Electronic Commerce Research

, Volume 9, Issue 1–2, pp 97–113 | Cite as

Virtual item sales as a revenue model: identifying attributes that drive purchase decisions

  • Vili LehdonvirtaEmail author


The global market for virtual items, characters and currencies was estimated to exceed 2.1 Billion USD in 2007. Selling virtual goods for real money is an increasingly common revenue model not only for online games and virtual worlds, but for social networking sites and other mainstream online services as well. What drives consumer spending on virtual items is an increasingly relevant question, but little research has been devoted to the topic so far. Previous literature suggests that demand for virtual items is based on the items’ ability to confer gameplay advantages on one hand, and on the items’ decorative value on the other hand. In this paper, I adopt a perspective from the sociology of consumption and analyse examples from 14 virtual asset platforms to suggest a more detailed set of item attributes that drive virtual item purchase decisions, consisting of functional, hedonic and social attributes.


Consumer behaviour Online communities Business model Purchase drivers Virtual consumption RMT 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Helsinki Institute for Information TechnologyTKKFinland

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