Am I a Whale?
Whenever reading about game monetisation, I often come across the term “whale” and their alleged importance to the free-to-play business model. Primarily they seem to be associated with the mobile gaming industry, due to the way the games are constructed. Paying does more than enhance game play, it is required to facilitate it. However, the whale is no stranger to the MMO genre. The proliferation of cash stores, lock boxes and cosmetic customisation means that there’s always something that people want. Furthermore, gaming in many respects can be a more economic form of entertainment compared to others. Therefore, occasional expenditure is often seen as providing value for money. Fans also like to support the developers that create the games that they enjoy, so again spending money is perceived as a positive thing.
I play at present three MMOs. Lord of the Rings Online, The Elder Scrolls Online and Star Trek Online. I subscribe in LOTRO and do not own a life time account. ESO is a buy to play title with an optional sub for access to additional content. At present, I have bought the base game only. STO is the one game in which I bought a life time account. All these titles have in-game stores offering cosmetic or convenience based items. As I’m relatively new to ESO, I’ve yet to determine if the store has anything I desire. In LOTRO, I have bought milestone skills, stat tomes and other items that improve “quality of life”. Beyond these items, I have purchased relatively little, despite receiving a monthly stipend of in-game currency. It is in STO that I have regularly spent the most money, mainly because they sell ships, weapons and equipment.
Over the course of 2016, I spent £143.89 in Star Trek Online buying Zen, one of many in-game currencies. I bought items from the C-Store that I either used, traded or converted into Dilithium. Compared to other games in which I spend very little, this can be seen a large amount. Does this make me a whale? Probably not within the STO community. My primary character in STO is part of the Reddit Alert Fleet and you’ll frequently find other members discussing their relative expenditure in the chat channel. In this fleet you’ll find a lot of high end players who will regularly buy new ships and often in the cross faction bundles. For example, prior to the launch of the Agents of Yesterday expansion, Cryptic marketed the Temporal Agents Pack, featuring a wealth of ships, gear and items. It retailed at the time at £99.99 and I was surprised at how many colleagues bought this.
Now regarding my non-whale status in STO, it should be noted that I spent a further £153.83 via the “grey” market. Bringing my total spend over the year to nearly £300. To put that number in to context, that averages out to broadly £6 per week. A comparable cost to coffee, sandwiches or beer. It is also unlikely that I will spend a similar amount of money on STO this year. I have maxed out my primary character and a lot of the items I’ve bought, are available account wide. However, what I think this minor analysis proves is that, if I deem it viable, I will spend money in a game. Therefore, I may well invest in another game at a future date if it suits my needs to do so. Considering that in most F2P games, the majority of the player base spend nothing, maybe I do have Cetacean tendencies after all. According to research 46% of all revenue comes from .22% of player base. If I am part of that group, all I can say is “Thar she blows of the starboard bow!”.