Player Attitude Toward Advertising in Free-to-Play Mobile Games: an Empirical Study of Around-Game Advertising

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
Free-to-play mobile games have become extremely popular in the recent years. Competition in the industry is very tough, and game developers need to optimize their monetization strategies continuously. Many game developers utilize around-game advertising concepts in games for revenue generation and user acquisition. The service-orientation of the free-to-play business model and the technological background of mobile games offer unprecedented opportunities for advertising. However, game developers do not yet understand player attitudes toward around-game advertising in free-to-play games. Player perceptions of game advertising have been studied for decades, but not in the free-to-play mobile games context. There exists very limited academic research on player acceptance of around-game advertising in total, and no research in free-to-play mobile games context. This study aims to address this research gap through an investigation of factors that influence player attitudes toward around-game advertising in free-to-play mobile games. Furthermore, the relative strengths of these factors are under examination. A research model for the examination of player attitudes is constructed through a review of previous literature, previous models of attitudes toward advertising by Pollay and Mittal (1993) and Poels et al. (2013), and an exploratory interview study conducted in a Finnish mid-sized free-to-play mobile games company. The model is tested with empirical survey data from 117 consumers through structural equation modeling. The results suggest that 1) enjoyment is a strong predictor of player attitudes, 2) intrusion has a significant impact on player attitudes, 3) informative value has a mediated effect on player attitudes through hedonism and 4) benefits and rewards offered to players have an indirect effect on player attitudes, through intrusion. These findings provide support to the understanding of attitude toward advertising as a multidimensional, ambivalent construct. The results fortify the earlier notion of hedonism playing a key role in affecting player attitudes toward game advertising and support the previous finding of intrusion contributing to player attitudes toward mobile advertising and game advertising. Based on the results, game developers are recommended to consider advertising content and player motivation in their design and of around-game advertising in free-to-play mobile games.
Thesis advisor
Tuunainen, Virpi
free-to-play, mobile games, game advertising, around-game advertising, attitudes toward advertising, consumer attitudes
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