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Email Marketing for Game Developers

By on February 7, 2012

Marketing and community-building are mandatory for self-publishing games developers. Reaching out and communicating with your fans is essential to making money with a free-to-play game. This post is the first of three extracts from How to Publish a Game that we’re reproducing here, to show you how to attract customers and build a tribe of followers. For a complete guide to self-publishing and making money from your game, buy the book now.

Acquiring Customers

The number rule for acquiring customers is to make sure that you can contact them again in the future. For decades, games publishers have considered customers as disposable playthings, to be courted for a new game and then discarded as the marketing team move on to the next project.

How wasteful.

Developers and the new breed of publishers have realised that, as a strategy, this is barking mad. No longer are consumers disposable, only fit to be spoken to every 12-24 months as each new franchise iteration is launched. They are now customers of an ongoing service, and need to be treated as such.

Being able to contact a customer again can take many forms. It might mean asking the consumer to:

  • Provide an email address
  • Become a Twitter follower
  • Sign up as a Facebook fan
  • Subscribe to a YouTube channel

Each one of these methods means that you can communicate with those users again. Which means you no longer need to pay to re-acquire them. And that goes a very long way to making your business successful.

Marketing Emails

Photo by Biscarotte

Email is often the most powerful marketing tool. It is flexible, under your control (and not subject to arbitrary changes of rules like the Facebook platform), and can have great response rates.

It can also be difficult to persuade consumers to give you their email address, can get you labeled as a spammer and can be tough to deliver.

I generally recommend using a third party supplier like AWeber, MailChimp or GetResponse. These companies are heavily focused on “deliverability”, helping you ensure that your emails get through to your consumers. MailChimp provides an extremely helpful guide to email marketing for free on its website. (For more useful links for your games business, go to the resources page)

If you want to do it yourself, go ahead. But it won’t take long before you are labeled a spammer.

The importance of auto-responders

Gathering email addresses will be useless if you don’t do anything with it. Auto-responders are an easy and critical way of following up.

Put it this way: do you put expect to sleep with someone the moment you meet them, or do you expect there to be some romancing involved?

Buy How to Publish a Game

Buy How to Publish a Game

You, as developers, are no longer looking for one-night stands. You are looking to build steady relationships. You want your gamers to start to trust you. To give you things (like personal information). To spend with you.

You need to earn their trust.

So you start with the basics. They give you an email address in order to get something (a trial, a login to a free-to-play game, a free sample of a book on How to Publish a Game).

Your autoresponder hits them with a “Thank you”. An automated message that confirms that you view them as a valued customer.

The next day, you might send them another automated message. It might say “We hope you’re enjoying our game. Here is your first of three emails introducing you to our world.”

Make the email valuable. Make it fun. Offer good, constructive advice. Do that for several days and your gamers will start to trust you.

So make sure that you keep earning their trust. Don’t spam them. Try to send them things that they value. Don’t drive conversion by lowest common denominator marketing, or by thinking that if you send enough emails, some people will eventually pay you some money.

'I'm Watching You' photo shared by Michael Gil on a creative commons license

Photo by Michael Gil

That’s spam thinking. And if you think like that, take a long, hard look in the mirror. That’s the face of a spammer.

Market by sending them things that you would like to receive. Build a loyal following. And then those gamers will seek you out. They will choose to spend money with you to reward you for the value you have already given them. You’ll be more profitable AND you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror every morning.

Autoresponders are your friend. Use them wisely.

Email Marketing Tips

  • ASK users to add your address to their address book. This will help with deliverability and potentially white-listing
  • BE yourself. Say what your email is about. Don’t use hyperbole “FREE! MUST END SOON! CLICK NOW!”
  • ONE exclamation mark is enough (in fact, it’s probably too many)
  • AVOID writing, “free” or “click here!” or “click here now!” or “act now!” or “limited time!” That looks like spam.
  • INCLUDE a real physical address. (This is a requirement of CAN-SPAM, the US email marketing legislation).
  • UNSUBSCRIBING should be really easy. Your recipients can either hit “Unsubscribe” or “Report as Junk”. You *really* don’t want them to hit “Report as Junk”. Do not make them login to unsubscribe.
  • RUN your target email through SpamAssassin. It’s not perfect, but it will give you a sense of how spammy your message is.







About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: