Why Do People Buy Virtual Goods? Ten Attributes That Influence Item Desirability

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My presentation at the Game Developers Conference 2010 Social & Online Games Summit, San Francisco, 10 March 2010.

See also:
Vili Lehdonvirta (2009) Virtual Item Sales as a Revenue Model: Identifying Attributes that Drive Purchase Decisions. Electronic Commerce Research, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 97-113.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/055100248749q2v5/fulltext.pdf

Vili Lehdonvirta (2009) Virtual Consumption. Publications of the Turku School of Economics (A-11:2009), Turku.
http://info.tse.fi/julkaisut/vk/Ae11_2009.pdf

Session Description: Virtual goods have become a primary means for social and online game developers to attract, retain and monetize users. But what makes virtual goods so desirable that people are willing to spend real money to get them? Several answers have been put forward that consist of factors such as self-expression and competitive advantage. Such abstractions offer little guidance to the developer designing their next virtual item, however. In this presentation, the question is approached from a very practical angle: what attributes are important in a virtual good for making it desirable to the users? What attributes do the users look at in a virtual item when making a purchase decision? Using fascinating examples from the past ten years of Western and Asian virtual goods success stories, the presentation will arrive at a model of ten concrete virtual item attributes that designers can adjust to influence the desirability of their offerings.

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  • In this talk, I'm going to focus on the question of what makes virtual goods attractive. In essence, I'm going to present you with a list of ten things to keep in mind when designing your virtual goods offerings. The presentation is based on research I did in Europe, United States and Asia involving interviews of users and developers, surveys and first-hand experience.
  • Why Do People Buy Virtual Goods? Ten Attributes That Influence Item Desirability

    1. 1.
    2. 2. Why Do People Buy Virtual Goods?Ten Attributes That Influence Item Desirability<br />Vili Lehdonvirta<br />Helsinki Institute forInformation Technology &University of Tokyo<br />http://www.hiit.fi/~vlehdonv<br />Twitter: ViliLe<br />
    3. 3. Focus on user needs?<br />
    4. 4. Focus on game mechanics?<br />
    5. 5. Focus on the virtual goods themselves<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />Item graphics: MapleStory / Nexon<br />
    6. 6. Attribute 1: Performance<br />Ragnarok Online (2002)<br />
    7. 7. Attribute 2: Functionality<br />MapleStory (2003)<br />Travian (2004)<br />
    8. 8. Attribute 3: Visuals and sounds<br />Second Life (2003) / Pictures by Marylka Yoe<br />
    9. 9. Attribute 4: Background fiction<br />Uncharted Waters Online (2004)<br />
    10. 10. Attribute 5: Provenance<br />Habbo (2000)<br />
    11. 11. Attribute 6: Customizability<br />Lineage (1998)<br />
    12. 12. Attribute 7: Cultural references<br />IRC-Galleria (2000)<br />
    13. 13. Attribute 8: Licenses<br />Character Sam-Soon Kim from a TV drama<br />Ken fromStreet Fighter<br />Elf from Lineage<br />A Korean supermodel<br />Catwoman from the movie<br />Cyworld (1999)<br />
    14. 14. UO Treasures.com<br />Attribute 9: Rarity<br />UO Treasures.com<br />Ultima Online (1997)<br />
    15. 15. Attribute 10: Price<br />Playray (2004)<br />"we call him the King of Playray, because he has the super-expensive 150-coin crown"<br />
    16. 16. Ten virtual item attributes<br />
    17. 17. ?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />
    18. 18.
    19. 19. 10-dimensional design space for virtual items<br />All dimensions exploited?<br />Full spectrum?<br />Any gaps?<br />Upgrade pathsavailable?<br />Balance?<br />
    20. 20. 10-dimensional design space for virtual items<br />All dimensions exploited?<br />Full spectrum?<br />Any gaps?<br />Upgrade pathsavailable?<br />Balance?<br />Thanks for listening!<br />Slides will be online at http://www.hiit.fi/~vlehdonv<br />Twitter: ViliLe<br />

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