Bringing Games to the Enterprise: How Microsoft Ribbon Hero Makes Productivity Engaging,...

Bringing Games to the Enterprise: How Microsoft Ribbon Hero Makes Productivity Engaging, Part I


After a delicious lunch, Sarah Faulkner from Microsoft showed up to talk about Gamification – after all Gartner Group is predicting that over 50% of the world’s largest companies will be actively gamifying by 2015. With millions of users playing Ribbon Hero to interact with its Office suite, Microsoft has pulled off a coup – making a “utility” experience fun and engaging. Now with the release of Ribbon Hero II, she is here to tell us how they did it, the key B2B lessons and the key techniques for successfully getting Gamification into your enterprise.

In early 2009 Microsoft leaders came together to discuss how they could gamify Office. What problems could be solved? What if learning Office was as fun as playing Angry Birds? That was in the early stages of development.

Faulkner shares a video of Ribbon Hero II, but when it fails to play she quips, “It starts automatically on a PC,” and gets a laugh. The user is brought into a colorful game board that contain challenges that teach the user how to use, for example, PowerPoint animation.

The first thing they had to do to develop their software was to gather expertise, first of all in Office – something the team had. But, second of all, they’d need experts in games. So they sought out game designers from Microsoft Game Studios. Then they had to brainstorm ideas– broadly and for a long time. What would work and what wouldn’t?

The User Knows Best – So they went to the user using hundreds of paper prototypes. They used a cowbell, literally, to bring in people from around the office to play the game. They wanted to see if the user understood the UI. Also, what would the user do or click on? The team would watch these users progress through the game. Then they had to decide, was it fun?

At the end of the challenge balloons stream up, and users love it.

From there they began to converge on the fun. They built higher fidelity mock ups and got even more detailed feedback.

In Ribbon Hero there are 3 ways to get points – watch a movie, read the help section, or do the challenges. Nearly 100% of people chose challenges (but only if they were invested in the game). No amount of points will motivate a player that is not invested.

Tweaking the game experience – design, color – led to a LOT more feedback and engaged many more users.



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