To pay or not to pay: understanding mobile game app users' unwillingness to pay for in-app purchases

Imam Salehudin, Frank Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Worldwide In-app Purchase (IAP) revenues reached almost US$37 billion in 2017 and doubled that in 2020. Although the revenue from IAPs exceeds those from paid apps, only 5% of total app users make any IAPs. This paper investigates why some users will not make IAPs and develop a novel concept of users' Perceived Aggressive Monetization of IAPs as an alternative framework to explain IAP behavior. Design/methodology/approach: Given the newness of IAPs, this study uses qualitative research to understand the phenomenon and develop a model to explain the decision to spend on IAPs. In total, this study collected 4,092 unique user-generated comments from app user review sites and social media webpages where users discuss in-app purchasing. Findings: The analysis reveals recurring themes that explain user unwillingness to make in-app purchases, such as conflicting meanings of free-to-play, perceived unfairness and aggressive monetization of IAP by app publishers, and self-control issues. Subsequent user interviews support the themes and suggest that IAP spending might be more impulsive. Originality/value: The paper develops a new concept of perceived aggressive monetization. Additionally, it proposes a novel theoretical framework that future researchers can use to understand why some mobile game users are unwilling to pay for IAPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-647
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Research in Interactive Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Freemium pricing
  • Impulsive buying
  • In-app purchases
  • Perceived aggressive monetization
  • Qualitative
  • Unwillingness to pay


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