Few words in the video games industry are as cynical as "whale," taken from a Las Vegas term for a high stakes gambler. The difference is, a Vegas high roller may actually win something with his money, and at minimum is comped for everything during his stay. In free-to-play games, a whale is nothing but a cash target.
So, who are these "whales"? You might be surprised. If a study by EEDAR is actually true, the whales are actually the stereotype of the hardcore gamer: young(er) males who also play console games.
Kind of swats the idea that games like Candy Crush Saga make their money off bored soccer moms who don't know any better, right? EEDAR, in a survey of 3,000 active mobile and tablet gamers, said men accounted for two thirds of the top 5 percent of paying mobile gamers. In fact, women were less likely to pay money for mobile games, accounting for 65 percent of the non-paying segment.
Even more contrary to stereotype, EEDAR's survey says free-to-play "whales" spent the majority of their gaming time on consoles. "It's not surprising," EEDAR's Jesse Divinich said to GamesIndustry International. "Core gamers have been conditioned to spend money on traditional games and it is fair to assume this habit carries with them into other gaming verticals." Divinich said gamers view spending $50 on a free-to-play game "as an investment, as most hobbyists do."
So, if you despise the trend in mobile free-to-play gaming, well you have met the enemy, and it is us.
[UPDATE:] The EEDAR folks supplied us with an infographic for some more insight on their study. It's at the bottom of this post.
Two-Thirds of Whales are Males [GamesIndustry International]