Leveraging the Numerosity Effect to Influence Perceived Expensiveness of Virtual Items

60 Pages Posted: 4 May 2017 Last revised: 2 Feb 2020

See all articles by Yunhui Huang

Yunhui Huang

Nanjing University - School of Business

Kai Lim

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) - Faculty of Business

Zhijie Lin

Tsinghua University - School of Economics and Management

Date Written: February 2, 2020

Abstract

Selling virtual items (e.g., clothing, weapons, or virtual furniture) serves as one of the major revenue sources for online game operators. Therefore, exploring what specific factors and design attributes may affect the sales of virtual items has become an important issue. This research draws upon prior studies on currency numerosity, contextualizing them to online game contexts to develop several theory-based predictions about how online game currency numerosity affects players’ perceived expensiveness and consequently their purchase intention of virtual items. To test these predictions, we conducted six experiments that investigate numerosity effects in massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) where players can exchange real money for game currency based on an exchange rate in order to purchase virtual items. Results indicate: 1) when the game currency exchange rate is not salient (e.g., game currency exchange rate is not mentioned or players have sufficient game currency in their account), players consider a virtual item as more expensive if the price is high (vs. low) in numerosity; but 2) when the game currency exchange rate is salient (e.g., game currency exchange rate is mentioned and no additional information indicates that it is irrelevant), players consider a virtual item as cheaper if the price is high (vs. low) in numerosity; in addition, 3) in the latter case, numerosity increases players’ purchase intention of non-social, but not social, virtual items through the mediating effect of perceived expensiveness. Our notable findings contribute to the existing literature on numerosity and provide guidance for the design of virtual currency systems in MMOs.

Keywords: currency numerosity; virtual items; massive multiplayer online games; exchange rate salience; perceived expensiveness; virtual game currency systems

Suggested Citation

Huang, Yunhui and Lim, Kai and Lin, Zhijie, Leveraging the Numerosity Effect to Influence Perceived Expensiveness of Virtual Items (February 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2963020 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2963020

Yunhui Huang

Nanjing University - School of Business ( email )

22 Hankou Road
Nanjing, Jiangsu 210093 210093
China

Kai Lim

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) - Faculty of Business ( email )

Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Kowloon
Hong Kong

Zhijie Lin (Contact Author)

Tsinghua University - School of Economics and Management ( email )

Haidian District
Beijing, Beijing 100084
China

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