Apple’s Profitable Gamification

Apple’s Gamification

It was right there all the time. Apple is a game. The biggest company on earth doesn’t make the most popular anything, but everything it sells is intensely
profitable. Why?

Apple's Gamification Claw Machine

Gamification And The Claw Machine

If you’ve been anywhere near these drop the hook, grab the stuffed animal machines you know it. They have a sing-song, “There’s No Limit To What You Can Win,” metronome call to action. A few weeks ago I watched a mother and ten-year old son feed $20 in to try more than ten times to capture one of the prized stuffed animals.

This mother didn’t look like she had twenty to spare to play an absurd game, but, once started, she had trouble walking away. Her ten-year old insisted the next drop of the claw would reward all the time, effort and money. It never did.

The total wholesale value of all the stuffed animals in the machine was not much more than the twenty the mother and the boy spent. Stuffed animals without gamification are worth a few dollars each. Stuffed animals with gamification are worth many multiples of their wholesale prices. Price of all stuffed animals in the box wholesale? I would guess less than $100. Value of those same stuffed animals with the claw? Let’s do some math.

I watched the mother and son get 2 stuffed animals from their 20 tries or 1%. If the box holds 200 stuffed animals and the 1% hit hate holds it will take 20,000 drops of the claw to clean out the cage. How do you turn an investment of $100 into a $20,000 return? Gamification.

Apple Stores and Apple’s Big Silver Claw

Apple lives on perceived exclusivity and tribal gamification. Social status is granted for those who are lucky enough to drop the clay into an Apple store and come away with a new phone, laptop or desktop computer. The apple store is a huge stuffed animal game box.

I’m writing this post on a MacBook Air, just answered a call from my mom on my iPhone and have dropped the claw many times in the giant silver box. Apple has the same dynamic as the claw game. Computers without the gamification are worth half of what they are worth with it.

The Cost Of Playing The Claw Game

If he mother and son didn’t score the two wins they would have never played again. If we weren’t able to buy the latest Apple gear eventually we wouldn’t play. Apple must know how far they can push a backorder without spoiling the illusion of their gamification. Stall too long and the game doesn’t matter.

Make it too easy, make Apple’s stuffed animals too ubiquitous, and the game loses its value for the players. Just as the mother and son will report success at the game to their friends possibly inspiring more play we share our Apple badges of courage too. Part of what keeps the game alive is generations of players sharing their stories.

The cost to Apple of playing the claw game is a need for just enough innovation to keep the game alive. Apple created the concept of the iPad, iPhone and portable music. These innovations fill up the big silver box with more profitable stuffed animals. The box is about half empty, so time for a new round of Apple stuffed animals is approaching fast. If the box ever approaches empty the game is over. No one wants to pay to drop a claw without challenge or choice. No one plays that game.
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