How Game Theory Is Useful to a Business Strategy?


Jane Flores

Have you ever heard of game theory? It’s a fascinating field that combines mathematics, psychology, and economics to analyze decision-making processes.

While it may seem like a topic only suited for academics or game enthusiasts, it has real-world applications in business strategy. In fact, game theory can provide valuable insights into competitive situations and help businesses make strategic decisions that can lead to success. Let’s explore how game theory is useful to a business strategy.

What is Game Theory?

Game theory is the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers. It was first introduced by mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern in their book “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior” in 1944. Game theory provides a way to analyze how people make decisions in strategic situations where the outcome depends on the decisions of others.

How Game Theory Applies to Business Strategy

Businesses operate in environments where they are constantly making strategic decisions that affect not only their own outcomes but also those of their competitors. Game theory can help businesses understand these situations and make better decisions.

One common application of game theory is in pricing strategies. For example, if two companies are competing to sell similar products, they may use game theory to determine the best price point for their product that will maximize profits while remaining competitive with their opponent.

Another application is in negotiating deals with suppliers or partners. By understanding the incentives of each party involved and predicting how they will respond to different offers, businesses can negotiate deals that are mutually beneficial.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

One famous example used in game theory is called “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.” In this scenario, two suspects are arrested for a crime but there isn’t enough evidence to convict them without a confession from one of them.

The suspects are placed in separate rooms and given the opportunity to either confess or remain silent. The outcomes of their decisions are shown in the table below:

  • If both confess, they both receive a 5-year sentence.
  • If one confesses and the other remains silent, the one who confesses receives a 1-year sentence while the other receives a 10-year sentence.
  • If both remain silent, they both receive a 2-year sentence.

In this scenario, each suspect has to decide whether to cooperate with the other by remaining silent or defect by confessing. The optimal outcome for both suspects is to remain silent, but if one of them defects, they will receive a lesser sentence than if they had both remained silent.

This example illustrates how game theory can help businesses understand situations where cooperation or competition is involved. It’s important for businesses to consider not only their own outcomes but also those of their competitors when making decisions.


Game theory can help businesses make strategic decisions by providing insights into competitive situations and predicting how others will respond to different offers or decisions. By understanding game theory concepts such as the prisoner’s dilemma, businesses can make better decisions that lead to success. So next time you’re making a strategic decision for your business, consider applying game theory principles to help inform your choice.