Whales vs True Fans (and dolphins and minnows)

I see a lot of discussion on the forum on FTP VS C2P VS P2W. It’s interesting to see people’s point of view on it. I am reframing this topic by…

  • shifting terminology … let’s start with whales, dolphins and minnows.
  • the difference in value between “true fans” vs “whales”
  • noting how a developer prioritizes and treats a player will determine long term sustainability
  • the Ethics of “free to play” games


Whale vs dolphin vs minnow

What type are you according to spending habit?
  • non payer
  • Minnow
  • Dolphin
  • Whale
  • Killer whale

0 voters

The difference between Whales vs True Fans

“True fans spend money because of what you (the developer) do; whales spend money because of who they are.” https://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/09/whales-true-fans-and-the-ethics-of-free-to-play-games/

Strategic CX question for SGG: Are you targeting Whales or True Fans?

  • If your customers suddenly stop, realise how much they have spent, and suffer buyer’s remorse, you’re targeting Whales
  • If they know how much they’ve spent and view it as value for money, you’re targeting True Fans

So how do you grow True Fans?

Start with your biggest assets (listen, communicate back with consistency and frequency, and empower and promote their work):

  • alliance leaders
  • content makers
  • moderators
  • beta testers

Purchase brands vs Usage Brands : pivot your approach SGG

Successful companies In the digital age focus on usage (grow loyalty and advocacy Through brand love) VS purchasing (promoting products, deals and sales). ( https://hbr.org/2018/02/the-most-successful-brands-focus-on-users-not-buyers )


The biggest complaints from this forum address game in-balances caused by business strategy prioritizing PURCHASE over USAGE.

However smart CX design can improve loyalty and advocacy from minnows and dolphins to increase the player base.

The Ethics

Considering the studies about gaming, addictive behaivours and impulse control… this kind of business cannot ignore the ethical issues… in order to do so… the developer shifting from motivating whales to purchase and Developing better CX to grow their core following of “true fans” is a great business “North Star.”

P.s. I don’t work in gaming nor claim to be gaming expert or even a gamer… this is just interesting stuff to me.


In ain’t a whale but your graft says I am :joy:


This graph may work for other games, but according to this, I’m a Whale too! HAHAHAHAHA!

$25 - 50 a month is pretty low considering if you just get VIP and PoV and that’s it, that’s 21 a month roughly (in Canadian at least).

It’s not unheard of to hear people spending hundreds of dollars a month here! I think E&P needs it’s own metric graph.

1 Like

I guess im a killer killer whale and im not close to the big spenders


Yes agreed. It’s just consumer segmentation.

For me the key questions are:

* If your customers suddenly stop, realise how much they have spent, and suffer buyer’s remorse, you’re targeting Whales

* If they know how much they’ve spent and view it as value for money, you’re targeting True Fans

I think minnows should be incentivize more

  • I tried to invite new players but in game invite system is lame and NOT motivating,

I think Dolphins need to be engaged more

  • give them more 4* heroes to chase not a glut of unusable five stars.
  • this game is seriously unbalanced… way too many five stars vs four star heroes.
  • why not 4* HoTM?
  • reconsider the ascension mat chokehold for S1 5* heroes (should it be the same as more rare 5*?). // note I gave up on HA being a solution for QoL considering how it all went down with beta testers and how it works now.


  • alliance leaders
  • content makers
  • moderators
  • beta testers

I think they should be rewarded, supported and promoted by SGG to the player base. They have the most passion for the game, community and content.

  • there are nice players dedicating to making YouTube content. Small Giant Games is using a very very old social media playbook and should catch up to how brands grow communties… through user made content
  • stop with the dumb games on facebook - promote content makers videos and encourage community discussion on FB
  • help alliance leaders with more tools to grow, keep their communities

So for example… the difference between focusing on whales vs true fans… I saw a great effort by a large group of true fans ( Community letter to make a better Empires & Puzzles ) … which actually addresses the largest fabric holding the communities together (alliances) … and no response YET from SGG.


That’s just one graph.

Here is a zynga one LOL

And even different way to segment lol

This is all new to me… I am curious how @Gryphonknight would categorize the E+P player base lol.


This one is def. more realistic when it comes to spending on E&P. :money_mouth_face:


3 pros ones a killer whale one is a dophine ones a minnow that splurges of the whales Google play points so more of a piranha

1 Like

I read this as a poetic haiku

Dont think i have the 5/7/5 rule needed !

1 Like

Still poetry to me :face_with_monocle:

Find my inner whale
SGG motivate me
Balance this game please

Lol I think that is 5/7/5


I think that the terminology is better in qualitative terms, it is probably a little disturbing what the actual spend levels are from so called whales in this game.

I suspect a lot of long term users, like me (3+ years), distinctly remember this game feeling very cheap to play friendly where you could farm most of the best heroes, at the onset, when we joined alliances and became addicted.

Obviously, this game has evolved tremendously to a point where the 5* heroes you can farm are mostly useless, either by being the umpteenth dupe or just obsolete, and where the heroes you want cannot be earned, unless you first place a challenge event.

Almost nobody playing this game can drop a thousand bucks chasing Guardian Panther and it ■■■■■■ me off that I don’t have her after 3 years.

That all said, my crappy vanilla roster seems to be competitive in war and in raids, so I suppose I am still having fun.


Excellent!!! No i have to work on iambic pentameter too lol !

1 Like

I hear You.

HA was rushed out probably… not a solution yet.

What if…

They increase more four star heroes being released and reduced new five star releases?

They changed ascension mat requirement for S1 five stars (who we get wayyyy more than the other five stars… yet have to deal with same ascension mats issue,)

1 Like

I’m a surfing dolphin apperently but that’s cool dolphins can kill killer whales and sharks :wink:

But really think whales spend a lot more then put on this chart

But if I average the amount I’ve spent over the time I’ve played I’m a minnow if that’s how it’s calculated

Whales in this game are spending thousand+ per month, not $50


Yes I know. That’s not the point tho of the post :grinning:

1 Like

Thanks for the post @fight_happy, I like it

They should come up with a name for someone who spends the most amount of money and sits at the top of that chart, Killer Mok-Ar or something

I’ll go ahead and call myself a minnow. I started off as a dolphin, but have dropped down to non-payer.

I like the game, and I’m always happy to spend some money on a game that I enjoy. The problem with this game is that I don’t feel like it gives me my money’s worth when I do spend.

I like the product. I hate the prices.


It’s like when I go to one of those grocery stores where they’re handing out free samples. Let’s say, cubes of cheese. “Would you like to try one?” Yeah, okay, sure. Taste it… hey, that’s not bad! Go down the aisle to buy some, thinking “yeah, I’d definitely pay a few dollars for that…” Get to the area where they sell it, only to see it costs $100 a pound.

“Are you @#$%ing kidding me??? LOL nope.”

It’s good, but it’s not that good.


Well, as an 100% FTP, I tend to put that in perspective. I’ve been playing since June 2017, that’s 40 months.

If I was spending $50 every month for these 40 months, I would have spent $2000 in total!

Yes, there are people who spend that amount for a month. As FTP, though, I have spent $0 for 40 months. So the difference between an FTP and a person who has spent $50 every month for a period of 40 months is $2000. This is still a significant amount for a mobile game.


Cookie Settings