Game Design as Marketing: How Game Mechanics Create Demand for Virtual Goods

International Journal of Business Science & Applied Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 14-29, 2010

16 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2009

See all articles by Juho Hamari

Juho Hamari

School of Information Science, University of Tampere

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Selling virtual goods for real money is an increasingly popular revenue model for massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs), social networking sites (SNSs) and other online hangouts. In this paper, we argue that the marketing of virtual goods currently falls short of what it could be. Game developers have long created compelling game designs, but having to market virtual goods to players is a relatively new situation to them. Professional marketers, on the other hand, tend to overlook the internal design of games and hangouts and focus on marketing the services as a whole. To begin bridging the gap, we propose that the design patterns and game mechanics commonly used in games and online hangouts should be viewed as a set of marketing techniques designed to sell virtual goods. Based on a review of a number of MMOs, we describe some of the most common patterns and game mechanics and show how their effects can be explained in terms of analogous techniques from marketing science. The results provide a new perspective to game design with interesting implications to developers. Moreover, they also suggest a radically new perspective to marketers of ordinary goods and services: viewing marketing as a form of game design.

Keywords: online games, social networking, virtual world, virtual goods, business model, sustainability, captology

Suggested Citation

Hamari, Juho and Lehdonvirta, Vili, Game Design as Marketing: How Game Mechanics Create Demand for Virtual Goods (2010). International Journal of Business Science & Applied Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 14-29, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1443907

Juho Hamari (Contact Author)

School of Information Science, University of Tampere ( email )

Tampere, FIN-33101
Finland

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

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