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What platform to choose?Implementing a holistic enterprise gamification strategy cannot be done without selecting a gamification platform. The gamification platform will be a crucial piece for the success of a corporate gamification strategy, as the tracking of achievements of all players (employees, 3rd party employees, customers) and the implementation of rules and goals will be administered through such a platform.

A number of gamification platform providers with different specialization and range of features is available. Depending on the focus of your specific enterprise gamification strategy, some platforms and business models will be a better fit. To help in finding the right platform, a list of criteria has to be checked and evaluated. This document clusters the most common questions raised during the definition of the enterprise strategy into nine categoris: game mechanics, functionality, programmability, security, administration, platform architecture, a number of nun-functional requirements, business model and company profile.

Game mechanics

Although there are at least 47 game mechanics as listed on SCVNGR, only a subset of them can be supported by a gamification platform. Others, especially those less tangible ones need to be implemented through other means. Some of the "more tangible" ones are listed here.

  • Rank/Levels/Achievements: What are the features to display rank, levels and achievements to indivual players and teams
  • Currencies: These are counters with a comparison against goal or KPI. They usually can be used for exchange for other goods, either virtual and/or real-world.
  • Measures: These are counters with a comparison against goal or KPI. They are usually used to reflect the current status of the player or game.
  • Feedback: How and by whom can feedback be provided and how immediate is the loop?
  • Individual Avatar: The ability for a player to design an individual avatar.
  • Communication System: Does the platform support integrated synchronous or asynchronous communication systems (e.g., instant messaging, blogs, discussion panels, team chats, global chats)?
  • 3D Environment: Does the platform provide an authoring option for 3D environments?
  • Marketplace: Does a marketplace exists where users can trade virtual goods into currency and vice versa?
  • Economy: Is there an underlying economy which is customizable. E.g., is it possible to customize the trade of currencies, determine purchase/sales prices etc.?
  • Teams: The ability to set up teams, have teams compete against each other, define team rewards.
  • Time Pressure: Can goals be solved under a given time period?
  • Competition: Are leaderboards, individual challenges, etc. available through the platform?
  • Difficulty adaption: Can goals/missions be created, which increase in difficulty and which can be maintained?
  • Learning Path: Is there immediate feedback for the player, showing how much has to be done to finish the current mission?
  • Fun Failure: Are there possibilities to detect player failures and to give positive failure feedback based on the current situation?
    The failures must be observed by the platform, because the rule engine has to detect injuries against rules or missions in order to provide immediate positive feedback. 
  • Social Connectivity: Are there any possibilities to connect players on a social basis (masters with rookies, location based, friends, etc.)?
  • Meaning/Purpose: Is it possible to reflect the individuals' contribution/advance towards a higher goal, which is only solvable within a larger group of people?

Functionality

  • Default currencies: What are the default virtual currencies available?
  • Default Achievements/Badges: What are the default achievements and badges available?
  • Disctinction between Currencies & Measures: How are currencies and measured differentiated?
  • Currency Transactions: What are the available transactions for currencies?
  • Customizability of Currencies/Levels/Badges/Goods: How well can currencies/levels/badges/goods be customized?
  • Customizability of Goals/Rules: How can goals and rules be adapted?
  • Repository for Mechanics/Missions/Artifacts: Is there a central repository for artifacts, such as images, animations, etc. available?
  • Goals & Rules Engine: This is the engine which is maintaining goals and rules for the "game". The engine checks, if players are compliant with the rules and gives immediate feedback (e.g., points/levels based on the rules).
  • Transaction Engine: The engine which converts earned currencies into virtual goods/badges.
  • Data Push: Does the platform allow for push notifications?
  • Data Location: Where is the data stored?
  • Integration with ERP system: Is a synchronisation of players/users in gamified ERP system and the platform possible? Same is valid for organizations (e.g. teams) in ERP system with groups in platform.

Programmability

  • API Access: Are APIs available and accessible for developers?
  • API Libraries: How can APIs be accessed and where is the documentation?
  • Complexity: What's the size of the API library?
  • Extension concept: Is there a way to extend the gamification platform through plugins/extensions, like Eclipse or CMS (Joomla...) allow?

Security

  • Confidentiality: Is the communication between client and server encrypted in order to prevent eavesdropping, man in the middle or similar attacks?
  • Integrity: Is data integrity ensured?
  • Availability: What is the percentage that the SLA guarantees (in case the platform provides the services in a Saas Model)?
  • Access Control: Does the infrastructure provide meachnisms for access control lists or capabilities?
  • Data Authenticity: Is there a data authentication mechanism?
  • Player Authenticity: Is there a user authentication mechanism?
  • Single Sign On: Does the platform support typical Single Sign-On paradigms (e.g., NTLM)

Administration

  • Analytics: What predefined reports are available? Can custom reports/queries be created? What's the analytical engine behind that (OLAP)?
  • Separator of Duties: In an on-demand model: what features for company/organization (rules) vs. features for player (challlenges) are available?
  • Administrator levels: Can players on a certain status (masters) be made to administrators and create new levels/challenges/missions without disruption of the overall design?

Architecture

  • Infrastructure: How does the infrastructure of the platform look like (e.g., numbers of servers, databases, load balancers, used middleware)?
  • Databases: Which databases are used in the backend? Which database optimization approaches are taken?
  • Operating Systems: Which operating systems are used?
  • Scalability: How does the platform scale with 100, 1000, 10000 or more players in the scope of one gamified solution/multiple solutions?
  • Delivery Model: What are the delivery/interaction models between a client and the infrastructure (Saas/On Demand, On Premise, Hybrid)?
  • Security: What are security approaches along the architecture stack? Is end-to-end security ensured? Does the platform allow standardized security mechanism, e.g. Kerberos, LDAP?
  • Interoperability: What are the interoperability concepts used by the platform (e.g., protocols, interfaces, data)?
  • Backup / High Availability: How is data loss prevented and how is High Availability (HA) ensured? What are typical measures such as MTBF (failure time) or MTTR (recovery time)?

Non-functional Requirements

  • Accessibility: Is the platform able to support visually or hearing impaired users?
  • Documentation: What forms of documentation for developers/players/administrators are available?
  • Localization: Are texts displayed, data and formats localizable?
  • Maintainability: How often is the platform scheduled for software patches and updates?
  • Open Source: Are there any open source components used within the platform? If yes, which licenses are used and how are they approved?
  • Integration: What integration with other platforms is available?
  • Response Time: What are the average response times on average on a specific amount of players?
  • Community: Is there a specific gamification platform community, where administrators can exchange best practices, ask questions etc.?

Business Model

  • Licensing: What is the license model (per user, per transaction, per data volume)?

Company Profile

  • Development/Support Team Structure: How are support and development teams organized, and structured? How large are they?
  • Reference Customers: Which customers or projects (name, size) exist as reference?
  • Roadmap/Strategy: Qualitative description how the roadmap/strategy looks for the future.

Summary

This checklist certainly is only an incomplete guide for any organization evaluating gamification platform providers. Most of the items on the checklist may be irrelevant for a specific situation, others very important, and additional items not mentioned here could be crucial. However, going through such a list makes the services provided more transparent and the decision about which platform vendor to choose easier.