WoW Achievements and your Web Service

If you have any poor souls that are into World of Warcraft (still) among your closest friends, I’m sure they’ll be already babbling about the new cool / addictive / annoying / you-name-it achievements system that got introduced in the game with the latest patch.

Achievements is a simple idea from Blizzard, that uses the simple concept of rewarding users for completing quests, slaying monsters, exploring Azeroth.

Its implementation is quite simple – there is an amount of achievements you can complete, each gives you “achievement points”, and some of them, because they require quite a bit of time and work, give you special rewards like titles and tabards. There is still no reward for getting achievement points.

So what’s so special about it?

Nothing. But it turned every single WoW server upside down. Tons of people running around, doing silly stuff (some of the achievements are silly enough), gathering achievement points – and for what?

For nothing (so far).

It’s quite interesting actually. Blizzard has invested in the players’ addiction to getting as many points as possible, as quickly as possible – a viable asset in the MMORPG market. And it worked, oh how it worked.

It almost got me envious – how can Blizzard know so well its crowd? How can they make a game so addictive that justifies handing over 12 dollars per month for more than 4 years? Why are grown-ups, fathers and grandfathers hopping around when they get their latest achievement?

Now let’s move the metaphor to sites. Many sites already apply this technique to reward their users for contributing. Could such a method work in your user-based web service?

It well may. Some points, taken from Blizzard:

  • People love to measure their popularity, their credibility, their status. They don’t just need badges and levels of access – they need a solid number to boast and show off to other users. Provide them with that.
  • Give them constant clues as to how they can increase their status – it’ll both help you, as the designer of the service, and the users, since their profile will become more prestigious.
  • Add customization to the mix. One thing most users strive for, as soon as they reach a certain level of expertise, is customizing their online presence. Give them more and more options to do that, after achieving certain statuses. Make it mysterious, make it rewarding.
  • Don’t just design a rewards system and leave it – add to it, update it regularly, make users check it again and again for the latest trend.
  • Do not forget your initial goal – it’s not all about making the users happy, it’s about making the users happy while using your service in a productive way. Lure them to that.
Book Review: Designing the moment by Robert Hoekman Jr.
How to design for success without being a real designer