On one hand, the enormous popularity of the World of Warcraft video game is a blessing to Donovan Duncan, Content Manager, Curse.com.
Duncan’s team manages one of the top online destinations for the Massively Multiplayer Online gaming community, providing news, tools, downloads and social networking features. Eighty-five percent of Curse.com users play World of Warcraft, and traffic from those players translates into impressive site metrics, such as an average 7-10 page views and 10 minutes per visit.
On the other hand, relying too heavily on any one product puts your business at risk should that product become less popular and users fade away. That’s why Curse.com operates a network of websites dedicated to additional game titles.
“We’ve got a huge amount of users who all play one game, but if that game ever goes kaput, we need to balance what we have,” says Duncan. “So we want to spread our audience around and try to get people interested in other games.”
Duncan and his team saw an opportunity to achieve that goal through an email newsletter. CAMPAIGN
They created a monthly email newsletter that provided subscribers with the World of Warcraft news and tips they needed, but used articles, contests and other features to expose subscribers to new games and other sites in the Curse.com network.
Here are four steps they took to develop the newsletter: Step #1. Create newsletter template to highlight wide range of content
Duncan and his team developed their newsletter template based on the typical user profile: Although 85% were World of Warcraft players, many also played additional games, and were interested in technology related to online gaming, such as computers and accessories.
The resulting newsletter template included:
- World of Warcraft update. This monthly feature occupied the top position in the email newsletter.
- “Features” section. This section included special content, such as polls, add-on downloads, game previews, and game wikis related to a range of popular game titles.
- “Hot news” section. This list of gaming news and updates covered a range of game titles and the broader MMO gaming community.
- “Hot add-ons” section. This collection of links provided downloadable add-on bundles for popular games, such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer.
- CurseContests. This section featured sweepstakes contests for subscribers to win prizes, such as graphics cards, new computers, and special gaming keyboards. Step #2. Align newsletter features to new or growing games
With World of Warcraft content occupying an anchor position in the newsletter, the team used the remaining features and news sections to highlight other games covered in the Curse.com network.
In particular, they featured new and upcoming releases that might attract World of Warcraft players ready to try new games. “We expose them to some of the new games, so we retain the audience.”
For example, the company recently acquired DiabloFans.com, a site dedicated to the game Diablo 3. With a new version of that game set to launch within a year, Duncan’s team began regularly featuring DiabloFans.com content in their newsletter.
Newsletter subscribers can easily click through to those additional sites, thanks to the site’s membership login system. Registered users can access any part of the Curse.com network with one ID and password. That means users who typically visit the World of Warcraft portal have instant access to any other gaming portal Duncan’s team chooses to highlight in the newsletter. Step #3. Coordinate newsletter delivery with game downtime
The team arranged its newsletter delivery schedule to coincide with a unique feature of the online gaming world. Most game publishers take their servers offline every Tuesday to perform maintenance and install software updates.
The “Tuesday downtime” period leaves millions of users unable to play their favorite games, making them more likely to browse gaming news sites or interact with online communities, says Duncan.
In response, the team began sending its monthly newsletter on Tuesday mornings. Step #4. Provide advertising and sponsorship opportunities
Duncan’s team needed the newsletter to create its own revenue stream, in addition to providing clicks to the team’s advertising-supported websites. The solution was a combination of advertisements and sponsorship opportunities within the newsletter.
Newsletter sponsorship opportunities emerged as a popular addition to online advertising deals worked out between the Curse.com sales team and their clients. Typical sponsorship options included:
- Providing prizes for giveaways and sweepstakes.
- Sponsored editorial. For example, “free-to-play” games -- which charge users for in-game transactions rather than a monthly subscription fee -- are an emerging business model in the MMO gaming industry. Duncan’s team has provided reviews and other coverage of these free-to-play games as part of sponsorship packages.
Thanks to the newsletter, Duncan’s team has ensured that subscribers see the full-range of Curse.com content.
“We want to make ourselves the number-one portal for all games,” says Duncan. “We already have the number-one fan site for a lot of these games, and that’s due to the fact [that] we’ve let World of Warcraft gamers know that we have that content available.”
- The newsletter achieves an average 18% open rate and 7% clickthrough rate.
- “Tuesday downtime” provided a great window for reaching users. Since changing the delivery schedule from Thursday to Tuesday, open rates improved about 20%.
- The strategy of encouraging users to explore different game portals and features is paying off. Last month, the team saw a 20% increase in traffic to DiabloFans.com, even though there were no major releases or public news announcements that would have increased interest in that title.
- The team’s advertising strategy allows them to cover the costs associated with producing and distributing the newsletter. Useful links related to this article
Creative Samples from Curse.com's Newsletters:
Curse.com uses Contactology as its email service provider.