Brand equity of digital games : the influence of product brand and consumer experiences as sources of unique value

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2011-05-04
Checking the digitized thesis and permission for publishing
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Information Systems Science
Degree programme
vii, 62, [150] s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 29/2011
By demonstrating something unique a product stands out from the mass. This is the starting point of brand awareness, which exerts influence over consumers’ product evaluation processes. Particularly in the digital games industry, the creation of unique value is vital as games utilize intangible modes of distribution lacking physical form, which ultimately leads to difficulties in highlighting and facilitating evaluation of a game’s defining characteristics. The objective of this thesis is to determine and conceptualize how a game functions as a source of unique value. A game’s varied defining characteristics function as the source of brand equity which results in incremental effects influencing consumers’ product evaluation. The unique value characteristics of games are studied from three perspectives: 1) by examining the motivational aspects of digital games consumption; 2) by investigating the influence of brand image and prior experience on product evaluation regarding a game’s salient qualities and 3) by demonstrating the organizational practices involved in the development of unique qualities by processing novel game ideas within digital game studios. Three interrelated theories are adapted from various research contexts regarding the brand equity phenomenon - motivational theory, information processing theory of consumer choice and boundary objects-in-use in organizational practices. This thesis uses methodology triangulation to answer the research question, both quantitative (surveys and multivariate data analysis) and qualitative methods (interpretative case study) are applied to four data collection samples; three from consumers and one from game developers. The main contribution of this study is that both the game brand and prior experience are central elements which result in incremental influences on consumers’ product evaluation processes. First, the results indicate that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational aspects of consumption are important determinants of perceived value. Enjoyment, particularly the fun in games, plays a more important role during the awareness creation process than usefulness. Second, the results suggest that the influence of brand image on product evaluation is covert and this modifies consumers’ decision making structures. This leads to a reprioritization of attribute importance in which prior game playing experience maintains an additional significant role. Third, the processing of ideas in digital games studios is an imperative and complex practice. The overwhelming amount of knowledge conflicts during idea processing practices lead to the birth of unique value. Following the results of this thesis, digital games should be viewed as experience information goods. The findings provide novel theoretical and practical perspectives regarding brand equity and demonstrate how a combination of unique value characteristics can be used to create a successful game which stands out from the mass.
Supervising professor
Tuunainen, Virpi, professor