When you go online and play a video game, does it really matter if it’s a real-world game or a movie?
A new study from Oxford University has revealed that many people who play video games are still paying for content they find online.
The study by researchers from Oxford and Bristol Universities revealed that only one in five people playing online video games bought actual games.
The same proportion of people who played games on mobile phones were not buying games.
In addition, only one-third of people buying games on a smartphone bought the game as a physical item.
This was compared to two-thirds of people in real life who said they bought physical products.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, was carried out by a team led by Dr Ian Bremner, the Professor of Digital Media and Games at Oxford.
It found that people who are likely to be casual gamers were not interested in buying physical products, but instead relied on online shopping for virtual items.
The researchers say this is because many people find online games to be “easy and cheap” and therefore they buy the virtual items for “value”.
But the researchers say the lack of real-life purchases is partly due to a lack of knowledge about the games.
“We don’t know how people are playing these games, how they’re spending their money, and so the way they’re buying games is very different,” said Dr Bremners team leader Professor Richard Hines.
“So the real question is: How can we make sure that there’s value in this?”
Dr Breslner’s team said the lack a real life purchase was partly due not only to the fact that most people are likely not to pay for physical products in real-time, but also because online games tend to be free.
“Many of these games are very simple, very inexpensive to get into and play, and therefore people do it without much thought,” Dr Breshner said.
“And that is the sort of thing that makes it so easy to buy.”
Dr Brems research is part of a wider research project on online games and the impact they have on the digital economy, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Professor Bremers research was conducted with Dr Paul Wetherby, the Director of the Centre for Interactive Digital Games and Game Theory at Oxford, and Professor Simon Hickey from the University of Bristol.
Dr Brestner’s work has been funded by a UK Innovation Fund, the Wellesley Technology Innovation Fund and the National Institutes of Health.
A copy of the study can be downloaded here.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.