Leveraging the Numerosity Effect to Influence Perceived Expensiveness of Virtual Items

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-114
Journal / PublicationInformation Systems Research
Issue number1
Online published13 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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 the following: (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 (versus 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 (versus low) in numerosity; in addition, (3) in the latter case, numerosity increases players’ purchase intention of nonsocial, 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

Research Area(s)

  • currency numerosity, virtual items, massive multiplayer online games, exchange rate salience, perceived expensiveness, virtual currency systems

Citation Format(s)