Frontline Marketing

Big Ticket Spending And Other Myths About Mobile Game Whales

By | July 12, 2017 |

Whales are the most active spenders in the mobile gaming space, and while there are few of them, this group of consumers are the driving force behind free-to-play business models. But who are they really, and how do you get them to pour their trust funds into your new farm simulator? Today, we are examining the myths and revealing the truth behind this elusive demographic.

Myth 1: There Is Only One Kind Of Whale

Optimove, a company that specializes in customer retention, recently tracked 235 social gamers over 18 months and found that only 10 percent of players bring in 75 percent of a social game’s revenue, and just one percent—the biggest whales—bring in 30 percent.

That means that while active spenders typically bring in the most consistent income for a freemium business model, there is a group within a group that spends even more.

Myth 2: Whales Always Spend A Lot Of Money

“One of the common misconceptions about [whales] is that they are indiscriminate spenders who can afford anything offered to them,” says deltaDNA, an analytics and marketing company.

Tracking one million high spenders who have spent more than $100 in mobile free-to-play games since July 2015, deltaDNA found that whales aren’t dropping a hundred dollars at a time. In fact, over half (54 percent) have never made an individual purchase worth more than $50.

“Across all in-app purchases made by whales, the typical transaction size is $20,” deltaDNA noted in its findings. “Whales are, on average, purchasing modest bundles.”

Myth 3: You Should Focus All Marketing On Whales

App monetization platform Tapjoy found that the top 10 percent of an app’s spenders drive 70 percent of its in-app purchase (IAP) revenue. In addition, this group drives nearly 60 percent of its total revenue. While this may inspire a barrage of offers, Tapjoy recommends customized advertising to match the spending habits of each spender type.

For whales, Tapjoy advises not to bother with advertising offers. “Instead, focus on making them aware of valuable, useful or just plain cool virtual items that they’d be interested in buying. If they have a tendency to pay for high-end items, promote those—but they may be just as likely to take part in a currency bundle in order to stretch the value of their dollar.”

Optimove urges publishers to make sure their active spenders know they’re VIPs through exclusive rewards. “Players are well aware that they are VIPs,” the company said. “They should get limited edition/special games access, event invites, special gifts and a personal touch.”

DeltaDNA says, “Very expensive individual items or bundles will not make an impact. Focus on building better long-term engagement and creating a rewarding experience for all spenders as an effective strategy to maximize the potential of whales.”

Whales aren’t always who you think. They may spend a lot over time as opposed to one massive purchase. A player who doesn’t usually spend may splurge and change that in one session. Before you go all “Ahab,” knowing your audience could mean the difference between rocky seas and a lucky catch.