May 4, 2010

In the name of engagement, InXpo adds game features to its platform

Computer and video games are big—and they’re on their way to becoming big in the workplace. According to the Entertainment Software Association, people in 68% of American households play computer or video games. And according to the NPD group, a global provider of consumer and retail market research information, the average number of hours gamers spend online gaming has increased to 8.0 hours per week in 2010 from 7.3 hours per week in 2009.

When you combine this with the fact that people learn—and have always learned—new skills and information by playing games and engaging in competition, it becomes clear that game concepts and mechanics are destined to be transformed into business tools. It is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Games in the workplace can increase engagement and productivity; help employees set priorities, share resources, and meet goals; facilitate team-building; and help organizations discover untapped leadership skills. (For great insights on these and other aspects of games in the workplace I highly recommend the book Total Engagement (2010) by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read. Another great book on the topic is Learning in 3D (2010) by Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll.)

InXpo recognizes this potential and is dipping a toe in the gaming waters

InXpo customers deploy the InXpo Virtual Events platform for a wide range of purposes such as trade shows, meetings and conferences, career fairs, learning and training, and persistent virtual offices. Today, InXpo announced a new offering called InXpo Social Suite. This add-on to the InXpo Virtual Events Platform, slated for general availability in early May, will incorporate games and social network integration. The thinking behind this is that by offering increasingly compelling content and activities, InXpo customers (let’s call them hosts) can increase the engagement of users (let’s call them participants), thereby obtaining benefits such as improved knowledge retention, higher customer satisfaction scores, and increased revenues.

InXpo is working with a game design team from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy to create a set of lightweight, casual computer games. The first two games InXpo will offer are a trivia challenge and word scramble. InXpo hopes to have 5 or 10 games in its library by the end of the year. Event hosts will be able to configure the games to reinforce learning objectives or advertise event sponsors’ products, for example. The system will track participants’ points and advancement in the game and list high scorers on a leaderboard.

What it means for business decision makers

If you are looking for ways to increase engagement—for example, increase the amount of time prospects spend on your Web site or attending your virtual conference or trade show, or retain employees or customers longer—adding games to your interaction portfolio may be a boon. Especially games that have a strong social element and allow people to compete with each other in a fun, challenging way.

If you feel uneasy about incorporating InXpo’s game elements into live customer interactions, start with internal trials. Perhaps hold an all-hands meeting or a regional sales meeting in the environment and solicit feedback from participants about their experiences with the game technology.

InXpo’s efforts to incorporate games and game mechanics into enterprise software isn’t new; providers of 3D enterprise immersive software have been offering game mechanics in their products for several years. But the launch of InXpo Social Suite is another sign that the market is driving immersive software toward richer, more engaging environments, regardless of underlying technology.

Erica Driver

Erica Driver was a co-founder and principal at ThinkBalm. She is a leading industry analyst and consultant with 15 years of experience in the software industry. She is quoted in mainstream and industry trade press including the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CIO, and Computerworld. Prior to co-founding ThinkBalm, Erica was a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where she launched the company’s Web3D coverage as part of her enterprise collaboration research. She was also the co-conspirator behind Forrester’s Information Workplace concepts and research. Prior to her tenure at Forrester, she was a Director at Giga Information Group (now part of Forrester) and an analyst at Hurwitz & Associates. She began her career in IT as a system administrator and Lotus Notes developer. Erica is a graduate of Harvard University.