Research Outline

Foursquare Gamification Lessons Learned


To inform a potential loyalty program for restaurant customers by identifying the details surrounding the failure of Foursquare's gamification for restaurants (aka the mayorship system), including why the number of users who wanted to be a mayor declined, why the number of restaurants offering rewards/promotions through the platform declined and the early success and eventual failure of its ambassador program (aka when customers suggest that restaurants start using Foursquare). Ideally, the URLs of any key source articles in this research will be highlighted within the deliverable.

Early Findings

Foursquare's Gamification

  • Foursquare launched a location-based social network in 2009 that turned "life into a game" by enabling users to "check-in" at certain locations/activities and receive an associated reward.
  • Specifically, Foursquare deployed gamification, or the "practice of using game design elements to reward behavior in a non-game setting."
  • When participants engaged with the site, they received points, badges and, in some instances, the coveted mayor status (in cases where the user managed to check-in at a certain venue more than anyone else during a period of 60 days).
  • At its peak, Foursquare's gamification reached between 10 and 50 million users across an extensive network of metropolitan areas.
  • However, Foursquare abruptly discontinued its points and badges system, and subsequently separated its check-in gamification into a separate app called Swarm.

Failure of Mayor System

  • According to Foursquare, its gamification program failed and required a reboot after it "started to break down" under the dynamics of serving millions of users rather than thousands.
  • Foursquare adds that it "never sought out to make a game," and was "surprised" by how seriously users ended up taking the points, badges and mayorship system, which were designed only to make experiences "more fun."

Decline in User Interest

  • Gal Rimon, the CEO of gamification solutions company Centrical, asserts that users lost interest in the mayorship system because there was no "intrinsic value" underpinning the program.
  • Specifically, Mr. Rimon states that the points, badges and mayorships of Foursquare's gamification "didn't suffice in the longer term" because, once the novelty of the program eroded, there was no underlying value to reinforce the activity.
  • In the case of Foursquare, it rewarded "unnecessary customer visits," rather than behaviors that had meaning and use for customers and would be of value to them even without the game system.
  • Additionally, Mr. Rimon notes that Foursquare's original mayorship program was out of balance in addressing a number of essential elements of successful gamification: (1) rewarding expertise, (2) rewarding completion, and (3) making milestones achievable.

Summary of First Hour of Research

  • The research team used the first hour of research to confirm the availability of information about Foursquare's gamification system as well as to provide a synthesis of initial findings.
  • Given that a geographic focus was not provided for this project, the research team presented research with a global scope. If a different geographic focus is desired for future research (e.g., United States), this would need to be clearly communicated in a follow-up comment.
  • Additionally, as it is standard protocol for Wonder to provide all source URLs as direct citations within the provided research, this protocol was followed for the first hour of research. If a different protocol is desired for future research (e.g., a list of URLs at the end of the research report), this would need to be clearly communicated in a follow-up comment.
  • Overall, the research team found that while Foursquare and its gamification system is widely covered by the media, research on the subject generally focuses on the structure of the game and its current status, as opposed to the reason(s) behind its failure and associated declines in user and restaurant participation.
  • Although the research team was able to provide an analysis of why user interest in Foursquare's mayorship program declined, the initial hour of research was insufficient to address questions about (1) declining restaurant participation on the platform and (2) the ambassador program, given that this information was not readily available.
  • As such, we recommend allocating separate research blocks to provide insight into both topics.
Prepared By
Alexandra I.
989 assignments | 5.0