Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Most Innovative Companies 2012 - Industries Top 10 - Gaming

Top 10 Gaming

01 - TapJoy
For fueling mobile app growth through the use of in-app advertisements. Its 280 million users select which ads to engage with in exchange for receiving virtual currency that they can later use in their favorite apps. Its turnkey in-app advertising platform has monetized more than 11,000 apps across Apple’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and HTML5 platforms. "For thousands of developers around the world, their apps wouldn’t see the light of day without us," says CEO Mihir Shah. "We’re in the business of discovery. We pair user interests with great mobile apps."Last November, Tapjoy branched out from mobile advertising with the beta launch of its personal app marketplace, which delivers customized app recommendations based on users’ current apps, as well as those of their friends. READ MORE

02 - Recyclebank
For incentivizing people to recycle via gamification—and saving cities millions in the process. Since launching a pilot program in Philadelphia in 2005, Recyclebank has helped more than 300 communities across 31 states and the U.K. double or triple their recycling rates by offering participants points for engaging in eco-friendly activities. Customers can redeem their points—worth an average of $133 per year—at local or national retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores. In 2011, Recyclebank expanded its digital presence with the addition of games like the Green Your Home Challenge. "The concept of leveling and badging and leaderboards and basic game dynamics are very powerful concepts because it speaks to the underlying psychological and behavioral needs of individuals," says CEO Jonathan Hsu. Since building out its digital platform, online users now comprise more than 25% of Recyclebank’s more than 3 million membership, and average time on the site has increased three times. READ MORE

03 - Zynga
For making inroads into gaming platforms outside of Facebook. Its first major foray into mobile gaming, its acquisition of Words With Friends (which it helped advance into a cultural phenomenon), has led to much more, including FarmVille Express and Dream Zoo, adding almost 2 million mobile daily active users in the process. The company has also made tentative announcements of Project Z, which will allow users to play Zynga games independently from Facebook.

04 - EA
For expanding into online and casual gaming while maintaining an arsenal of bestselling console titles. Last year, EA beat out Zynga in a bid for Bejeweled developer PopCap and debuted Sims Social on Facebook, vaulting past FarmVille to collect 36 million users less than a month after launch. With the release of several much anticipated sequels—Battlefield 3 and BioWare’s The Old Republic and [i]Mass Effect 3—EA is also taking the opportunity to hype Origin, its new online gaming platform and intended rival to Valve’s Steam.

05 - Foldit
For using crowdsourced gaming to decipher—in three weeks—a structural enigma of the AIDS virus that stumped doctors for a decade. In Foldit, a multiplayer computer game developed by researchers at the University of Washington, players compete to find the best way to fold a protein or design new proteins, and it turns out they’re better than the experts. "We’re seeing the players starting to actually direct the protein experiments going out to the labs," says Seth Cooper, Foldit’s lead designer.

06 - Valve
For promoting free-to-play and indie games while simultaneously crafting a string of massively profitable hits. Last April, prior to the much hyped release of Portal 2, the developer initiated an addictively complex viral marketing campaign for the game, enticing players to engage with a bundle of 13 underrated indie titles by embedding a series of hidden clues in them. It was a win-win for the indies and Valve. Portal 2 sales topped 3 million just two months after its launch.

07 - Bunchball
For anticipating the gamification explosion before anyone knew what gamification was. Bunchball implements game mechanics across websites and mobile apps to increase customer loyalty with the 125 million users it now reaches. In the last year, Bunchball’s client base—which includes Playboy, USA Network, and Comcast—doubled to 100, with many of the new business clients seeking ways to motivate their employees. "Sales managers have been doing rewards contests for years by hand" says founder Rajat Paharia. "Now we give them an application that allows them to incentivize employees to sell more using game mechanics."

08 - Warner Bros. Interactive
For succeeding where other entertainment companies like Disney and Viacom have failed. By choosing to forgo direct game adaptations of films like Batman Begins, the studio has been able to expand franchises with original storylines rather than merely duplicate existing ones. In October, the studio released Batman-inspired Arkham City to stellar reviews, shipping 4.6 million copies within a week.

09 - Bethesda Game Studios
For creating a massive, complex, nonlinear role-playing universe. Released in November, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim proved an impressive, if not superior, follow-up to 2006’s Oblivion. With more than 70 voice actors and 60,000 lines of dialogue, Skyrim generates an infinite number of quests for players via its Radiant Storytelling engine, which records character actions and adjusts the storyline accordingly. The game shipped more than 7 million copies its first week and became the fastest selling title in Steam’s history.

10 - Deep Silver
For hyping Techland’s game, Dead Island, via an unforgettable cinematic trailer. The three minute trailer—which depicts a family’s (failed) attempts to escape hordes of zombies—sparked more than 12 million views and talks of a potential Lionsgate spin-off film. Even though the game debuted to tepid reviews, it shipped 2 million units in its first week thanks largely to Deep Silver’s marketing. "Deep Silver as a publisher has never had a number one product," says Aubrey Norris, PR manager for the company. "We’ve gone from pretty much nothing to millions and millions and millions, and we don’t plan on being a one hit wonder."