Wordpress & Web Development

3 Gamification Plugins To Take Your WordPress Blog To The Next Level

James Bruce 19-05-2013

gamification wordpress pluginPoints, badges and leaderboards – the staple of gamification is found in so Fitbit vs. Garmin: Fitness Watches Compared In the market for a new fitness tracker? Then you've probably compared Fitbit vs. Garmin. We're here to help you decide which brand is best for you. Read More many HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive Change your habits for the better by tying them into challenges in a role playing game. Level up for doing things you know you should and lose hit points for indulging in habits you know... Read More places Tried And Tested: 3 Gamification Tools That Try To Make Your Life Better I'm a big fan of gamification, truth be told. I'd even go so far as to say our entire society should be gamified, with pleasures in life reserved as rewards those who actually contribute. Apparently... Read More nowadays that the act of avoiding a numerical designation of your worth or status is nigh impossible. Regardless of your personal feelings toward the concept though, there’s no doubt that rewarding users for specific actions on your website, such as sharing posts or commenting – increases engagement and brand loyalty dramatically.


But how easy is it to actually add gamification to a WordPress blog? As it turns out, it’s quite easy actually – and it needn’t cost a bomb. Here’s 3 plugins, compared and judged.

Captain Up

CaptainUp is a relative newcomer to game mechanics, but appealed to me right off the bat. It has a distinct cartoon-esque visual style that really makes it seem user-friendly – much more “game like” than some other systems, which come across as mere corporate marketing.

Setting up requires a total of 4 or 5 form fields, and starts on the captainup.com website. Click sign up, and enter your:

  • email address
  • password
  • brand name
  • domain

Copy and paste your API key from the WordPress install tab, and paste that into the Gamification WordPress plugin setup page. I swear life would be so nice if all gamification systems were this simple.

gamification wordpress plugin


For the most part, that’s all the setup you need. You can connect to a Facebook page to give points for liking the page, and the plugin automatically detects when something has been shared by a user.

gamify wordpress plugin

I say for the most part, because we use the ShareThis plugin to provide a share button; it correctly detected a Google +1 share, but not a Tweet. As someone used to dealing with these systems, I know it’s due to the use of “native” buttons vs custom coded ones; Google does not provide any kind of customization or API, so you get the button they give.

ShareThis has customized the Tweet button however, so it’s serving custom code. The easiest solution to make share buttons work with Captain UP then is to just serve native buttons – most plugins will do this, it’s just that ShareThis has a particular style to it. (Digg Digg is a very simple set of share buttons, and works fine). I only mention this because most site owners might just assume it’s broken.


gamify wordpress plugin

The only thing I’m not too keen about with Captain Up is the basic widget overlay on every screen – not the popup, that’s nice. The overlay just seems a little garish.

CaptainUp has a superb set of features including:

  • Points for various actions, configurable values. Focused on sharing, visits, and even watching a video.
  • Levels as your points increase.
  • Badges for completing set challenges, such as liking 15 things in 2 days.
  • Leaderboards and activity widgets for your sidebar.

gamify wordpress plugin


Creating new badges is also incredibly easy, and can be integrated into your own custom site functionality thanks to a target condition based on “clicking on specific element”.

wordpress gamification widget

The only downside to CaptainUp is that it doesn’t appear to have paid plans; whether this is because the service is still in beta isn’t apparent, but this ultimately limits it’s reliability. There’s also no rewards program: just PBL (points, badges and leaderboards).


By far a more established gamification program, PunchTab covers everything from rewards and giveaways to single sign on – though not all in the free package.


PunchTab is separated into 3 sections, each of which is a distinct UI component:

  • Loyalty Program
  • Achievement Program
  • Giveaways

wordpress gamification widget

The loyalty program are rewards given for attaining a certain number of points, similar to what we run here at MakeUseOf. On the free plan, you have no control over what rewards are offered – but they’re pretty impressive even so, and offered at absolutely no cost to you.

For example, installing a loyalty program, any visitors who gets 8,500 points will get a $5 Starbucks eGift card. To get your site licence key, visit the punchtab dashboard, create a new loyalty program, and go to developer. Copy and paste your access key from there.

wordpress gamification widget

The paid plan for running your own rewards starts at a very reasonable $99/month.

The achievements program is your standard badges, levels etc – “traditional” gamification. It’s not quite as comprehensive as the achievements provided by CaptainUp – you can change badge images and description, but not specify custom actions to be rewarded as easily. Also, if you do want to change anything, you need to disable all the default badges.

Thirdly is the Giveaway program. This is for running a DIY giveaway, and is very comprehensive. Just provide an image and description of the prize (and obviously, the prize itself), specify how users can enter, the time frame, and any additional entry methods you want to provide – “liking” your Facebook page, tweeting the contest.

3 Gamification Plugins To Take Your WordPress Blog To The Next Level pt giveaway

On the downside, I did find the WordPress plugin to be a little buggy. The widget wasn’t sized correctly, for example, and it didn’t appear to allow for the new bottom share bar option. Therefore, I’d suggest a bit of coding experience so you’re able to add the Javascript snippets directly to the template.

