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App Friday: Why Apple should gamify iPhone and the App Store


One of the most interesting iPhone apps released this week is EpicWin, which turns your daily tasks into a game. It’s part To Do list, and part RPG: you earn experience points for ticking off chores, levelling up your virtual character as you go.

It’s amazing, even if it’s not the first app to investigate this kind of thing – an app called Dunnit! Came out earlier this year with a similar angle, although not as polished as EpicWin.

Both apps are part of a wider trend that’s getting plenty of attention this year: gamification. The term describes the way game mechanics are being applied to the real world (for a primer, watch this excellent talk from this year’s DICE conference).

In mobile, apps like Foursquare and MyTown are already gamifying your social life, wrapping the idea of points, badges and levels around your social life. EpicWin simply applies the idea to tasks, and does it really well. But it got me thinking: what if Apple took the idea of gamification and ran with it? By which I mean applying it to the App Store, and everything that you do with your iPhone.

The company’s Game Center community could be a starting point for this, although it will only apply to games. Like Xbox Live, it’ll maintain a record of people’s progress across a broad swathe of iPhone games, with points and achievements.

But imagine a leap on from that. You’d have your general Apple profile, a running points total, achievement badges and ranks to progress through: from iNewbie to, say, iNinja.

(Yes, iNinja sounds rubbish. This plan could do with some help on the details.)

Anyway, you’d get points for downloading and/or buying apps, points for rating and reviewing them on the App Store, and points for sharing recommendations via Facebook and Twitter. There’d be badges for people who’d downloaded certain numbers of apps – a badge for your first, tenth, 20th, 50th, 100th and so on. You might get an UberGamer badge for getting a certain number of games too, for example.

This could extend to your usage of your iPhone too – points for how much time you spend using apps a day, how many emails you send, how many websites you look at or share. And it could also go right down to third-party apps, so that you’d be rewarded for exploring all the features of Facebook, say, or Twitter, or Evernote, Spotify, The Guardian…

Of course, games could filter into this too via Game Center. Let’s say every app or game can have 100 points to share between achievements as its developer likes, in much the same way that Xbox’s achievements system works.

So, you end up with a points total. So what? It’s not that interesting to know you’re the 7,286,987th most hardcore iPhone fanboy in the world. Although being able to see your score against that of your friends would be more fun. But this is where the idea of levelling up would come in, with Apple (and partner developers) offering progressively more appealing rewards for every level of user, according to this system.

Early access to beta apps and games? iPhone-branded merchandise? iTunes vouchers? A personal email from Steve Jobs when you reach iGuru status? Or even a job offer… It’s a loyalty scheme with rockets on, and it could be fun. But what do you think? Tell us your ideas for how this might work, or point out the (doubtless) gaping holes in our grand scheme.

[image credit: jeffwilcox]

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