A recent study from the Aalto School of Business investigates the effects of gamification and the implementation of badges on user activity.
During recent years, the addition of game mechanisms to non-game services has gained a relatively large amount of attention. Popular discussion connects gamification to successful marketing and increased profitability through higher customer engagement, however, there is a dearth of empirical studies that confirm such expectations. This paper reports the results of a field experiment, which gamifies a utilitarian peer-to-peer trading service by implementing the game mechanism of badges that users can earn from a variety of tasks. There were 3234 users who were randomly assigned to treatment groups and subjected to different versions of the badge system in a 2 x 2 design. The results show that the mere implementation of gamification mechanisms does not automatically lead to significant increases in user activity in the studied utilitarian service, however, those users who actively monitored their own badges and those of others in the study showed increased user activity.
The article to the study can be found here.