In the F2P model, “whales” are players who are willing to spend much more in a game than average players. The terms comes from the world of Las Vegas casinos, where big spenders are referred to as “whales.”
Games that go after the money of specific big spenders operate in a the morally grey territory of exploitative game design. According Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney, however, this strategy is also faulty in pure business terms. In an interview during the virtual GamesBeat Summit 2020, Mahoney said that Nexon looks for a “reasonable to a low amount of spend” among each individual player across a game’s player base. Instead of targeting whales, Nexon games monetize off the middle of the highest and lowest paying players.
In Mahoney’s words, “the problem is, that [chasing whales] makes your business kind of fragile. If that whale leaves, then you’re really in a tough position, so I don’t think that’s a very good way of going about it.”
Nexon is the company behind free-to-play titles like MapleStory, KartRider, and Mabinogi.