to the top. This created frustration among those who believed that a reasonable pace should be enough to satisfy their superiors. Balancing competition and collaboration is crucial for a successful gamified experience.

Foursquare: Discouraging Users with Unattainable Achievements:

Foursquare's gamification approach suffered from a flaw where some users had checked in so many times that it became impossible for others to become major players. When there is no room for progression, users lose interest and quit. Providing a dynamic and attainable ladder of achievement is key to long-term engagement.

Mariott: Lack of Explanation for Employee Engagement:

Mariott's gamification efforts fell short due to a lack of proper education for employees. Without understanding the "why" behind the game, employees were not motivated or engaged enough to participate. Clear communication and demonstrating the benefits of engagement are vital for successful gamification in the workplace.

The Future of Search: A Trillion Dollar Opportunity:

While examining failed gamification projects, we must also look ahead to the future of search. Subjective searches, those without cut and dry answers, make up a significant portion of search activity. The next generation of search engines will provide more engaging, personal, and contextualized experiences. Features like downvoting and upvoting results, social integration, and personalized search bots will revolutionize how we find information.


Learning from failed gamification projects allows us to uncover valuable insights and avoid common pitfalls. By focusing on intrinsic motivation, clearly defining the value of rewards, and promoting healthy competition, we can create engaging gamified experiences. Furthermore, the future of search holds immense potential for transforming how we discover and interact with information. As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for gamification and search are truly limitless.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Design gamified experiences with intrinsic motivation in mind, avoiding over-reliance on constant rewards.
  • 2. Clearly communicate the value of rewards to users, ensuring they understand how to earn and utilize them effectively.
  • 3. Embrace the future of search by exploring innovative features such as social integration, personalized search bots, and interactive elements that enhance engagement.

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