Source: Naavik

This is the introduction to a deep dive on the growing genre of gamified habit-building self-improvement apps. To read the full essay, click here.

Gamification, in a nutshell, is taking gaming mechanics and applying them in a nongaming context. The proper execution of gamification can help boost multiple metrics, from engagement to monetization. According to Duolingo’s former Chief Product Officer Jorge Mazal, leveraging gamification helped Duolingo multiply its DAU by 4.5.

In this deep dive, we look at the growing genre of habit-building self-improvement apps, and how gamification can improve the user experience and business goals.

Effective habit-building is hard. Case in point: ambitious New Year’s resolutions that get abandoned within a month. Books that tackle good habit-building, such as "Atomic Habits" and "Tiny Habits", have gained popularity in the last decade. They claim that the key to successful behavioral change is to focus on smaller, repetitive tasks that slowly increase in difficulty.

Social media Ads
Various self-help app ads on social media. Source: Instagram, Facebook ads.

Many companies have translated this into habit-building apps, and have been quite successful. However, we believe there is an opportunity to leverage gamification to enhance the experience, adding a layer of fun and engagement that can both improve user outcomes and monetary success.

In this deep dive, we’ll:

  1. Discuss gamification and motivation in general.
  2. Take a look at the current market and define the ongoing trends.
  3. Compare three gamified habit-building apps: Me+, Daylio, and Finch: Self-Care Pet.
  4. Summarize the learnings into a recipe for a gamified self-care super app.

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Game of the Week

Wordscapes Solitaire: Genre-Mashing Done Right

Written by Jordan Phang, Naavik Consulting Partner

Source: Wordscape Solitaire

Developer: PeopleFun
Publisher: PeopleFun
Platform: Mobile
Status: Soft launched in December 2023 (Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand)
Genre: Word Game

What Is It?

Wordscapes Solitaire is a new take on word games that mashes up Word and Mahjong Solitaire. (Yes, I was also expecting it to be a Word + Klondike mashup based on the name.)

It follows in PeopleFun’s tradition of incrementally experimenting with variations of word games, as we can see in the image below which showcases some of its word games.

Source: Naavik

Wordscapes Solitaire is the latest of its experiments, and it’s the most innovative one to date.

Wordscapes Solitaire

The way it works is that you are presented with letter tiles laid out like in Mahjong Solitaire. You use these tiles to form words on the word board. The twist here is that when you pick up a tile, the tiles below it get exposed immediately, unlike in Mahjong Solitaire where you have to make a match to expose tiles below. This adds a layer of strategy and exploration, as picking up different tiles will expose different letters from which you can form longer words. Add to that a Scrabble-like scoring system for each letter, and a word-length multiplier, Wordscapes Solitaire straddles the line between being a word game and a puzzle game.

How Is It Doing?

It’s still too early to say due to its early access status, as it has only gotten about 13.9K downloads, according to (although Google Play has categorized it under more than 50K downloads).

How Will It Do?

Based on our time playing it, it offers a genuinely interesting take on the genre. Crucially, it tacks on strategic puzzle-solving elements to having a good vocabulary. The added complexity should make power-ups like the Wild Card (it can replace any letter) more desirable, and it may see better RPD as a result. (Wordscapes has an RPD of $0.29.)

However, that complexity is a double-edged sword, as I found myself picking up and putting back tiles to see what all my options were in order to maximize my score, somewhat breaking the flow of the game. It’s also a question mark if word game players are even interested in added puzzle-solving mechanics.

The image below shows the top 10 apps opened by Wordscapes players, and besides Candy Crush Saga and Woodoku, there aren’t any puzzle games. (Roblox being at No. 1 is likely due to parents letting their kids use their device as the Wordscapes demographic is skewed toward users 25 years or older.) Crucially, there are also no Mahjong Solitaire games.


Still, we find this blend of Word + Mahjong Solitaire pretty compelling, and we are cautiously optimistic it will be able to find an audience.

Our Gamification Consulting Services

Today, we’re highlighting our gamification consulting services! Applying game mechanics to all sorts of applications has proven to boost retention, engagement, and revenue — but doing it right can be harder than it seems. More specifically, Naavik offers constructive gamification deconstructions, gamification workshops, and ongoing flexible support. Here is what one of our clients had to say.

“I highly recommend Naavik's two-day workshop on gaming mechanics. Their AMA provided valuable insights on the fundamentals of gaming mechanics, and the hands-on session was very engaging. The knowledge gained from this workshop has helped our team think more intentionally about how we leverage gaming mechanics for growth at Grammarly.”

- Shane Fontane, Senior Manager of Growth Design, Grammarly

If you’d like to learn more, reach out here! Also check out our expanded consulting service portfolio here.

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