Could someone do an investigative report on “whales”, the people whom spend upwards of $10,000 a year on social games? Given the ecosystem these people support, it would be nice to understand who they are and their motivations (addiction? copious wealth? high allowances?).
At first whales seem like a quirk, a funny did-you-know story for light conversation. But thanks to details within Zynga’s and Facebook’s IPO filings we can see that any bubble that might exist is being built on the backs of whales. Consider:
- Zynga designs and optimizes their games around $10k+ spenders, whom make up roughly 5% of their audiences. According to Zynga’s IPO filing, this small percent makes up nearly all of their sales.
- Zynga makes up 12% of Facebook’s revenue. Now consider that Zynga is one of many social gaming companies (albeit the largest). EA has 47,407,020 monthly active users to Zynga’s 241,842,917. Wooga has 40,220,000. King has 25,790,000. Playdom has 14,828,636. Start adding up these smaller players and it’s easy to imagine that 15% or more of Facebook’s revenues are tied to social gaming, which is dependent on 5% of their players.
- Zynga has a $9.36 billion market cap. Facebook’s upcoming IPO is expected to value the company between $75 billion and $100 billion. What % of these figures is dependent on whales?
Given their intricate relationship with social media, it would be best if we understood the motivations of whales, if only to understand what external factors could affect the industry. Combing through news and search results, the best descriptions or examinations of whales I could find were two or more years old. As we build more and more businesses around social media and upload more of our lives online, the need for whale understanding becomes more of an imperative.
Update: I’ve been asked for an example of a risk which could emerge. Older, somewhat thin numbers show Saudi Arabia to be a whale hub of sorts. Does this mean that a green revolution in Saudi Arabia, one which more evenly distributes oil funds or upsets the status quo for the wealthy would decimate a % of whale earnings? Perhaps. I think it would be wise to update our understanding with more robust, more recent numbers.