Gamification Superpower: Designing Habit-forming Products

Recently I read “Hooked: How to Build Habit-forming Products“, by Nir Eyal. A must-read book for any product marketer, that gives insights about how users engage with technological products, and the psychological model that helps us to define high-engaging products.

Nir presents the hook model, a 4 phase strategy that starts with a external trigger that motivates a user action in our product, then we give the user a variable reward (this is the part that distinguishes the hook model from a plain feedback loop), and after that we require the user to invest some time/effort/money into our product, that finally generates an internal trigger to continue the feedback loop.


Although Hooked mentions gamification a couple times, it’s not focused in gamification techniques but in the feedback model that would help us to engage new clients with our product or solution. But, from the gamification perspective, the Hook model is one of the multiple options we have to create compelling habit-forming products.

In a broader sense, gamification can help us to create habit-forming products, which is the main goal for any product marketer. Most of the time we talk about how gamification engages clients and users, or how we can use gamification to achieve our business goals, and relegate the motivational part to the background. And what is most important is to analyze how gamification can help us to define a process where we start by creating external triggers to feed our product with new clients/users and by means of game mechanics we are able to create new habits that will ensure our users will continue to use our product or application even if we discontinue the use of game mechanics.

In certain scenarios, habits are even more important that we can think of. For instance, Hooked references to a study by John Gourville who stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new”. So when you release a new product for consumers, you have to be at least nine times better than the previous alternatives in order to have a chance to get users switching from the old product they were using to your product.

That means that you have to do your homeworks when releasing a new product, and make sure that your product is able to form new habits in your client base. And gamification, mixed with feedback loops, the hook model, etc. is an excellent tool to help you achieve that.