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In free-to-play (F2P) games, “whales” are the players who spend a lot more than anyone else. In the past, these whales accounted for a large amount of revenue in free-to-play mobile games. But DeltaDNA says those whales are diminishing in importance.

The mobile-game and web-game marketing and analytics company said its latest study reveals a major shift in monetization trends within free-to-play games, genres, and platforms.

“The results of the study are fascinating as they highlight a major shift in how F2P games monetize,” said Mark Robinson, CEO of DeltaDNA, in a statement. “They reveal a trend towards [a] more balanced monetization model, which is [a] lot healthier for developers as it moves away from having to rely on a small number of whales to deliver the bulk of the revenue.”

Above: DeltaDNA.

Image Credit: DeltaDNA

Where F2P games used to rely on the small percentage of whales or power spenders to drive the majority of the revenue, games now have a much greater number of casual spenders alongside the whales, and this is creating much more balanced monetization. That conclusion is based on data from more than 800 million unique users and 2,500 games recorded from January 2016 to the present day.


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In the last three years, the percentage of paying players per game in North America has increased by a third to 4.02 percent and a fifth to 2.43 percent in Europe, according to DeltaDNA’s Game Profitability Index.

There have also been some significant monetization shifts within the specific game genres. For example, ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user) within strategy games has soared by 199.9 percent to 21 cents while in casino games, ARPDAU has risen 41.6 percent and in puzzle games by 25 percent. But it’s not all good news. Action games have plummeted in recent years with ARPDAU falling by 52.38 percent to 10 cents.

The study also found that the monetization of free-to-play PC games has soared, with ARPDAU surging by 260 percent to 18 cents in North America and 175 percent to 44 cents in Europe.

While free-to-play players are now spending in greater numbers than ever before, the amount they are spending has fallen slightly, DeltaDNA said. On iOS, the lifetime value of a player (the amount of revenue generated by a player across the entire time playing a game) has fallen by 6.58 percent to $29.07 while the average Android player is spending 17.69 percent less at $24.37.

Above: DeltaDNA.

Image Credit: DeltaDNA


“As spending in free-to-play games slowly becomes less stigmatized and more developers offer great premium experiences rather than relying on blockers, pinch points and free-to-start type models, I believe this trend will only continue,” Robinson said.

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