Isaac Roseboom heads up deltaDNA's Insight Team.
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 whales is the holy grail of F2P monetization, and to do this, you need to understand their spending behavior.
One of the common misconceptions about whales 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 system, we can identify 1 million whales 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:
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 whales' spending $1000+ and completing 55 transactions on average.
Whales spend modest amounts over time that can add up to significant sums.
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.
Watching for patterns
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 whale monetization.
Very expensive individual items or bundles will not make an impact.
Focus on building better long term engagement, generating multiple payments, and a creating rewarding experience for all spenders as an effective strategy to maximize the potential of whales.
To improve engagement in your games, download deltaDNA's free guide.