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Why do players buy in-game content? An empirical study on concrete purchase motivations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date14 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Abstract Selling in-game content has become a popular revenue model for game publishers. While prior research has investigated latent motivations as determinants of in-game content purchases, the prior literature has not focused on more concrete reasons to purchase in-game content that stem from how the games are being designed. We form an inventory of reasons (19) to buy in-game content via triangulating from analyses of top-grossing free-to-play games, from a review of existing research, and from industry expert input. These reasons were operationalized into a survey (N = 519). Firstly, we explored how these motivations converged into categories. The results indicated that the purchasing reasons converged into six dimensions: 1) Unobstructed play, 2) Social interaction, 3) Competition, 4) Economical rationale, 5) Indulging the children, and 6) Unlocking content. Secondly, we investigated the relationship between these factors and how much players spend money on in-game content. The results revealed that the purchase motivations of unobstructed play, social interaction, and economical rationale were positively associated with how much money players spend on in-game content. The results imply that the way designers implement artificial limitations and obstacles as well as social interaction affects how much players spend money on in-game content.


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

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland