F2P Summit: Cyberpsychologist Berni Good analyses the motivations behind in-game purchases

The four value components of free-to-play

The four value components of free-to-play games are enjoyment, character competency, visual authority value monetary value, says cyberpsychologist Berni Good.

Speaking at the F2P Summit in London, Good analysed reserached conducted in 2011 by Park & Lee which studied the motivations behind in-game purchases in free online games.

Based on the theory of consumption value, the research came up with four value components.

The first of these is game enjoyment, when a player will make a purchase because it enhances the game experience.

The second is character competency value, which is enchaning the competency of your in-game character or avatar by enabling them with more power and strength, which could come from in-game purchases.

This theory can also be split into two parts of player psychology, said Good, malicious envy and benign envy.

With benign envy, players will react to another player’s accomplishments positively and admire them. "You’ll still be envious but will not pull them down, quite the opposite, it will motivate you to get to their level."

Malicious envy meanwhile is when a player does not believe another user deserves their success or status, and players "just want to pull them down"

"What’s interestting about benign envy is people are quite willing to pay to get to the level of the player they’re envious of," said Good, adding this would be perceived by them as good value for money.

She added: "Psychologists have uncovered there’s a concept of envy premium, where you are willing to pay a bit extra to get to that level."

The third component is ‘visual authority value‘. This, says Good, is closely associated with jealousy, but when players want to make others envious of them. "It’s all about upping the ante of your social status – what you look like to others".

This is also in line with conspicuous consumption theory, which Good explains means people "will pay a premium to look a bit better. Within gameplay you might be prepared to pay a premim for glitzy shoulder pads or something else to adorn yourself with to impress other gamers".

The final component is monetary value. This means that players are more likely to purchase something if they believe it to be reasonably priced and cost effective.

It is believed that all of these components can help drive the value of purcashing game items.

Park & Lee’s research was conducted via a questionnaire in South Korea, and involved 327 participants, 250 male and 77 female, aged 13 and over. The participants were already players of online and free games.

The results found that the integrated consumption value of online game items and character identification were indeed postively related to the intention to purchase items.

What was not supported however from the above value components is the findings did not support the association between game satisfcation and then intention to buy items. Good noted this seemed "counterintuitive" however.

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