Economic decision-making in free-to-play games: A laboratory experiment to study the effects of currency conversion

Mikko Salminen, Simo Järvelä, Niklas Ravaja

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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We present initial results from a controlled laboratory experiment where the economic decision-making typical in free-to-play games was studied. The participants were presented with a series of scenarios, where they rated how much they were willing to pay (in euros, in hard currency, or in soft currency) for common in-app virtual goods (booster, unlock, timer). The goal of the study was to examine how the multiple currency conversions and the amount of resources affect the perceived value of the virtual goods and the willingness to pay for them. The results don’t support the notion that the currency conversions would lead to increased spending. When comparing the willingness to pay in different currencies by first converting them to a unitary currency, the participants were willing to use highest amount of resources when considering purchases in euros and least when considering purchases in soft currency. However, when considering purchases with euros, the participants were willing to pay most when they had moderate amount of virtual currency. But with gold the willingness to pay was highest when the amount of resources was the highest. This finding highlights the differences in how the players may process real money and in-game currencies. In addition, the results imply that regardless of the currency type, the participants were willing to pay most for unlocking of new game content. It is suggested that the economic decision making in free-to-play games could be studied also with abstract and simplified laboratory experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Proceedings of the 2nd International GamiFIN Conference Pori, Finland, May 21-23, 2018
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventInternational GamiFIN Conference - Pori, Finland
Duration: 21 May 201823 May 2018
Conference number: 2

Publication series

PublisherRWTH Aachen University
ISSN (Print)1613-0073


ConferenceInternational GamiFIN Conference
Abbreviated titleGamiFIN
Internet address


  • Free-to-play games
  • Monetization
  • Economic decision making
  • Gamification
  • Games


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