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School of Business | Department of Information and Service Economy | MSc program in Information and Service Management | 2015
Thesis number: 14012
Purchase behavior in free-to-play mobile games: Empirical study on factors influencing purchase intention for virtual items
Author: Peitsara, Noora
Title: Purchase behavior in free-to-play mobile games: Empirical study on factors influencing purchase intention for virtual items
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Information and Service Economy
Academic subject: MSc program in Information and Service Management
Index terms: tietojärjestelmät; information systems; pelit; games; viihde; entertainment; mobiilitekniikka; mobile technology; tuotteet; products; ostot; industrial purchasing; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour
Pages: 70
Key terms: free-to-play; freemium; virtual goods; augmenting products; purchase behavior
The emergence of mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets has given rise to the mobile applications market, and mobile games in particular have become extremely popular. The high adoption of mobile games can largely be attributed to their frictionless distribution through app stores and especially the free-to-play business model. These games are free to download and play, but in order to generate revenue and to meet the willingness-to-pay spectrum of their users, they offer voluntary in-game purchases of virtual goods.

Due to the novelty of the phenomenon, there exists limited quantitative research on the factors that guide consumers' purchase decisions. This study attempts to address this research gap by studying the purchase decision process in the context of free-to-play mobile games. The main research questions are, what factors influence consumers' purchase intention in free-to-play mobile games, and what is the relative importance of the different factors. By using established models and theories on consumer adoption and use of technology, a structural equation model is constructed, and with empirical data from an online survey of 110 consumers the model is tested to investigate different factors influencing adoption.

The results suggest that 1) social influence has a significant impact on attitudes towards virtual goods purchases, and furthermore, 2) attitude towards virtual goods purchases is a strong predictor for purchase intention. This findings provides further support to the earlier notion that attitudes towards the game can differ significantly from the attitudes towards virtual goods sold as in-game purchases. On the other hand, neither 3) perceived enjoyment nor 4) continuous use intentions towards the free core service would seem to predict purchase intention for augmenting products, other than as a prerequisite through continued use (i.e. user retention). These findings are in contrast with previous research that has observed a positive although weak association.

From a theoretical perspective, free-to-play games may be considered a situation where augmenting products are sold to consumers who have already adopted the core product or service. In this context, the observations regarding perceived enjoyment and use continuance would seem to hint that there exists a disconnection between the perceived value of the core product and the perceived value of augmenting products. On a larger scale, this is an interesting finding regarding the marketing of value-added products in general.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.