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Bunchball has led the way as a pioneer in “gamification,” or creating more engagement by putting game mechanics in non-game applications. Now the company is shifting more into the enterprise market as corporate customers embrace the trend to boost sales or motivate employees. And the latest release of its platform, Nitro 5.0, reflects this shift.

nitroWith the new Nitro, Bunchball has simplified its user interface so more people in an enterprise can create their own gamification programs, where sales managers can set the rules for a gamified sales experience and then proceed to fill out an easy-to-understand menu in order to launch the campaign.

While gamification has proven its worth in anecdotal examples, skeptics are plentiful. Market research firm Gartner recently predicted that by 2014, about 80 percent of current gamified apps will fail to meet business objectives because of poor design. Bunchball begs to differ.

Nitro first launched in 2007, but it hasn’t been particularly easy to use. Now it has a full set of functions and a dashboard that makes implementing campaigns easier, said Rajat Paharia, the founder of Bunchball, in an interview with GamesBeat. By 2010, more enterprises bought into the idea of gamification, and they began adopting it. One new feature is Nitro Studio, which has a more consumer-like feel for the user interface. At the end of 2011, Bunchball’s customer base was 90 percent consumer and 10 percent employee motivation. At the end of 2012, the ratio shifted to 60 percent employee motivation and 40 percent consumer.

“It provides a dashboard to capture everything you want to know about a campaign in one easy page,” Dan Katz, the director of product management at Bunchball, told GamesBeat.

The studio features a global search capability to access information, and it makes it easy to create challenges and then come back to them later again for use as templates for campaigns. It also has a lot of analytics and notification templates. And Nitro 5.0 is optimized for mobile devices.

Nitro’s platform reaches 70 million unique users and monitors 2.3 billion actions each month.

nitro 2Katz and Paharia said they believe that gamification works well when you take an idea from games and apply it to enterprise activities. But creators of these campaigns have to be careful to make sure they measure and reward the right behavior. They believe gamification tactics are broadly applicable to a lot of companies, but the campaigns are not one-size-fits-all.

“It all has to be personalized,” Katz said. Paharia added, “You can’t take components, like Foursquare badges, and slap them on each other. You have to modify it for the context.”

And that’s what Nitro 5.0 tries to do. Heather Foeh, the director of customer culture at Bunchball’s customer Eloqua (a subsidiary of Oracle), said that Bunchball’s integrated analytics allows her to understand which gamification elements are working and which need adjustment. She can create custom challenges based on insights about engagement patterns.

Paharia credited his team with creating Nitro 5.0 and said, “I had nothing to do with it. They talked to customers and ran with it. This stuff just leapfrogs anything else”

Bunchball has 60 employees. Rivals include Badgeville and Big Door. A couple of days ago, the company said that it is partnering with Adobe to create a comprehensive solution to improve customer engagement.

Meanwhile, Paharia said he has a new book, Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification, coming out next month. Speaking at a recent Bunchball event, Forrester analyst Kim Celestre said that gamification drives engagement. And those features are involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence. The engagement loop also includes actions, rewards, achievements, and motivations.