Kazooky Loyalty

This one struck me as a scam initially, especially given their “$100 free promotion” (for your site visitors though, not you, similar to PunchTabs default rewards program).

3 Gamification Plugins To Take Your WordPress Blog To The Next Level kl scam

After signing up, just copy and paste the access key into the WordPress plugin. You should then get a large and kind of obnoxious black bar at the bottom of your site.

3 Gamification Plugins To Take Your WordPress Blog To The Next Level kl obnoxious bar

Hovering over the present or any of the icons reveals the message that I should sign in to win an Amazon gift card; unfortunately, only the Twitter and email buttons actually worked – Facebook did nothing. Added to which, it’s not clear where adding your email will actually go – I still can’t help thinking it’s some kind of scam to gather emails.

gamification wordpress plugin

The control panel is decidedly lacklustre compared to the other systems available, so given all of this it’s to recommend anything other than staying the heck away from Kazooky Loyalty.

There’s actually not that many decent gamification WordPress plugin; InCrwd was an exciting contender, but the domain is dead and the plugin developer appears to have stopped last year sometime. Others require BuddyPress, or manual assigning of badges, so I haven’t included them.

My favourite for the average blog has to be CaptainUp – it’s just such an easy plug and plug system that’s it’s hard to fault it. The lack of a premium option and rewards ultimately limits the system though. PunchTab on the other hand is a well developed product and more focused on actionable, business-led objectives – sharing, rewards and giveaways.

Have you had a chance to try gamification on your site, and what do you think? Do these systems just annoy you?

Related topics: Web Design, Web Development, Wordpress Plugins.

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  1. David Ahmad
    November 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

    We've tried out CaptainUp, wasn't what we needed. vBSocial, (we) are integrating an approach into our social network plugin.

    Cubepoints is cool, but a bit dull interface like.

  2. Vc N
    September 5, 2013 at 3:55 am

    I have a small comic book site and was looking for something to spice things up. We sell comics (dollar bin stuff mostly) but I thought it would be nice to have a points system to let folks use their points for some comics. Man... trying to find stuff that syncs with WordPress/BuddyPress and WooCommerce is a PITA. I wanted to use CubePoints but they seem down for the count and PunchTab just doesn't seem like my cup of tea.

    CaptainUp just seems like the logical choice but... I don't know. I found one called BadgeOS that seems interesting as well.

    So many things to consider...

  3. Ueritom
    July 27, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Interesting idea..I started using PunchTab and will come back in the future to report my results.. thanks!

  4. WebTechGlobal
    July 23, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    WebTechGlobal is planning a gameified approach, we strongly feel this is the way forward. We would like to reward for everything from purchasing our WordPress plugins to tweeting them.

    I think we'll be taking a points + credits system. Credits will purchase anything at all including web hosting.

    We could never use an existing plugin to do this though. A big reason is because we want to bridge phpBB and give points + credits to moderators for their efforts, on users birthdays and possibly get the good old thumbs up approach on threads so people get rewarded for helping. Endless other items are on the task list for this project.

    Doesn't stop me checking out existing plugins though ;)

  5. Grace H
    July 3, 2013 at 7:15 am

    WordPress is a very popular cms platform and provides lots of plugin option to the users.

  6. D Scott Angle
    June 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for this James. I hadn't heard of CaptainUp, but will definitely give it a look over.

    Quick question though. I'm using both WP & BuddyPress, and with this in mind, which achievements system would you rate the highest?

    Also, have you checked out BadgeOS?

    Many thanks,


  7. null
    May 24, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I need something like punchtab. Anyone knows what uses MUO?

  8. Duey Hurley
    May 21, 2013 at 12:21 am

    Just added Captain Up to my Joomla site. It could not have been any easier. Thanks James!

  9. David Moreira
    May 20, 2013 at 8:20 am

    PunchTab is awesome to get more traffic.

  10. Yash Desai
    May 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Im pretty sure MUO uses punchtab @ali khan

  11. Ali Khan
    May 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Can you guys do other article featuring game mechanics or gamification available for websites other than wordpress. Also which gamification plugins do MUO uses?

    • Kulwinder Rouri
      May 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

      MakeUseOf uses Gigya gamification system and it is custom made, and costs so much. It is only useful if you are receiving a lot of visitors per day on your blogs.

      They charge according to the number of visitors you can get more information ON Gigya.com

      • Ali Khan
        May 20, 2013 at 6:08 am

        Yes ... i guess it maybe gigya or badgeville . How do you know?

        • James Bruce
          May 20, 2013 at 7:16 am

          I did look at Badgeville, but plans start at around $6k/month which is even more than Gigya. Though, they are considered to be industry standard.

    • James Bruce
      May 20, 2013 at 7:15 am

      We currently use Gigya - and yeh, it costs a bomb and requires a ridiculous amount of custom coding from me - but are in the process of trialling PunchTab, a more comprehensive and cheaper drop-in solution.