Best use of FastStats® 2014 Award Finalist
Using FastStats PeopleStage™ to enable multi-language triggered campaign management in the world of online games
Travian Games GmbH, located in Munich, is a globally known provider of browser-based online and mobile games. The company offers complex and multilayer adventure worlds, which impress customers worldwide due to their game depth and guarantee long lasting gaming fun to the users. The portfolio of various genres is translated into up to 42 languages and hence can be used by fans of long-lasting gaming entertainment around the world.
Travian Games develops and publishes online games based on the free-to-play model. The games are published, marketed, and supported globally and are available in more than 40 languages worldwide. In the monetisation model used, there is a very low entrance barrier for new customers: After registration with an email-address and confirmation, it is possible to play and build new empires, railroad enterprises or manage a football team. Thanks to free-to-play, there is no financial investment upfront, hence the games from Travian Games, like Travian, Rail Nation or goalunited, can easily be tested. Free-to-play doesn’t mean these games are totally free: There are additional features or services you can buy to boost your gaming experience.
Travian Games implemented Apteco FastStats as their campaign management system in 2013 and started with the implementation support of Munich based consultancy b.telligent in October. Less than 2 months later, all daily data transfers and updates of approx. 21.4 million email addresses from the data warehouse of Travian Games, and the integration of an ESP to send emails and retrieve responses, had been realised.
The players included in the campaign generated more than 30% more revenue than the control group; a revenue difference within 2 months that would finance the external and internal costs for the full year already, so a highly profitable initiative.
Via FastStats Designer the customer data mart is updated daily based on an extract of the data warehouse of Travian Games. Additionally, data collected from an ESP by the FastStats Response Gatherer (FERGE), the contact history within PeopleStage, and some other data sources stored in an MS SQL-Database are extracted. All this data is integrated into the central FastStatsDB. After this database is generated and deployed, scheduled campaigns in PeopleStage or manual analytical jobs with Discoverer are executed on the refreshed data. A second identical server structure is set in place as a backup and test system. During the two months of implementation, all existing campaigns have been transferred to the new system with segmentation and quality filtering in Discoverer. Both event-driven individual and autonomous mass campaigns are managed within PeopleStage. Since then, more than 2,100 campaigns have been sent out, involving over 60 million emails within this infrastructure.
Starting to play a free-to-play is easy; keeping customers active as longtime players and payers is not. A big share of the newly registered players stops to play very soon. Varying between countries, games, and acquisition channels, 40-60% never log in a second time. So the challenge for Travian Games is to foster the engagement of newly acquired players, to get them into the game. Even while the business model free-to-play seems to be a particular feature of the gaming industry, other sectors, like Video-on-Demand or other on- or offline subscription services, face the same challenge.
In the warm-up phase of a new player, it is essential to remember the game, to understand the main loop, to overcome stumbling blocks, and to get to know other players. Of course, this is mainly an issue for game design, user interface design and the creation of an instructional and captive tutorial. But communication can support this process, as well. As the email address is the only address available, personalised communication is focused on this channel. To start the learning process and to create and manage welcome processes for games, Travian Games started with a quite new game: Rail Nation. In Rail Nation players found their own railroad company, organise profitable transportation routes and join up with other players in corporations to win the game together or alone. Apart from the interaction within the first game session, there is not much information available for new players. So the welcome process designed is quite straight-forward. The process could be more differentiated, but for a first start Travian Games did not want to make the process too complex.
Most welcome processes include incentives like free services or premium currency. Travian Games did not want to use incentives like this for this process. So they created a communication strategy focusing on helping the player to understand basic features of the game and to connect to other players. E.g. They communicated the founding of a corporation and a member gets member feature to foster customer retention as the key success factor of Rail Nation is cooperation. The email messages included an animated gif and links to tutorial videos to explain more complex concepts of the game visually.
A main requirement for a campaign management system like Apteco FastStats in 2013 was the possibility to easily design and execute triggered multi-step campaigns. Here you can see how the concept has been realised in the system.
A special challenge for Travian Games was the efficient handling of various languages in the context of multi-lingual player settings, as the game Rail Nation can be played in 19 languages, and more to come. In most systems you’ll have to create a separate process for each language. PeopleStage has a function to generate variations of a message name based on variables or text fields.
Travian Games can combine text variables with data within their database or variables defined generating different groups like in A/B-tests. At runtime these variables are combined on individual level to define the message for the individual addressee. As used in their process, the distinct email template for an individual player is selected by his communication language. Hence we used only one welcome process definition and created the necessary messages within the ESP, including the several languages in the message name. So Travian Games have a very efficient way for them to handle multi-language campaigns.
The first and basic result is that the concept could be easily realised. Actually, the technical challenge could be handled quite easily, but the creation of the content took a lot more time and effort than expected: In the emails screenshots of the game or additional content on YouTube were used. And this content has to be localised and kept up to date as the game and the user interface is enhanced during the time. Of course, the effect of this welcome process on the behavior of new players is the most important result. To measure the effect control groups were used. So 50% of the new players got the email sequence, 50% were excluded as a control group from the email communication. Two months after the campaign started these two distinct groups were compared:
- The players receiving the welcome emails were actively playing on 10% more days compared to the control group.
- Taking into account the rate of players that only play on the first day and never come back, the rate has declined by 2.4% compared to the control group. Not very much if you would mention the number of players. But at the same time, the players included in the campaign generated more than 30% more revenue than the control group; a revenue difference within 2 months that would finance the external and internal costs for the full year already, so a highly profitable initiative.