Videogame player experiences with micro-transactions: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Gibson, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-1068-1036, Griffiths, M.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-8880-6524, Calado, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2906-7279 and Harris, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9627-4900, 2023. Videogame player experiences with micro-transactions: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 145: 107766. ISSN 0747-5632

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Background: Videogame monetisation methods have become a billion-dollar industry. Concerns surrounding micro-transaction use and potential negative psychological impact have become prevalent in recent years. For example, there is a suggested association between loot box buying and problem gambling, although this does not capture the nuanced experiences of players with a broad range of micro-transactions.

Aim: The present study aimed to identify convergences and divergences in videogame player experiences with micro-transactions, using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Method: Eleven participants took part in online semi-structured interviews. Interviews focused on participants’ feelings, beliefs and motivations surrounding micro-transaction use.

Results: Six super-ordinate themes were identified: (i) self-control vs. impulsivity, (ii) motivations for use, (iii) obligation to play after purchases, (iv) guilt and regret, (v) feeling tricked or cheated and (vi) comparing micro-transaction use and gambling. Sub-themes relating to motivations for micro-transaction use and comparisons between micro-transaction and gambling also emerged.

Conclusions: Key motivations for micro-transaction use were giving back to or ‘rewarding’ game developers for their work and social connectedness. Participants who engaged with battle pass micro-transactions often felt a sense of obligation to continue playing the game after purchasing. Micro-transaction use was explained by participants' need for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. It is recommended that cognitive behavioural therapy could be used to treat maladaptive cognitive beliefs related to micro-transaction use.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Computers in Human Behavior
Creators: Gibson, E., Griffiths, M.D., Calado, F. and Harris, A.
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Date: August 2023
Volume: 145
ISSN: 0747-5632
Rights: © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 05 Apr 2023 08:52
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2023 08:52

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