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Level up for features instead of freemium?

I’ve been an avid fan of incorporating game mechanics into web applications. One very interesting thing that happens in games is that oftentimes, “features” are withheld from the user until they do certain actions to unlock them.

The best example is Zelda, where you originally start out as a boy without anything to do other than run around. Soon enough you get a quest, which involves navigating the cavesw. Do it successfully, and you pick up a wooden sword. Then you take another quest where you use the sword to defeat a small monster, and they give you a small shield. Do another quest, and you get a big sword, and then a big shield, then a boomerang, and so on.

There are multiple advantages to having a system like this:

  • The interface starts simple, then gets more complex as you progress
  • It gives the player direction and goals, which builds engagements
  • It makes you feel good as you play, since you get rewards along the way!

So here’s a question – why don’t web products incorporate this functionality. Everyone is familiar with freemium models – that is, make it free for most people, but in exchange for the advanced features, make people pay for the package.

Here’s a twist: Unlock the features everytime the user engages with your site more. If they comment, upload pictures/videos, or do whatever you want to do with the site, reward them with more functionality.

This way, you’re trading engagement/pageviews for functionality, and particularly in the UGC world where you’re trying to get people more active, this is a big win/win.

Any great examples of this idea in action? Would love to hear some.

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