PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine whether children’s online play and participation in massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) is leading to the development of virtual retail shopping motivations and behaviours. This exploratory study also examines the influence of age-related differences in children’s social and consumer development vs adults and gender on this.Design/methodology/approachThe study was conducted using two focus groups and ten in-depth interviews with 20 French children between the ages of eight and 12 years.FindingsResults show that children’s online play and participation in MMORPG communities is leading to the development of virtual retail shopping motivations and behaviour through the purchase of virtual tools and accessories by all children using virtual in-game money. But these motivations are very gender specific due to the overarching importance of gender-specific motivations for achievement. Boys engage in virtual retail shopping because they need in-game progress and power gains, while girls engage in virtual retail shopping because they need social status enhancement.Research limitations/implicationsResearch should be conducted on children in different age groups. All aspects of the process and consequences of children’s participation in online gaming communities should be examined more comprehensively. Quantitative research is required. Results may also vary with country and cultural context.Practical implicationsFirst, children between eight and 12 years of age are active consumers (influencers and buyers) for all companies. MMORPGs provide the perfect setting for better understanding of children’s motivations and behaviour regarding virtual retail shopping because they provide virtual in-game money for different achievements that children use to engage in such behaviour. Second, MMORPG companies can benefit by taking into account gender differences in children’s motivations and the importance of the games’ social dimensions and interactions when designing the games.Social implicationsFirst, the risks of playing computer games for children in terms of playing violent games and leading a virtual life must be considered and studied carefully by public policy officials. Second, public policy officials that look into online gaming should take into account gender differences in children’s motivations and the importance of the games’ social dimensions and interactions when monitoring online games. These are issues that are not only developing children’s abilities as social actors but may well be promoting excessive materialism aided by the formation of online peer groups.Originality/valueThis is the first study on children’s online play and participation in MMORPGs in the consumer context and will help us to understand children’s mind-set and motivations for retail activities in this unique retail setting. The study results show that children’s online play and participation in MMORPGs is leading to the development of virtual retail shopping motivations and behaviour that are very gender specific unlike adults.
international Journal of Retail & Distribution Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 14, 2016