In Analytics insights, Data analysis, Game monetization, Games Analytics

One of the harsh realities of the free-to-play (F2P) model in games is that the vast majority of revenue is generated by a fraction of a percent of the player base. In the best F2P games, these whales can spend $1,000s, but even modest F2P games will likely have players spending well over $100.

How to find and manage high speding players is the holy grail of F2P monetization, and to do this, you need to understand their spending behavior.

One of the common misconceptions about whale-like spenders is that they are indiscriminate spenders who can afford anything offered to them. However, in many cases whales are anything but; they may not even know that they are whales! i.e. they do not realize how much they have spent in a game over time. The proof of this is in their spending patterns.

Taking data from the deltaDNA deep data analytics platform, we can identify player engagement data from 1 million high spenders who have spent more than $100 in mobile F2P games since July 2015. Across all in-app purchases made by whales, the typical transaction size is $20, i.e. whales are, on average, purchasing modest bundles. Looking at this a different way, over half (54%) of whales have never made an individual transaction worth more than $50.

The table below looks at a number of key statistics broken down by lifetime spend:


Whale Table

Overall, 5% of spenders (i.e. <0.1% of all players) are whales. The typical whale, even those that spend between $100-$200, will have a large number of transactions, with `mega spenders’ paying $1000+ and completing 55 transactions on average. For this reason, the typical transaction size does not grow radically from $100 to $1000 in lifetime spend. Interestingly, even at these high spend amounts, many players will never complete a large transaction, with 20% of mega-whales never spending more than $50 in a single transaction.

These statistics reveal much about the mindset of whales: they do not set out to spend $100s in-game, but spend modest amounts over time that can add up to significant sums. This tallies with the typical engagement players have with mobile F2P games, in short, intense daily sessions. Developers should use this insight to optimize monetization. Very expensive individual items or bundles will not make an impact. Focus on building better long term engagement and a creating rewarding experience for all spenders as an effective strategy to maximize the potential of whales.


If you liked this article, you should read Why your F2P game should inspire multiple payments.

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Showing 3 comments
  • MystiKasT

    Whales are ruining the video game and mobile game industry.

    • BrunoFehr

      Those who keep the gaming companies alive are somehow ruining the industry? *Mind Blown*

      • C.H.

        Its actually a double edged sword. On one side you have the whales which we need because they keep the industry going… BUT on the other side you have everyone else and sadly its not so much the whales as these shady low life scum bag gacha gaming companies who in 2019 have all taken a hard right turn down Whale St. and have all but come out and said gtfo everyone else and are doing things they have never done before on an epic scale all for the sake of marketing directly to the whales making everyone else unhappy and miserable and putting up a paywall so high and thick between the two that its made it all but impossible to be competative or finish the game content without dropping hundreds of $$$ into it and in most cases its still not enough and more so you get absolutely nothing for your $$$ which personally I call stealing and until there is some type of congressional oversight which at the moment there is ZERO meaning these gaming companies have set guidelines that they dont follow and the lie and post up false info so trick ppl in spending money and getting nothing in return for it.

        Its not so much the whales that are ruining the industry its the greedy sacks of epic crap running the company thats greed has no bounds and will hose and shaft every player out there to get that extra buck. Its just sickening….

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