100.000 dollar whales

Once I have seen a video interview with R2Games president. The video's title was '100.000 dollar whales'. The video was later removed - maybe there was too much insider information, maybe the president brutal honesty about how they milk players shed bad light on them, I don't know. But it was an interesting video.

Several years ago, the browser game market was dominated by German companies like Gameforge. Now these companies are of the past, the Chinese rule the market. What are the keys to their success?

1. Ignoring copyrights have an advantage, and it helps developing new things faster. If a Chinese company makes  a good game, others copy it and improve it. The original company willl not lawsuit them, but copies back the improvements. Wartune has many, many great features. Blitz, items you can't pick up sent after you in mail, devotion, item enchanting etc. These are all results of a super-fast game design evolution.

2. "If I wanted to spend 100.000 USD on your game, could I do it?" asked R2 president in the video. And this is one of the key successes of today's Chinese game companies. They realized that in free-to-play games, only a small percentage of gamers will ever pay. So those few have to pay a lot. They introduced the "whale" concept, where a rich guy can spend any amount of money. A free player can get 100k BR, if you spend 100 USD, you get 110k, if you spend 1000, 120k, if you spend 10.000, 130k etc. The pscychology which leads people to spend such ridiculous amount of money is the same what affect game addicts in casinos.

3. "Gamble is good." he said. I totally disagree, I hate these gambles where one player gets 2 Apollo for free, the other spend 300 USD and gets nothing. But still, this concept seems to work for them. People who would not spend 400 USD on a hades, spend 40 on a few boxes, "hoping". The designers converted a strategy game into a casino, where the chances are unknown and manipulated at will. But the crowd is buying it.

4. Instead of spending a truckload of money on less-and-less effective advertisements like google or facebook, the developers license their games to portals with huge playerbase who in turn might licence it further. It's like you are not selling the apple you grow yourself, but you sell it to supermarkets instead. This is working well, except that customer service and feedback is quite impossible, as we can see with R2Games.

I think this business model has some drawbacks too.

1. Once you are burnt out, and walk away with 10.000+ USD spent, you will most likely vow never again to play a similar Chinese game. Europeans have a different strat, it rely upon on building customer loyalty. Like Doomlord's development team is making games since 20 years, whenever they make a new game, they have a big starting player base from their previous games.

2. They lose a lot of money on low and medium cashers. Prices are insane - a beginner player have to spend like 200 USD just to open up inventory spaces? If you want just the basic minimum comfort functions, nothing else, you spend 50 USD a month. Getting the main prize in a monthly event usually cost 2-400 USD! So a lot of people say: I rather don't spend anything.

3. If a company never listens to their players, and it's customer service is not able to handle even the most basic problems, it is running towards their doom. Lucky for R2Games, Wartune has a very low bug rate (you might try to argue, but compare it with other games!) Item and data loss is very, very rare. Still, if they would be as helpful with customers and listen to suggestion as in Doomlord, for example, they could triple their income, and would keep much more players.

Conclusion. Wartune will live on for a long time, years. 7Roads is constantly adding new content, that can keep loyal players in the game. Also the amount of money spent is a strong anchor for many :) But getting new players, and especially making them spend will be harder and harder. So they have to milk more and more the thinning casher core. Prices will drop, bigger and bigger sales will come, so as always, watch out how much you spend and how much BR you get in exchange :)


  1. You are right about things getting cheaper.

    Did you see the recent will crystal sale? How about the current Anniversary Packs? According to your pricing guide, this is a good deal, right? But if things are getting cheaper, should we be even more picky about what we think are good deals?

    1. I wrote an eval ofthe anniversary packs, they werent a really good deal. will crystals - now you can get them for even cheap in the arena shop :)

  2. http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1016417/-100-000-Whales-An This is probably the video that you were talking about. I saw it today and it made me feel like a fool.

    1. wow, thanks, this is it, a real treasure! I'm grateful for you finding it!