G-List Interview: Rajat Paharia

G-List Interview: Rajat Paharia

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As part of our G-List – the who’s-who of the gamification space – we will be holding weekly Tweetups with some of the awesome speakers and guests of our upcoming Gamification Summit in New York. We will be holding a series of streaming interviews via Twitter. Follow @gamificationco for updates and submit questions with hashtag #gsummit.

Below is our interview with have Rajat Paharia, CPO of Bunchball. Read on for insights into gamification’s roots in social gaming and its future in business.

Edited for readability

Rajat PahariaRAJAT PAHARIA Rajat Paharia is the founder and Chief Product Officer of Bunchball. He founded the company in 2005, and released the industry’s first gamification platform, Nitro, in 2007. Rajat works closely with Bunchball’s Fortune 500 clients to craft gamification strategies that engage customers, partners and employees, including companies like NBC, Warner Brothers, Comcast and Hewlett-Packard. Rajat’s skill set combines a unique expertise in technology and design developed during a four-year career at design firm IDEO, with a deep understanding of human behavior and motivation stemming from advanced degrees in computer science and human-computer interaction.
gamificationco
Our tweetup w/ @Bunchball CPO @rajatrocks starts in ~15min. Submit Qs to @gamificationco with #gsummit or follow at http://j.mp/pAqcxC
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

Today I’m doing an interview w/ @GamificationCo via Twitter Ask Qs w/ #gsummit or follow at gamification.co/live
gamificationco
@rajatrocks Thanks for joining us! Q1: To kick things off could you talk about Bunchball’s origin as a social gaming platform?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

I started Bunchball in early 2005 as a social gaming company.
Rajat PahariaWe were a little ahead of the market. Facebook’s platform didn’t launch until 2007. There are definite downsides to being too early to market. I had just left IDEO, a design an innovation company. And had realized that there was a big gap in the market.
Rajat PahariaThat it was really easy to play online by yourself, or with strangers, but really hard to play online with your family and friends. Seemed like a great opportunity, so we built the Bunchball Games platform. And were trying to sell it to all the social networks and dating sites. I actually even went to the iDate conference in Florida 🙂 But nobody was buying. Nobody believed that gaming was going to be the killer app layered on top of the social graph.
Rajat PahariaBeing early = being wrong. Timing is a hard thing 🙂
gamificationco
Great answer. Q2: Outside of the oft-cited game-mechanics, how else have social games influenced #gamification today?
Rajat Paharia  

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

Social games have demonstrated to large quantities of people the power of satisfying our fundamental human needs for reward, status, achievement, competition, self-expression, and altruism (gifting). Hundreds of millions of people now have witnessed firsthand the power of satisfying these needs, and how they can drive real business value.
Rajat PahariaThere’s so much innovation happening in social games, that it’s a great field to watch and learn from – both for good examples and bad ones – about how not to treat your users.
gamificationco
Q3: You mentioned rewards. Have they dominated #gamification projects so far? How about real vs virtual rewards?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

Rather than talking about rewards, we should talk about “meaningful value”. Users engaging in a gamification program need to get meaningful value out of it. That can be status, it can be a reward, it can be early access to content, it can be dollars.
Rajat PahariaVirtual or real, it doesn’t matter. It just needs to be appropriate for the context, and meaningful to the users who are engaging. For fans of Lady Gaga, early access to content, exclusive access to content, insider knowledge, etc. would all be more valuable than dollars. And “virtual” rewards can be just as meaningful, if not more so, than “real” rewards.
gamificationco
Q4: Including the above and as #gamification develops, which features will help make campaigns unique for each brand?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

#Gamification is about taking a core experience that already exists, that has some inherent, intrinsic value to it already, and driving engagement, participation, and loyalty around it. So you have to have something of value already there – if you have a news site and you don’t have fresh news every day, no amount of gamification is going to help you.
Rajat Paharia
Since this “core” is different for every business, that’s the key differentiator. There are only so many ways to use points. But there are thousands of different experiences to wrap points around. And that’s what makes each program unique. The program that we did for Top Chef 8 is different than the one we did for the Real Housewives of Atlanta, is different than what we did for distributed call center company LiveOps, is different from our new Nitro for Salesforce application.
gamificationco
Q5: How do you see #gamification developing in the next 18 months?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

It’s going to continue to edge closer to the top of Gartner’s hype curve 🙂 You’ll notice that they coded it with a 5-10 year horizon before it hits the mainstream, so it’s still early days. I think we’re going to continue to see #gamification work it’s way into more traditional industries, and into companies.
Rajat PahariaMost sectors could benefit from some “game thinking” around how they’re approaching user, customer, and employee engagement. In the consumer space we’ll see a lot of bad gamification – because people think they can just copy foursquare and it’ll work. They won’t really understand the underlying motivators driving people to engage. And people are smart, they won’t engage if the program is lame. So you’ll see the bad stuff disappear.
Rajat PahariaIt’s an exciting time. An emerging industry with a lot of potential. The next 18 months will be fun.
gamificationco
Q6: From @SFgamify: [With] lots of providers emerging in [the] #gamification space, what will be the biggest differentiator for @bunchball in the next year?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

@sfgamify – Our biggest differentiators are our experience and our platform. We created the industry (along with Al Gore) in 2007. We’ve been the thought leaders–we do talks, we issue white papers, we’re on panels; we’re pushing gamification forward; we have a 4 year head start on the competitors, and that means a platform that’s more mature, robust, proven and flexible; And a team that knows more than anyone else in the world about how to best use gamification for different applications, because we’ve been living and breathing it every day. For a long time.
Rajat PahariaI’m a firm believer that companies have DNA, and that DNA is set by the founders. Our DNA is to innovate, to push the boundaries, to be where the puck is going to be, rather than where it is or was. And so we’re going to continue to push the industry and the field forward. Our customers get the benefit of our platform, our expertise, and the future-proofing that we provide.
gamificationco
Last Q7: In less than 140 chars, why is #gamification important to @Bunchball?
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

With #gamification we can make user experiences better, while at the same time, driving real value for businesses.
Rajat PahariaEverybody wins! Users, businesses, and us. What’s not to like? 🙂
gamificationco
Great answers! Thank you, Rajat, for joining us to chat.
Rajat Paharia

rajatrocks Rajat Paharia

Thanks for inviting me! Looking forward to the NYC Summit!

 

For past interviews,

 

Gamification Co will be hosting it’s second Gamification Summit in New York on September 15-16. Join keynotes and design intensives from top businesses and creative professionals to learn how the new science of engagement is rewriting the rules of product design. For Gamification Blog readers, use discount code GCOBLOG for 25% off at http://gsummit.com/register. We look forward to seeing you there!



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