Social Influence in Online Social Games

Social Influence in Online Social Games: Understanding its effect on Willingness to Play and Willingness to Pay

An increasingly popular trend in the online social gaming industry is the “freemium” revenue model, in which games are free-to-play, but players need to pay extra money to get advanced features and virtual goods. The current study examines how social influence matters in such a large-scale socialized game network. Obviously, in a social game, the social context will influence how much players play the game. In this study we shed light on the impact of social influence on players’ play behavior. In the freemium model, it is important to understand what influences players to pay. A two-stage data analytic procedure is proposed to verify the effect of local network centrality and peer consumption on players’ two types of game consumption: play time and premium fee payment. In the first stage, a cluster analysis approach is applied to obtain three segments of game players that characterize their play and pay behaviors; in the second stage, an empirical model is conducted to test the social influence effect. We find that social influence has to be understood at the segment level as social effect from different segments have significantly different magnitude and even different effect direction. Further analysis indicates that hardcore paying players are differently affected by their friends. The study suggests that game companies could possibly leverage social influence of particular group of players to promote more game consumption and premium fee payment.

Session 6A: gamification, first paper in this session