As the gaming industry has progressed, it has searched for new ways to monetize its products. One of the ways this has been achieved is through microtransactions, which have been met with a mixed reaction from gamers. Though some gamers do not mind a few unobtrusive microtransactions, others see them as a symptom of corporate greed. Plenty of gamers have steered far away from microtransactions, but a rare few have fully embraced them and are willing to spend huge amounts of money on them.
Gamers who splurge on in-game purchases are sometimes referred to as whales, and they have a somewhat controversial reputation. Some may pity whales and see them as exploited victims, although others claim that whales are bad sports who use money instead of skills, and in doing so ruin the fun for everyone. Opinions on whales are divided, but as long as they continue to be a reliable money source, developers will continue fishing for them.
What Are Whales?
Microtransactions have been a regular fixture in gaming for a while, and when they are implemented correctly, they can benefit the developers and gamers. Through microtransactions, gamers can purchase additional optional items to make their character, their vehicles, or their weapons stand out, or to gain additional perks. Developers can use microtransactions to support free-to-play games and to feed new content into games. Provided the microtransactions are not too pricey or too invasive, they can exist quite harmoniously beside content that is unlocked through regular gameplay.
When games attract a large audience, most gamers will not purchase DLC no matter how attractive it is. However, there is a small percentage that will get so immersed in the game, that they will be willing to spend large sums of money for in-game currency, either to splurge on cosmetics or to gain perks that put them at a competitive advantage. Such players are referred to as whales, and while they may be in the minority in any player base, they are typically the gamers who provide developers with the majority of profits. According to researchers, the top ten percent of players can account for as much as fifty percent of all in-app purchase revenue.
What Games Have Whales?
Whales have been prevalent in gacha video games, which are games that entice players to spend in-game currency to receive random in-game items. Games, especially mobile games, using the gacha model rose in popularity in the 2010s before the rest of the world joined in on the craze. Well-known examples of gacha games include Genshin Impact, Arknights, and Guardian Tales.
Despite the popularity of gacha games, they have been criticized, with many claiming that they are addictive and that they lure kids into gambling habits. While some are thankful for the whales in free-to-play games, believing that they keep things free for the rest of the players, others have claimed that whales are addicts who are being exploited. Furthermore, others claim that whales ruin games for others by purchasing the upgrades and perks that others work hard for. It can be impossible to keep up with whales through regular play when they can simply purchase any improvements they require.
Whales are not limited to gacha games, and big spenders can be found in games like Grand Theft Auto: Online, Candy Crush Saga, and FIFA Mobile, where gamers are known to spend thousands on in-game purchases. Despite the popularity of microtransactions and the profitability of whales, there have been some titles, such as Hogwarts Legacy, that have consciously avoided including any microtransactions. Hence, while whales seem to have a permanent fixture in gaming, the gaming landscape remains large enough to accommodate all types of creators and players.