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Summary:

Gamification is growing up. First it got its own conference, a new certification program and now consolidation. BigDoor, a gamified loyalty platform used in hundreds of websites, is announcing it’s buying up web check-in rewards provider OneTrueFan.

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Gamification is growing up. First it got its own conference, a new certification program and now consolidation. BigDoor, a gamified loyalty platform, is announcing it’s buying up web check-in rewards provider OneTrueFan.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, but BigDoor CEO and Co-Founder Keith Smith believes it’s the first big acquisition in the gamification space and shows there’s growing momentum behind companies looking to add game mechanics. Or it could mean the opportunity just isn’t big enough yet to support a host of players. Time will tell.

Seattle-based BigDoor got started in 2009 and has been one of the leaders in the gamification space along with Badgeville and Bunchball. It has several hundred clients using a free product to add badges, levels, leaderboards and loyalty programs to promote engagement. By scooping up San Francisco-based OneTrueFan, it can reach thousands more websites that have installed OneTrueFan’s web check-in tools. It also gets a big social component from OneTrueFan, which rewards visitors with points and badges for sharing content on social networks.

Smith said BigDoor is poised to release a new product called Engagement Economy next month that will incorporate technology from OneTrueFan, which will also continue on its current form for now. Engagement Economy will reward visitors for participation with virtual currency from publishers, which can be redeemed, and BigDoor will take a cut of that. The company will also implement quests sponsored by advertisers, who will pay to have consumers complete certain tasks on a site.

Smith said while some detractors still roll their eyes at the term “gamification,” it’s actually paying off for companies that employ it. He said publishers that participated in a private beta of Engagement Economy found that participants are 300 percent more likely to return to the site than those who don’t use a loyalty program, and their overall engagement increases on site by 30 percent. And he said there’s a 200-percent increase in sharing by users of BigDoor’s reward programs.

“There’s an incredible need by publishers and the web community for increased engagement on site and to give people reasons to come back,” Smith said. “We’ve been shocked at how positive the response has been from the marketplace for our product offering. It’s a sign that gamification and our program is in massive demand.”

BigDoor not only picks up a potential competitor but also acquires a solid team of entrepreneurs. OneTrueFan is founded by Eric Marcoullier and Todd Sampson, who co-founded social network MyBlogLog before selling it to Yahoo. Marcoullier also co-founded gaming site IGN.com in 1996 and social data provider Gnip in 2008. Sampson also co-founded Cloudspace in 1996. OneTrueFan has previously raised $1.2 million from Dave McClure, Jeff Clavier, First Round Capital, David Cohen and Bob Pasker. BigDoor last year raised $5 million from Foundry Group, bringing its total to $5.7 million.

I’ve pointed out some of the pitfalls of gamification when implemented haphazardly, but I think it’s more than just hype. These days it’s all about engagement, whether on websites or in apps, and a certain amount of people respond to game mechanics. It might be manipulative or shallow at times, but when done well, with hopefully tangible rewards, it can really motivate people. We’ll have to see if BigDoor can take its acquisition of OneTrueFan and make good on this opportunity.

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