Background: Performance goal orientations are influential motivational factors for predicting learning performance. However, a lack of attention has been paid to investigating the effects of performance goal orientations on learning performance and in-game performance in the context of digital game-based learning. Objectives: This study implemented a game-based English vocabulary learning system and investigated how performance goal orientations affected learners' learning performance and in-game performance. Methods: A total of 59 non-English major university students participated in this study, divided into performance-approach learners (PAPL) and performance-avoidance learners (PAVL) based on their performance goal orientations. The English vocabulary listening test and log data were collected for conducting quantitative analyses. Results and conclusions: The results showed that the PAPL outperformed the PAVL in learning performance, whereas the two groups demonstrated similar gain scores and overall in-game performance. Moreover, the results showed that the PAVL's learning performance was strongly associated with all aspects of in-game performance in the learning activities. Conversely, the PAPL's learning performance was only associated with two aspects of in-game performance in the competition activities. Implications: The findings of this study suggest that performance goal orientations play significant roles in both learning performance and in-game performance, which could benefit the PAVL's in-game performance, which is a substantial factor in promoting their learning performance via DGBL.