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Overcoming the monetization challenge in freemium online games

Ahmad Beltagui (Department of Operations and Information Management, Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK)
Thomas Schmidt (Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark)
Marina Candi (Center for Research on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland) (Business School, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Deborah Lynn Roberts (The York Management School, University of York, York, UK)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 26 July 2019

Issue publication date: 7 August 2019




Online games based on a freemium business model face the monetization challenge. The purpose of this paper is to examine how players’ achievement orientation, social orientation and sense of community contribute to willingness to pay (WtP).


A multi-method study of an online game community is used. Interviews and participant observation are used to develop an understanding of social and achievement orientations followed by the development of hypotheses that are tested using survey data.


The findings indicate that a sense of community is positively related to WtP, whereas satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the service provider is not. The authors examine the moderating role of players’ achievement orientation and social orientation and find that while a stronger connection to the community may encourage achievement-oriented players to pay, the opposite is indicated for socially oriented players.

Practical implications

Decision makers need to understand that not all players are potential payers; while socially oriented users can help to maintain and grow the community, achievement-oriented players are more likely to pay for the value they extract from the community.


While communities are held together by people with common interests, which intuitively suggests that WtP increases with the strength of connection to the community, the authors find this only applies in the case of players with an achievement orientation. For those with a social orientation, WtP may actually decrease as their connection to the community increases. These perhaps counter-intuitive findings constitute a novel contribution of value for both theory and practice.



Part of the funding for this work has been provided from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreements Nos 251383 and 324448. The second author was a full-time employee of the company studied at the time of data collection. The paper was written after the end of this employment and the company had no influence over the reporting.


Beltagui, A., Schmidt, T., Candi, M. and Roberts, D.L. (2019), "Overcoming the monetization challenge in freemium online games", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 119 No. 6, pp. 1339-1356.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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