As Social, Casual and MMO gaming continues to grow, we are looking at ways direct communications can help publishers stay ahead of the game with their users.

On August 30th Facebook revealed its intention to widen the range of their games portfolio. Google Plus has also recently announced a move towards mainstream adoption of social gaming. Massive multi player (MMO) games are continuing to grow market share (80 million subscribers in 2011). Web-based and particularly social gaming is growing stronger day by day. It’s estimated that over $1.25 billion will be spent on in-game virtual goods in 2011 and social network and casual gaming alone are expected to see $4.6 billion total revenue. However, despite the millions of users registering daily, many game publishers have been slow to capitalise on their wealth of customer data and create an engaging, relevant direct user communications program.

Whether you own an established MMO with a customer life-span of several years or are a publisher of 69 pence app store downloads, there are a number of automated message campaigns that can increase your average revenue per user, retain players, gain referrals and boost sign-ups for your latest game.

The most basic principle, and all too often overlooked, is to capture and confirm a player’s email address. Even if this data is not available to the publisher upon the game download, there is nothing preventing them from easily getting this invaluable information immediately after – for example by offering to send a Best Tips guide. A double opt-in process will also make a massive improvement to the database quality and therefore email deliverability.

The second failing of many marketers is frequency. New subscribers are your most active and most valuable resource. It’s imperative that they start receiving messages straight away so they know what to expect and can add you to a “safe sender list”. Here a good automated welcome program is key. For many games this can be combined with a “tutorial” or a Friend Recommendation program.

Once players are signed-up, confirmed and welcomed, then each company’s email strategy should differ depending on their goals:

  • Recommendations based on the previous performance – achieve some of the highest click-through rate of any emails.
  • Messages containing a code for in-game bonus items will quickly increase open rates.
  • Manual, newsletter style, emails are still the best way to tell customers about new games and feature releases.
  • Event triggered messages such as re-activation emails for users who haven’t signed in for a while will help you re-gain lost revenue opportunities
  • “Level-up” prompts – emails congratulating players who have reached a new level and advertising in game goods or weapons – will keep them engaged

In the end, the best strategy will always be created by marketers that understand their gamers and can ask “which messages would I want to receive?” A smart email program will help keep their users engaged and make sure they stay loyal when a competitor comes up with a new release.