Gamification in Mobile Apps: Engaging Users Through Play

gamification in mobile apps

The trend of using mobile apps has grown significantly over the past years. Statistics show that the number of downloads increased from 140 billion in 2016 to 257 in 2023. Unfortunately, Zipdo’s data reveals that only 4% of users remain active four weeks after downloading an app. 

So, the challenge for user retention is at an all-time high. App owners and developers are faced with the serious challenge of retaining and keeping users actively engaged to avoid app abandonment. Fortunately, gamification provides an avenue to improve how users engage with apps. 

What Is Gamification in Mobile Apps? 

Gamification in mobile apps refers to the integration of game-like elements and mechanics into a non-gaming application for the purpose of improving user engagement, motivation, and retention. 

The gamification’s goal is to leverage the fun and competition inherent to games, compelling users to participate and engage within the app. These game-like elements, like badges, points, challenges, leaderboards, and rewards, may improve a user’s entire experience of a mobile application. Truth be told, it’s an innovation at par with the development of progressive web apps.

What Are The Key Elements of Gamification in Mobile Apps? 

If you have played several mobile, PC, or console games, you most likely have an idea of gaming elements. The same elements are the primary elements of gamification in mobile apps. 

These elements, which are the result of best practices for app design, include the following: 

Points and Rewards

In mobile apps using gamification, users may earn points for achieving milestones or completing particular tasks. They can exchange their accumulated points for rewards, motivating enhanced engagement and app usage. 

Achievements and Badges

Users may unlock achievements and badges to reach specific tiers or levels and accomplish objectives within the app. These visual accomplishment symbols possess the capacity to boost users’ satisfaction and motivate them to explore the app even further. 

Quests and Challenges

Challenges and quests add a whole new dynamic element to a mobile app. Challenges and quests awaken the inherent competitive side of a user and prompt them to complete these challenges to earn points and rewards, providing a sense of purpose, progression, and fulfillment. 


Leaderboards allow users to compare their performance to other users, introducing a competitive element that compels them to work for the top position. Aside from the competitive element, leaderboards also foster a sense of community, showing users that there are others who share the same interests. 


Users advance through different levels as they engage with the app. Progressing to higher levels often unlocks new features, content, or challenges, creating a sense of accomplishment and maintaining interest.


Offering tangible rewards, such as discounts, exclusive content, or special privileges, can motivate users to stay active and loyal to the app. Discounts and incentives can be in the form of rewards. Such makes gamification a great tool for a marketer


Integrating a narrative or storyline within the app can make the user experience more immersive and exciting. Users may feel more connected to the app as they progress through a compelling story.

Feedback and Recognition

Providing real-time feedback and recognition for user achievements reinforces positive behavior. This instant gratification helps maintain user interest and engagement.

Gamification in mobile apps is implemented across multiple industries, including educational, fitness, shopping, and productivity apps and tools. It has been proven to engage users, increase retention, foster a sense of accomplishment, and promote an engaging user experience. 

However, app developers and owners must maintain a balance, not deviating from an app’s real purpose and overall functionality. The gaming elements must increase engagement and retention rate, not distract users. 

What Are Examples of Gamification in Mobile Apps?

If you have not noticed, many mobile apps have implemented various game elements to enhance user experience. We have come up with three different mobile apps using gamification: 

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is an e-learning mobile app that helps users in almost any course. The platform utilizes the skill tree, badges, and progress dashboard elements. 

  • Skill Tree. This element refers to the subjects on the platform organized as a visual constellation, allowing users to see their learning path clearly. 
  • Badges. The Khan Academy mobile app offers a wide range of badges with themes revolving around celestial bodies and planets. Badges are divided into six categories–Meteorite, Moon, Earth, Sun, Black Hole, and Challenge Patches– and users may earn these badges depending on a subject’s level of complexity. 
  • Points and Progress Dashboard. Users may track their points, awards, badges, and progress through a galaxy-themed dashboard. 


The healthcare app industry is broad in scope, as it may include emotional and physical health, medication, and fitness and nutrition, to name a few. Fitbit is among the numerous healthcare apps that incorporate gamification.

While Fitbit is a wearable fitness tracker like a watch, it is connected to a mobile app with gamification features, including challenges, badges, and social engagement. 

  • Challenges. Fitbit allows users to walk virtually around any city they like, giving them a novel way to explore different cities while staying committed to their fitness goals and routines. 
  • Badges. When users complete a particular activity, Fitbit rewards them with a badge in a measurable achievement form. An example is the Serengeti Badge which is awarded to a 500-mile finisher, corresponding to Serengeti Park’s actual distance. 
  • Social Engagement. The app allows users to engage and compete with others in various sports-themed challenges. 


Duolingo is an e-learning language application that helps users learn their language of choice. It is a highly engaging app that implements badges, points and rewards, scoreboards, social interaction, competitiveness, and in-app currency. 

  • Badges. These are awarded to users who are able to complete a certain number of skills, spend a certain amount of Lingots (in-app currency), and follow a certain number of friends. 
  • Points-based Rewards and Scoreboards. Points-based rewards are given to users who are able to accomplish particular goals and challenges. They can view their progress and points on their personal scoreboards. 

Wrapping Up

Gamification in mobile apps has the power to turn a mundane application into a fun and engaging experience. It is an effective way to retain users and gain new ones. App developers and businesses can benefit from using game elements in their non-gaming apps.