The “Whales” that carry the gaming industry on their shoulders
You may have heard of so-called “Whales” in the Free-To-Play (F2P) gaming industry. Even though I am not a fan of this term, it represents hardcore players that spend a sizable amount of money in a game (as opposed to Dolphins, Minnows, and Freeloaders who spend significantly less money). Most gaming companies depend on these “Whales” to stay alive, and they try to design specifically for them.
Some heavy gamers spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on a game. When I was doing research on the game Battle Camp, I was amazed when I saw some players spend $6,000 just on one weekly competition – not for any external reward, but just to win two “Legendary Monsters” that helps them play the game better.
Have you ever wondered who are these heavy spenders and what goes on in their heads? Are they just filthy rich millionaires who don’t care about money? Or are they so into the game that they are willing to lose their livelihood just to obtain more of those 8 Core Drives we so desperately need in our lives? Are they illusional and think that proud achievements in a game are more important than the real world? (Spoiler: in this interview, we will see that this is not the case.) How do they feel about spending so much money on a game?
Big Jim: the “Whale” who spent over $30K on We Heroes
When I started doing research on a mobile game my friend was working on – We Heroes, I also noticed many hardcore players who were not shy of spending real money in the game. On my server, the top player was named Big Jim, and he was setting and breaking all sorts of records in the game.
Seeing how he has accumulated ALL the expensive heroes in the game, I was very curious about what he would be like in real life. After admiring his game status for a while, I had the opportunity to join his Guild, which led to us becoming friends on Facebook. To my surprise, he lives in Pleasanton, California, just twenty minutes away from where I live!
After a few more months of playing and communicating in-game (after all, I was no weak player either – doing some heavy lifting in the Guild too. And yes, I can actually expense my spending in-game as “research budget.”), we finally met at a conference, in which he graciously agreed to an interview.
I then learned that he has spent over $30,000 on We Heroes alone! And this wasn’t spent over many years like some League of Legends players do. Since We Heroes just launched in early 2015, the $30,000 must have been spent within a year’s time.
Below is the exclusive content of what goes through the mind of a “whale” heavy spender, and some lessons he wants the world to learn about.
Interview between Yu-kai Chou and Big Jim, a “Whale Spender” on We Heroes
I. Yu-kai Chou: Thanks so much for being part of this interview. Can you start off with a quick intro of yourself? Who you are, where you are from, and what do you do?
Big Jim: My name is Jim. I am a 55 year old electrical engineer working in Silicon Valley.
II. Yu-kai Chou: How many years have you been playing games for?
Big Jim: I have played games since I was old enough to roll a die. I played my first war game when I was about 12. It was Blitzkrieg by Avalon Hill. My first MMORPG was Asheron’s Call.
III. Yu-kai Chou: What are the games that you have considered yourself a hardcore player for?
Big Jim: Any game I like I play to win, which makes me hardcore to most people. Asheron’s Call. Everquest. World of Warcraft. World in Flames (a boardgame by Australian Design Group). Kingdoms of Camelot and now We Heroes. There may have been others I have forgotten.
IV. Yu-kai Chou: In We Heroes, you are one of the top players in the game. When did you start playing, and how did you achieve the top status?
Big Jim: I saw an advertisement for We Heroes while playing another game so I tried it, and I liked it. It was sometime in early 2015 when server 12 opened. There wasn’t any great strategy involved in becoming a top player. All it takes is spending a lot of money.
V. Yu-kai Chou: I know you have spent over $20k to reach your status. Have you played any other game that you have spent a considerable amount of money? Continue reading EXCLUSIVE!! Interview with the man who spent $30,000 on a Single Game