Why Do Gamers Buy 'Virtual Assets'? An Insight in to the Psychology Behind Purchase Behaviour

Jack V, Mark Griffiths


The present study investigated the phenomenon of buying ‘virtual assets’ for game avatars. Virtual Assets are items that are bought with real-world money for an avatar in-game; weapons, items, pets, mounts and skin customisations the most popular examples. Using Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) six gamers that regularly bought in-game assets were interviewed. IPA was chosen because of its emphasis on lived experience, and each participant had subjective experiences of gaming and purchase behaviour. Of particular focus in this study were the superordinate themes of motivations for purchase behaviour, the resulting psychological impact on the gamer, the social benefits of gaming and virtual asset purchasing, emotional attachment, self-expression through the avatar, impulsivity versus thoughtfulness in purchase intention, and the impact of a transaction machinery on the ‘game experience’. Motivations that were found to be of particular importance were item exclusivity, function, social appeal, and collectability. It was found that virtual items enable the gamer to express themselves, feel real satisfaction, and build lasting friendships. Essentially, virtual assets and gaming mostly had a very positive impact on the participant’s psychological wellbeing. Implications for gamers and games production companies are considered.


online gaming; online purchasing; buying virtual assets; interpretative phenomenological analysis; qualitative research

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/der.2015.27.85-104


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ISSN 2013-9144

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