Virtual Goods Sales: New Requirements for Business Modelling?

Posted: 25 Mar 2010

See all articles by Juho Hamari

Juho Hamari

School of Information Science, University of Tampere

Date Written: December 9, 2009


Selling virtual goods is an increasingly popular revenue model for operators of social online services, examples of which are virtual worlds and social networking services. Compared to more traditional revenue models, such as time-based pricing, the revenue generation logic in virtual goods sales has a tighter interdependence with service structures, such as the rules of internal economy and game mechanics. The sold products are in interaction with the virtual environment, both of which are designed by the developers. However, the planning of business models in synergy with such service design is not currently well understood.

This thesis adopts a conceptual-analytical perspective. By reviewing literature pertaining to virtual goods sales and virtual world services, this thesis seeks to identify business aspects of virtual goods sales. Identified aspects and theories are then synthesised under one model utilising conceptual business model frameworks.

The results provide a conceptual meta-model of virtual goods sales business, with fur-ther descriptions of business model components. Moreover, the results show business aspects that current business model frameworks cannot sufficiently describe. The thesis suggests modifications to current frameworks particularly pertaining to such aspects as user-generated content, service structure driven segmentation (self-selection), customer equity metric-driven development, and service context, which in virtual world design specifically includes game mechanics, social interaction design and rules of virtual economy.

Keywords: business model, virtual world, game design, virtual economy, virtual goods, revenue model, marketing

Suggested Citation

Hamari, Juho, Virtual Goods Sales: New Requirements for Business Modelling? (December 9, 2009). Available at SSRN:

Juho Hamari (Contact Author)

School of Information Science, University of Tampere ( email )

Tampere, FIN-33101

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