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Thursday, 25 July 2019

Pay to win - Whales

Many years ago, I heard this phrase from one of those Hong Kong movies that made a lot of sense:

"If a problem can be solved with money, then its no longer is a problem!"

In mobile gatcha gaming, whales are those players who think nothing of spending thousands of dollars per month just to summon rare and hard to get strong game characters.

Or furiously spend on "upgrades" generously offered by game publishers to develop and grow their charaters to "steamroll" other poor hapless players.

To a game publisher who introduces a "free-to-play" mobile game, whales are of their most important sources of income. 

For most free-to-play games, only 2-5% of their playerbase would pay for "powerups" or more summoning chances. And this include the dolphins (spend hundreds monthly) and guppies (spend tens of dollars monthly).

1 million players downloaded your game globally. 

Let's take 2% willing to pay. That's 20,000 players.

If per person they spend a lowly $10 per month, that's...

And if they now spend $100 on average per month... Rice bucket! (Say it in Hokkien for more impact)

Its the same in religion and social/politics. (And our FIRE community)

The minority pays so the majority don't have to.

That's why you don't go round bragging you don't pay any income tax... Its like telling everyone you earn less than $22K annually. 

No, the showoffs are the ones who "complain and whine" how much taxes they have paid...

Its cool to be a whale.

If you "spend" enough, you can have your name on hospitals. Cool or what?

And if you are willing to invest billions, your children have no problem getting shoe-horned into a good school.

Got a medical condition? Can fly anywhere to the best medical authority globally. What waiting time?

That's why many in the FIRE community "aspire" to be a whale one day. 

The honest ones have no problem admitting they want to be filthy rich.

Some, maybe due to their religious or cultural upbringing, may find too overtly pursuing wealth to be tacky... So they prefer to hide behind "empty" euphemisms like FIRE or minimalism.

When it comes to trading or investing, whales get the most favoured customer treatment from their brokers and investment bankers.

Want to bet that "free" analyst report or "hot tip" from your broker is already yesterday's news to whales?


  1. Whales are those bloggers showing high six digits passive income. No?

    1. CW,

      Too grey.

      $100K and $900K passive income per year are both 6 digits. Same same but different ;)

      Just like those millenia bloggers who got passive income of US$12,000 per year and living in Phuket can say with a straight face they have achieved FIRE at 28!

      Everything is relative.

      There are posts in the gaming community making fun of dolphins who like to use I "whaled" this, I "whaled" when they have only spent a few hundred dollars per month...

      Then there are guppies who thought they were "dolphins" just because they have spent a few dollars here and there...

      And of course there are also guppies who still considered themselves as "free-to-play" despite spending tens of dollars every month...

      Its like the old smoking joke: I'm not a smoker; I never inhaled.


  2. I'm a long-time player of MMORPGs. Definitely a guppy here, paying a few dollars here and there mostly for things/items that help improve quality of life.

    C'mon everyone, sing along with me :D

    "I wanna be a billionaire so freakin' bad
    Buy all of the things I never had"

    - Travie McCoy: Billionaire ft. Bruno Mars

    1. Kevin,

      I was a bit embarrassed to be a gatcha gamer at 50ish until I saw a US Youtube streamer in his 40s playing his heart out ;)

      Then there's that 70 plus retiree we see on his PMA scooter with 5 mobile phones trying to catch Pokemon in Singapore!

      Its all good :)

      Nowadays, the billionaire dream is possible - not by investing, trading, or saving - but by SELLING shares of your own startups/businesses ;)

      Too bad entrepreneursip is not in my blood...

      Got a bit of money I relax and chill.


  3. I spent 15k usd on a game in a span of 3yrs. I stopped after losing interest.
    To console myself, 20k is better spend in the game rather than gambled it away in the casino in 3hrs right? LOL
    To people with 5Mil spending 100k, loose change ba..
    To people with 200K spending 10K, is equal to a hand or limp.

    1. WolfT,

      That would make you a "killer whale" - bigger than dolphins but smaller than blue whales ;)

      Eh? Anyone who uses poker terminology is a man of culture in my books! Thumbs up!

      As a man of leisure, if you don't count gluttony, drinking, whoring, and gambling, I have no bad habits whatsoever... A man of culture like you?


      Life is about living.

      Delayed gratification is one thing; "saving" living till our old age is like saving sex till we are 65 (the over planners)...

      The most important thing is you had fun while gaming. And when its no longer fun, you stopped.

      Hungry eat; tired rest. Zen is not that complicated ;)

      I'm sure there will be some who will "wah kali gong" you that the $15K if voluntarily contributed to CPF instead, can compound into a giant mushroom! Then you can enjoy the shade during your retirement...


      Of course these "precision planners" don't expect to get heart attacks or get hit by lightning leaving their stacked CPF untouched ;)

    2. The problem with some players, they are still playing because they invested so much money and time deep in already and not because of interest or fun.

      Now I understand why the poor are the often the one who loose until penniless and get into debts esp in gambling. Really is 输不起,放不下。

    3. WolfT,

      Sunk cost fallacy...

      I've seen relationships/marriages where both parties knew the feeling has long gone...

      But hey! Like you've said, "invested" so much money and time deep already...

      So it has become like our Chinese chicken wing idiom - "throw wasted; eat no taste"...

      Sadly, what you say is true.

