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

Juho Hamari, Kati Alha, Simo Järvelä, J. Matias Kivikangas, Jonna Koivisto, Janne Paavilainen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    79 Citations (Scopus)


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)538-546
    Number of pages9
    JournalComputers in Human Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 2


    Dive into the research topics of 'Why do players buy in-game content? An empirical study on concrete purchase motivations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this