Purpose: Mobile games have become one of the most profitable technology markets. Freemium business model, where operators provide a free basic and a feature-enhanced paid version of a product or service, has become ubiquitous across mobile games. Despite the popularity of free-to-play mobile games, only a limited number of players purchase in-game items, which challenge the profitability of free-to-play games. To address this concern, this thesis attempts to explore the motivations that drive players to purchase in-game items.
Design/methodology/approach: Based on the reviewing the gaps emerged in literatures, I proposed nine hypotheses. A questionnaire survey was conducted to test the proposed hypotheses. I developed a questionnaire using existing matured measurement scales wherever possible. A pre-test was conducted to detect potential basis and potential problems in the design of the questionnaire. The survey was distributed through e-mail to players of a free-to-play mobile game. 427 valid responses were received. The data was analyzed using smart PLS and the proposed hypotheses were tested using structural equation model.
Findings: Seven out of nine hypotheses were supported by the data. I found that hedonic values, i.e. social value, enjoyment value, escapism value were positively influence game identification. In the same way, utilitarian values, i.e. monetary value, ease of use value, and functional value were positively predicting game identification. One hypothesis expecting that escapism value positively influence game identification was not supported by the data. I further found that game identification positively influences in-game items purchase intention. Needs-supplies fit strengthen the positive
relationship between game identification and in-game items purchase behavior. The moderating role of demand-ability fit was not supported by the data.
Research limitations/implications: First, the data comes from players of a specific free-to-play game, cautions are advised when generalize my findings to other subgenres of mobile games. Second, the cross-sectional nature of the data may create doubts to the causality of the arguments. Third, the purchase intention was influence by the price of in-game items and the income of players. The model in this paper failed to control the price of in-game items.
Practical implications: The core of free-to-play game is that the paid players finance the non-payment players. Understanding the underlying motivations of in-game purchase behaviors is of great importance for practitioners. The results in this paper provided operable implication for free-to-play games to boost in-game purchase behaviors.
Originality/value: To the best of my knowledge, this thesis is among the first to investigate the antecedents of in-game purchase behaviors in the free-to-play games from the perspectives of consumption values theory and social identity framework. The papers clarified how persona-environment fits moderate the relationship between game identification and in-game purchase intention.
Keywords: social value, monetary value, functional value, purchase intention, free-to-play games, needs-supplies fit.