After criticism over its confetti animation, the popular investing app Robinhood has rolled back the feature. The backlash raises the concern that the confetti encouraged continuous investing behavior, which can be risky. Instead, the Robinhood app will now feature animations that are more neutral, not evoking as much emotion as confetti. However, this scenario points to the overarching gamification of investments and the effects it can have.
On March 31, 2021, Robinhood announced in a blog post it is replacing the traditional confetti animation with new animations. The app will now feature a rotating golden circle and a neon green lightning bolt when you complete certain actions like signing up for premium services or investing for the first time.
These new features are the result of continuous criticism that the previous confetti animation, where the exciting colorful pieces would float down the screen, would encourage too many repetitive investments. Such investing can, at times, be risky as stocks can be volatile and drop in value sporadically.
The blog post states that the new animations and visuals “cheer on customers through the milestones in their financial journeys.” If the new updates are successful, users and critics alike will use the app without the feeling that the animations can overtly or subtly influence investments and financial decisions on the Robinhood app.
The confetti has historically been a signature mark of Robinhood’s process. People invest or save money and the app rewards them with the animation. Now, though, executives hope that the new designs will mitigate the backlash while still giving users the same encouraging features that they’re used to.
Gamification of Investing
Gamification occurs when any platform adds any game-playing elements to encourage activity and use. In Robinhood’s case, the confetti gamified the investing experience, creating a positive connection between engaging with the app. The risk factor comes into play if users continuously invest with the potential to lose money or make uninformed decisions. Instead, users need to curate strong investment portfolios with an informed balancing of risk and profits along the way.
The criticism comes just after Robinhood was under fire for its handling of GameStop investment restrictions earlier this year. After Reddit users organized a mass investment into the GameStop stock, Robinhood limited how much people could invest, which drew in more criticism about the power and influence a platform should have over its users.
On top of these two controversies, Robinhood has also come up in a Senate Banking Committee hearing. The nominee for chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler commented on Robinhood’s influence, stating he would examine the dynamic of payment to order platforms, which includes Robinhood. Thus, the app must make as many fixes as possible to avoid further scrutiny.
If the Robinhood app continues to be part of Senate hearings and public conversations, the trajectory of gamification could altogether change. With more pushback, other similar apps may have to tone down any encouraging influence they have over user investments and payments, just as Robinhood has.
These changes come at the same time as Robinhood is gearing up to go public sometime soon. With a big move like this one, the platform is likely trying to listen to the backlash and act upon it. Then, Robinhood can be more appealing to the public.
Robinhood as the Example
Robinhood, amidst its criticism, is still going strong. Financial technology apps are popular, especially as the pandemic facilitates the use of mobile, distant connections. However, to continue this success, these platforms must cater to what the public wants and what the government regulates.
Gamification and company influence can be good features if they help inform users to make decisions based on their statuses. However, if gamification goes too far, it can lead to risks. Now, Robinhood is an example of the crossroads of investing. It will need to adapt and evolve to keep up the success it has acquired.