BigDoor Seeks to be the AdSense of Gamification

Correction: A description of the nature of the company’s relationship with UGO Entertainment by a BigDoor executive was inaccurate. UGO came up with an idea of Quests and hired SpectrumDNA to be the primary vendor on the project. It is through SpectrumDNA that BigDoor has a relationship with UGO. UGO is not participating in BigDoor’s beta program and BigDoor is not getting a share of any advertising revenues from Quests. UGO’s advertising team is solely responsible for the program.

BigDoor, which is vying for a leadership position in the so-called gamification space, is announcing a new platform today that acts as an intermediary between publishers and advertisers.

Co-Founder and CEO Keith Smith calls it the equivalent of Google’s AdSense for gamification.

Gamification operates under the premise that people are often motivated by rewards, so integrating game-like tasks into everyday things–like reading the news or watching videos online–will ultimately increase engagement and monetization.

Smith refers to it as turning “lurkers” into “regulars.”

Seattle-based BigDoor builds tools for publishers to make rolling out game play within their online properties easier. Some of its customers include AccuScore.com, DevHub.com and MySportsIQ.

But creating a new AdSense platform is clearly a lofty ambition.

To put it in words the company can understand, the achievement is still far off, and in the near-term it will have to work hard at leveling-up to get there. But in this world, where Zynga has introduced millions of consumers to playing simple games like FarmVille on Facebook–and paying nominal amounts of money for virtual goods–it doesn’t sound too far-fetched.

Along with the platform being announced today, the company is revealing the first of its 20 private beta partners.

Its first publishing partner is UGO.com, a Hearst-owned property aimed at the 18 to 34 year old male audience. The site, which provides daily coverage of videogames, has dedicated a good chunk of its homepage to integrating advertising-based “quests.”

A quest over the weekend gave visitors a chance to interact with the new Universal Pictures comedy, “Your Highness,” starring Natalie Portman.

In the quests, visitors must interact with the advertiser’s content in order to earn points. A quest is competed after 11 clicks. Points can be typically redeemed for virtual badges (i.e. bragging rights), but in UGO’s case, it is sending out real patches that they hope will become collector’s items.

With the new platform, Smith is hoping to create a new ad unit called Cost Per Quest. So far, he thinks the ad unit will range between $1 and $2.50 based on the fact that consumers are readily engaging in the quests as if they are content. Early response rates are revealing that 20 to 45 percent of people who begin a quest finish one, he said.

BigDoor plans to provide the platform for free and will take a percentage of the revenue. “We want gamification to be a profit center, not a cost center,” Smith said. “We don’t charge UGO anything. We get paid when they get paid.”

Now that Universal’s promotion of “Your Highness” has run its course, UGO has moved on to offering different quests, including one from AXE, the men’s deodorant body spray.

Founded in June 2009, BigDoor was started by Smith and Jeff Malek, who both previously founded Zango. Also known as 180solutions, the company was associated with spyware and adware, but grew to $50 million from $1 million in revenues over two-and-a-half years.

BigDoor, which is still in its infancy, has raised more than $5 million in two rounds from Founder’s Co-op and Foundry Group, and has 20 employees.

One of BigDoor’s competitors is BadgeVille, which recently partnered with Bluefly, a small publicly held online retailer. Through the relationship, Bluefly is rewarding shoppers who watch videos, create wishlists, write reviews or read blog posts.


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