      Divorce rates amongst the whales are a lot higher; they can afford to.

      The free-to-play ones "beat dead won't leave"... Can't afford the alimony :(

  4. Hi guys,

    I'm one of those who stayed longer in a game when it's no longer fun. Sometimes, it's hard to know whether I'm being persistence and disciplined or just cannot cut loss. It's a very thin line you know. Still, I'm more relaxed these days than in the past, so I see that as progress. Discipline is never a problem for me, but losing discipline is. I guess there are some people who have a reverse problem.

    It's that elusive middle path that is hard to discover haha

    1. LP,

      That's why you managed to wait until one of your salted fish came back alive! LOL!

      Its like the gold miner analogy where the exasperated miner stopped digging and gave up 1 metre from striking gold...

      But then again, we have insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

      That's why most retail "investors" prefer to buy-and-hold. Its a lot easier if we never have to make a SELL decision - just kick the can down the road...

      You have a rare character. You are not mainstream. Most people have discipline issues... Yes, they have a goal and plan. Problem is they keep changing them! LOL!

      We are on a similar path. After crossing the river, I am ditching the sampan that has helped me cross the river in the first place.

      The skill sets and tools we use to climb up the mountain may not be what's needed when coming down...

      Learning when to never give up, and when to let it go...

      Now that's in the realm of wisdom ;)

  5. I had a conversation with my primary school son who is a game fanatic.

    Me: Do you have friends who spend lots of money on games?
    Son: I have a rich classmate who spends thousands to win.
    Me: Do you respect him for winning that way?
    Son: No, I beat him even when I don't spend a single cent.
    Me: Why does he spend the money if he doesn't get respect for winning?
    Son: Nobody knows he "cheated". He only tells his close friends like me.

    Even if nobody knows, the person himself will know. How does he respect himself?

    Maybe that person is spending to feel good about himself.

    There are always some aspects about our lives that we are unhappy about. Some rich people have failed relationships. Some have failed careers but managed to accumulate money through other means with good luck. They may look successful to other people but inside, they feel like failures and feel terrible about themselves. To alleviate the pain, they spend on status symbols to look successful and feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, money cannot solve this kind of problems. If the problem is failed relationships, then change the behaviour that is causing relationships to fail. Throwing money at loved ones only make them love his money and not him. If the problem is failed career, then work on improving the professional output and not throw money to put on a successful image. Money is more likely to create envy/jealousy and not respect.

    As a consumer, I'm careful not to let the need to feel good about myself be exploited by clever marketing folks, particularly manipulative salesmen who finds out the holes in the heart and attack at the right places. Even more importantly, don't delude ourselves using money to look successful. If a person is lucky enough to have some money, then use the money to fix the problems, not the symptoms.

  6. Hi hyom,

    I think cheating is when the rules of the games are such and such, and you purposely and willfully bypass it, fully knowing it's against such rules. Hence, finding loopholes in games is (in my eyes) not cheating.

    The question is, is spending money on games considered cheating? The game encourages players to spend money to earn a profit, so naturally it's part of the rules and not considered cheating. While it is legally not cheating, some people might think it is cheating on the 'spirit' of the game. What that 'spirit' is depends on your values, and it is highly subjective. If you value hardwork, then spending money and bypassing the hardwork to get at the rewards immediately is considered cheating. If you value end results, spending money is certainly not cheating, since all the mindless grinding is all done. It's improving your quality of life.

    All being said, I don't ever spend money to make my game go easier. I like grinding. It's a bit mindless but it takes me away from reality for a while, which is the whole point of gaming for me. I also want to see incremental improvements in my game character through hardwork, and which is why I don't feel like playing when my character reaches the highest level.

    SO, why do you think a person who spends money on game to be better is not respecting himself?

    1. Hi la papillion,

      Notice I put double quotes in the word "cheated" in my original comment.

      I think I'd better explain myself clearly so as not to offend gamers who spend on games. Suppose a financially free person has certain aspects about himself which he is not proud of, say, failed relationships or failed career. He feels bad about himself and is worried how others will view him. So, he spends money on status objects to boost his image to others to gain social acceptance. He goes on social media and boast about his financial freedom. I don't know how he can gain self-respect because it sounds like self-cheating. I'm not a gamer but if I were a gamer and has not done well in real life, I will be wary of spending money to feel good in the virtual world because this does not fix the problem in the real world. I am speaking for myself and not judging others.

      For gamers who feel spending make the game more fun, please go ahead! No need to care how others view your spending. It is your spending that enables free-loaders like my sons to play free of charge. Thank you!

      In my son's context as a gamer, he won without paying a single cent. So, he views others who paid money to be on par as "cheating".

      Hi CreateWealth8888,

      Spending money to win is certainly not cheating. An engineering company should spend on the best softare tools, best hardware equipment, fastest computers for their engineers to beat the competition. What I disagree is spending money on wayang show, on form and not substance for the sake of appearing like a winner when one is not. It may make a person feel good temporarily but the problem is still there.

  7. Paying to win is not cheating. Lots of things in life is paying to win e.g. engaging best tutors to win, paying to produce high power presentation slides to win wow moments.

  8. Hee, hee.

    This is fun!

    I'm just watching the debate with my popcorn.

    Its boring when everyone goes, "Yalor, yalor!"


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