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Why do people buy virtual goods: A meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


During the last decade, virtual goods have become an important target of consumption online (especially in games, virtual worlds and social networking services) amongst physical and digital goods. In this study we investigate the question of why do people purchase virtual goods by conducting a meta-analysis (random effects model) of the existing quantitative body of literature (24 studies) on the topic. The meta-analysis revealed an important aspect of value of virtual goods: contrary to traditional goods, the reasons why people purchase virtual goods are tightly connected to the platform where they are sold in. These findings underline the significance of service design and its relationship to the formation of value of virtual goods: the value of virtual goods is context-bound, and therefore, bound to the environment where they are usable in. Most factors that were found to be significant predictors of purchase behavior (such as network effects, self-presentation, enjoyment, ease of use, flow and use of the platform) are directly related to the aspects and design of the platform beyond the general attitudes towards virtual goods themselves. Moreover, we found that enjoyment and prolonged use of the platform were more important predictors for purchases in virtual worlds than in games.


  • Free-to-play, Freemium, Online games, Social networking services, Virtual goods, Virtual worlds

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland