Years ago I read an interview with a musician (whose name escapes me), where he was giving advice to new musicians. There was lots of good stuff, but the one that really stuck with me was this.
Save your best songs for the encore, even if you never get the chance to play them.
At the time, this struck me as very odd. However, over the years I have started to see where this guy was going. The first thing is that all your songs should be good – if you rely on one or two and the rest are fillers, people will notice. If you are so confident in your songs that you can leave the ones you feel are best for a potentially never heard encore, you are on to a winner!
Another part of this is that you should not throw everything you have at the audience, leave a little in reserve. If you play all your good stuff up front, they will not remember the rest. Always leave them wanting more. If you then get the chance to play your encore, you are going to blow them away with your last couple of songs and they will remember you all the more.
You see this in games made by inexperienced studios or designers. They have all this clever stuff they want you to see, so force you to see it right at the beginning of the game. Once you have seen all of the tricks the game has to offer in the first 10 minutes of play, the next 10 hours becomes tedious. You get no surprises, no new game mechanics etc. Good games develop over time. New things are revealed as you master old things. Plot twists, new mechanics, variations on mechanics, new enemies, easter eggs and more.
Another thing that a confident designer will do is have content that many people may never see. That doesn’t have to be just easter eggs either. When you look at narrative driven games, there may be whole pages of narrative that never get seen by 99% of the people who play the game. Rather than forcing it on the player, they leave it there for them to discover on their own and if they don’t, so be it!
The lesson for gamification here is that you don’t have to throw everything and kitchen sink at the user in the first few moments of their experience. Save your best content and ideas for those who are deeply engaged. They will appreciate that you allowed them to savour the experience rather than being battered with it straight away.
Save your best content for the replay, even if no one ever gets to see it.