The Games Companies Play

Here is a Special Report written by Rachael King and featured online by Bloomberg Businessweek. To read the complete article, please click here.

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Siemens, Hilton, and Target are using games to train workers and improve how they design and market products

Siemens (SI) is pinning high hopes on Pete. A cheery fellow, Pete wears a yellow hard hat with his name emblazoned across the front. He’s polite and eager to lend a hand. He’s also animated: Pete the Plant Manager stars in a new online video game from Siemens called Plantville that simulates what it’s like to run a manufacturing facility. The aim is to take three dilapidated factories and make them more efficiently meet customer orders by hiring employees, redesigning layout, and buying and installing new Siemens equipment.

Germany’s Siemens, which makes power plants, scanners, and trains, created the game to fuel equipment sales and foster greater employee knowledge of its products. “Employees are sometimes siloed in their business units and don’t see the breadth and depth of our portfolio,” says Tom Varney, head of marketing communications at Siemens Industry. The company joins a growing roster of enterprises as diverse as Hilton Worldwide’s Embassy Suites hotel chain and German software maker SAP (SAP), which are using technologies that make games interesting in order to interact more effectively with customers and employees.

The trend, known as gamification, lets businesses weave elements of games into applications that otherwise have little to do with playing. The market for gamification will grow to $1.6 billion in 2015, from $100 million in 2011, according to Wanda Meloni, founder of M2 Research, a consulting firm that researches the gaming industry.

Companies such as Cold Stone Creamery and United Parcel Service (UPS) have for years used games for such tasks as training workers. Gamification is now letting managers push aspects of gaming into marketing, product design, and everyday work experience. It’s also helping companies compensate for shortfalls in traditional forms of advertising and marketing, says Gabe Zichermann, chief executive officer of Gamification, a company that runs workshops for businesses that want to implement a gamification strategy. “What we have is a crisis of engagement,” he says.


Nissan Motor (NSANY) brought gamification to its new electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf. The automaker uses the technology to help drivers conserve fuel. When the car is driven in so-called eco mode, its accelerator contains a counter push-back control mechanism that is activated when it detects excess pressure. The feature informs drivers that they’re using more power than required. An online portal connected to the car’s dashboard also lets drivers know how well they’re conserving energy, compared with other drivers in the region. The most efficient drivers are given virtual bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals.

Similarly, cashiers at Target (TGT) receive a score each time they check out a customer. The score is based on the transaction’s speed, with the checkout system also calculating the cashier’s success rate over multiple transactions.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Rachel King is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.


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