The Price of Bodies: A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthetic World

24 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2004  

Edward Castronova

Indiana University

Abstract

This paper explores a unique new source of social valuation: a market for bodies. The internet hosts a number of large synthetic worlds which users can visit by piloting a computer-generated body, known as an avatar. Avatars can have an asset value, in that users can spend time to increase their skills; these asset values can be directly observed in online markets. Auction data for avatars from the synthetic fantasy world of EverQuest are used here to explore a number of questions involving the relative value of different body characteristics. Hedonic analysis of the auction price data suggests that the 'level', a game-design metric that indicates the overall functionality or power of the avatar, is by far the most important attribute of the body. Other attributes that show significant price effects include: sex and class (i.e. being a wizard rather than warrior type of character). The male-female price difference is interesting because there are actually no sex-based differences in the abilities of the avatar bodies, by design. Price differences here must be caused by some other aspect of buyer preferences, ones unrelated to power or functionality of the avatar itself.

Suggested Citation

Castronova, Edward, The Price of Bodies: A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthetic World. Kyklos, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 173-196, May 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=546921

Edward Castronova (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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