In the game FIFA, people can buy football players from each other and form their dream team. The qualities of all players are determined by the game makers, and that score does not change during the year. But if a player like Mbappé suddenly starts scoring more goals in real life, that player becomes more expensive in the game FIFA, according to Zwinkels’ research. That is striking, because while the real Mbappé becomes more popular, the qualities of Mbappé in the game have not changed at all.
Similar to the effects observed in the game FIFA, psychological effects play an important role in stock markets. The shares of a company that has been in the news can increase in value, while the company has not actually improved its performance.
There is another similarity between the videogame and stock markets, as shown by Zwinkels. People who buy a relatively unknown, cheap football player in FIFA and later sell that player, make a higher return on their investment than people who bought a well-known football player. Again, this is similar to stock markets, where investors typically make higher returns on the shares of small companies than on the shares of large companies.
A fun detail: the research idea came from student Jonathan Moed, who has written his Master’s thesis about the subject. The idea was then expanded and further researched by Remco Zwinkels and Maurizio Montone (assistant professor of finance at Utrecht University).