Case Study

Staying in the game: Using email to drive player engagement


Frontier Developments is a UK-based video game developer who self-publish their own high quality, ground breaking games across a diverse range of genres and platforms. Elite Dangerous, Frontier’s flagship multiplayer space simulation, allows players to experience the Milky Way galaxy in 1:1 scale through exploration, trading and combat. Elite Dangerous is available for PC, Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation.


  • To increase number of sessions and total game time for new players within the first 30 days
  • To guide new players in understanding the complex nature of the game
  • To promote long-term game loyalty by nurturing new players

The Challenge

Elite Dangerous requires an understanding of a number of complex systems that work in tandem, to deliver an authentic simulation game-play experience with incredible depth and freedom of choice.

As a ‘living game’, Frontier continue to support the player community with frequent content updates and quality of life enhancements. Without a linear narrative and book-ended ‘levels’, this living online multiplayer allows players to blaze their own trail. Freedom of choice allows for truly individual game-play that encourages a risk/ reward experience.

Getting to grips with the game controls, features and expansive galaxy can be daunting for new players. New and inexperienced players can lose interest quickly, if they find themselves overwhelmed by the scale and choices they have to make from the outset.

The Solution

By creating an automated on-boarding journey, the Frontier team used email to help guide new players and increase their game time.

By analyzing player data, Frontier identified three segments or ‘personas’ amongst new players:  those who were struggling to get going and had only played a few hours in their first week; those who were still finding their feet; and players who had hit the ground running, having invested many hours into the game already.

Frontier developed tailored content for each of the three personas, pitched at the right level depending on how long they had played. This content was designed to help them progress and encourage them to experiment with more game-play choices. For example, people who have played for less than two hours will get tips on how to fly their ship, while adept pilots received information on improving their trading, charting systems for exploration and arming for combat.

To test the effectiveness of this strategy, Frontier used the Split Path functionality within the Adestra Program Builder to separate a control group who received a generic (non-tailored) journey.

Elite Dangerous is available for different gaming platforms and each individual has its own unique controllers and control schemes. Frontier used the conditional (dynamic) content interface in Adestra’s Email Editor to tailor the experience further, giving players the correct instructions for their preferred platform.


Both the dynamic (segmented) journey and control journey achieved strong open rates (as high as 34%). Comparing click engagement, the dynamic journey achieved a 182% higher click through rate compared to the control journey. Furthermore, average playtime hours for the dynamic journey were over double of those in the control. This proved that the segmentation strategy (based on time in the game) was effective.

What’s Next?

Frontier plan to develop the on-boarding journey by adding more campaigns and testing different types of content (including video) to find out what works best by player segment.

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