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The Relationship between Monetization and Gamer Behavior

Developers shouldn't blindly chase the illusion of high % of whales in their game. A healthy game should have a good combination of paid-users and unpaid-users. Unpaid-users group is the foundation of whales. Remember that whales usually spent less .....

Recently, I went through a report from GameAnalytics about some statistics of different gamers’ behavior. By analysing the data, we can grasp some understanding of whales in a game.

Other than the large group of unpaid gamers, monetizers in this report are categorized into 3 types: minnows (lowcore), dolphins (midcore) and whales (hardcore).

Usually, unpaid gamers tend to try more different games than dolphins and whales.  Dolphins and whales are more loyal and focus on playing a few or even only one game. (You can see the definition of the different cohort in the GameAnalytics report)


Retention of Different Players (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


It is obvious that whales show the best retention across time. Unpaid gamers, while retaining less, spend more time in the game and play more sessions once they got engaged in the game.


Average Number of Days to First Purchase (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


Whales take a longer time to convert, spending up to 18 days before they make their mind to pay, while minnows only 8 days.


Average Number of Days to First Purchase on Different Platforms (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


Comparing different platforms, we can see iOS users make their mind faster than Android users.


Distribution of Monetizers by Game Genre (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


RPG, trivia game, and board game attract most whales while RPG ranks top.


Percentage of Players vs Total Revenue Income (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


Minnows occupy around 50% of all the game paid players with only 1% of the revenue contribution in total, while 86.6% of the game revenue income comes from whales.


Android vs iOS User Distribution (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


Heavy spenders on the iOS platform are significantly higher in % amount paid gamers than Android.

More than 60% of the Android users are minnows, while iOS users' population are dominated by dolphins. Around 70% of the iOS users are dolphins, with only 15% being minnows.


China and US Gamer Distribution (Source: GameAnalytics, 2016)


According to the data provided by GameAnalytics, 64% of the US gamers are dolphins compared to 48% of China. However, China weighs way heavier than the US on the percentage of whales, which is 37.37% China and 14.42% US. On top of that, Chinese whales spend $347.39 on average while US ones spend $283.90.

The report from GameAnalytics could be summed up in the following 3 points:

  1. Dolphins and whales are more likely to be loyal to a few or only one game.
  2. Unpaid gamers tend to play more different games, while whales play fewer sessions per week.
  3. Whales need time, usually more than 10 days, to convert from install to purchase.

Even though this report didn’t say anything new regarding the gamer behavior in monetization, it is interesting to see those statistics reinforce what we believe.

It’s obvious that whales are important to the profitability of a game. However, developers shouldn’t blindly chase the illusion of a high % of whales in their game. A healthy game should have a good combination of paid-users and unpaid-users. The unpaid-users group is the foundation of whales. Remember that whales usually spent less time in a game, whereas unpaid-users are those really spending their life in your game and supporting the game community. Without a significant amount of unpaid-users, you won’t have any whales in your game as well. This is especially true in MMO.

Besides, a large amount of unpaid-users is a good opportunity for your game to monetize through in-app advertising. Unpaid-users normally won’t be annoyed by seeing in-app advertisements. According to a recent report from Unity (, 71% of gamers preferred watching in-game video ads as their preferred way to ‘pay’ for a mobile game, trumping the other two major monetization ways*.

* Three major ways to monetize in an app: In-app purchases (IAP), In-app advertising, and premium pricing.

You can read the original GameAnalytics report here


See Original Blog Post on Linkedin


You can check out my other Blog Posts here


About Seasun Inc 

Seasun is a leading Chinese online games publisher focused on creating high quality games/game engines that push the boundaries of player experience in action entertainment. The company is also involved in small-medium sized investments for game studios worldwide. We have recently started up our U.S. studio in Redwood City, CA to create top quality content for the western market.

Seasun has shipped many successful titles, including the popular MMORPG series JX (, the MMOARPG titles First Myth ( and CQ (, along with our FPS MAT ( The “JX” series has grossed more than $250 million and has achieved a daily active user count of 3.3 million. Our first game for the western market is Relics of Gods ( We are currently building a special team of highly talented people to create the technology for our next-generation MMOARPG at this studio.

About Kingsoft

Kingsoft, Seasun’s parent company, is publicly traded in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK: 3888) with market value of 3.8 billion USD. Kingsoft has created 3 other subsidiaries alongside Seasun: Cheetah Mobile (NYSE: CMCM), WPS Office, and Kingsoft Cloud Service. Kingsoft has over 4,000 employees worldwide.

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