Gamification: Is it Better to Buy or Build?

Gamified learning content was, a few short years ago, dismissed out of hand by both learners and business executives as non-serious and ill-suited to the corporate world. Well, the Wheel of Fortune® for learning has turned and gamification has come up a winner. In Brandon Hall’s 2022 study on the State of Learning Practices, Creating a Learning Strategy for the Future of Work, we asked learning professionals to rate the effectiveness of specific learning modalities in achieving learning and business outcomes. Games and learning simulations scored among the top 8 modalities with a 34% rating (ILT came in first with an effectiveness rating of 67%). Clearly, gamified learning content is no longer a niche approach and has far broader acceptance than it had even a few years ago.

Gamified learning content can range from asking simple questions within the structure of a commonly recognized gaming structure, such as JEOPARDY!®, to elaborate competitions in which one player or team vies against another in a simulated business that emulates real-life business challenges.

Deciding whether to buy or build comes down to a series of basic questions:

Development Resources & Expertise Available? Do you have development resources and expertise on staff or the budget to hire them?
If yes, building your own game may make sense.
If no, buy pre-built.
Control of Product Required? Do you require control or ownership of the game (e.g.; for resale)?
If yes, building your own game makes sense.
If no, buy pre-built.
Unique Specifications/ Complexity? Are you looking for something which is unique, highly complex, and therefore not available off-the-shelf?
If yes, building your own game may make sense.
If no, buy pre-built. 
Cost Cost depends largely on complexity and technical considerations such as interoperability with an LMS. If you are after something unique that meets very specific needs, and you have the budget for custom development, building your own game may make sense. If you have an insufficient budget and your requirements are not unique, buy pre-built.

In many cases learning organizations are simply looking to create standalone game-based learning activities that can be incorporated into existing ILT or VILT sessions, or which can be added to pre-existing courseware to add some excitement and enhance learner engagement. In those cases, it rarely makes sense to build custom games as there are some robust, and time-tested templates already on the market which can be used to present your learning content. Why go through the Scramble of custom development when someone’s already done the work for you?

Brandon Hall Group SmartChoice® Platinum Preferred Provider ELB Learning is a full-service learning provider which offers pre-built learning games in The Training Arcade® which allows users to easily develop their own custom gamified training content styled after ten engaging interactive games. The resulting content can be published on the web, in common eLearning authoring tools such as Lectora, or to an LMS.

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Ken Joseph



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