Gamification Analysis: How Snapchat Launched Spectacles


This article is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen along with Yu-kai Chou.

Making moves

Snap Inc. is making moves.

First, it built a cool mobile-only camera and messaging app with millions of engaged users. Snaps are ephemeral and the app opens on the camera.

The founders famously turned down a $3-billion offer from Facebook.

Snap Inc. continued improving the Snapchat product and attracting new users, rising to the most-used teen app in 2016 and making big dents in the over-35 age demo, too. They want to change the way we think about cameras and storytelling.

What’s next for them?

The short answer is Spectacles, a pair of Snapchat glasses, a foray into territory where Google Glass seemed to fail and where others like Vue aren’t quite making it yet.

In this article, I’ll use Octalysis glasses to investigate the Spectacles launch and speculate on Snap Inc.’s future plans for augmented reality.

The launch of Spectacles

If you haven’t heard, Spectacles have already launched. They are hip glasses with the capabilities of the Snapchat app embedded in the wearables.

For the moment, I’m less interested in the product as I am in the product launch.

Let’s start with the Octalysis tool, shall we?

Remember, the below chart is analyzing the launch, not the product itself.

Spectacles Launch using the Octalysis tool


Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling: participating in a camera-first future as an early adopter

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: actually getting the glasses after waiting four hours in line (which also triggers social media sharing, CD5)

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: milestone unlock, using Snapchat in a new way (“through your own eyes”)

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession: get the new product, gain status

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: people working together to wait in line, or competing against each other; social media sharing


Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience: scarcity of Snapbots; slow roll-outs by city, impatience in actual line longs; also impatience as others get them (going for $1,000+ on eBay up from a $130 retail)

Core Drive 7: Curiosity & Unpredictability: Snapbots show up in unannounced, unknown places; releases locations; pop-up stores

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: Anti Core Drive 8, fear of missing out on a cool new product and experience (read this for more about anti core drives)

A decent blend of white and black hat

The launch leans more toward black hat design, but this is a fine case to do so. (Read more about when to use black hat design.)


The scarcity aspect is actually generating buzz in social media. Meanwhile, speculation continues about where the next Snapbots (vending machines) or pop-up stores will land next.

People are showing their willingness to wait in line for hours and spend over $1,000 on eBay to acquire them from those lucky enough to get them early.



Could Snapchat be first to augmented reality at scale?

Augmented reality is already mainstream. You might have noticed Pokemon Go (link), for example. We wrote about its game techniques over here.

But AR has been around before that. And in the wearable space. Ever heard of Google Glass?

For various reasons, Google Glass didn’t catch on. Maybe they were too expensive. Maybe it was too early for people to get it. Maybe they were perceived as too dweeby.

Snapchat (and Vue) enters the scene with a fun pair of sunglasses (they’ve even been called a “toy”) that also happen to let you use Snapchat (many of the early adopters are big Snapchat users). Actually, using Snapchat is the only thing you can do with the product.

Getting people used to the idea of wearing sunglasses in public

People already wear sunglasses whenever it is sunny, so this isn’t really an issue.

What is an issue (and was definitely an issue with Google Glass) was the perception and awkwardness or even creepiness of being on video while in public. They just weren’t socially acceptable (think Anti Core Drive 5).

Remember those guys just walking around with that futuristic-looking piece of hardware over their faces? The mere possibility of being on video recording made some people uneasy.

Snap Inc. tries to solve this problem by making Spectacles fun, casual-appearing sunglasses. When you record, it is very clear that there is a recording in progress. There is a circular progress bar that has a similar effect to a red recording button on a standard video camera to notify anyone nearby there is a recording underway.

People will feel better, safer, and have more fun

From the Onboarding phase in Octalysis, we know the importance of giving the user early achievement (CD2), making them feel smart and comfortable using the product. In a very public-facing consumer product, making both the user and others around them feel comfortable is the game. Google Glass was cool and useful, but not socially acceptable.

As Spectacles and Snapchat grow and especially as they break into 35+ demographics, they could be the first mass-market AR device once they add AR software.

This could be big. (And probably why they are preparing an IPO.)

With hardware and a loyal user base at scale, in-house or potential AR partnerships would be lucrative indeed.

Launching with a blend of white and black hat to create the potential for AR at scale

I’m heading over to to see where the next Snapbots are landing 🙂

But seriously, have a look at the Octalysis tool above just one more time. Notice the blend of white and black hat design.

On top of that, the slow, fun approach is an excellent example of Onboarding users to AR in the future.

You can resist it, but it’s not a crazy bet to think a lot of people will be trying out Spectacles in 2017.

Try out the Octalysis tool yourself as you prepare your next product launch and share with us in the comments (we’ll respond!) or on the Octalysis Explorers Facebook group.


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