What Is a Sequential Game Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Game theory is the study of strategic decision-making, and sequential game theory is a branch of game theory that focuses on games where players take turns making decisions. In this article, we will explore what sequential game theory is, how it works, and why it is important.

What Is Sequential Game Theory?

Sequential game theory is a type of game theory where players make decisions sequentially, taking into account the decisions made by previous players. In other words, the outcome of the game depends not only on the player’s own actions but also on the actions of other players. This makes sequential games more complex than simultaneous games, where all players make their decisions at the same time.

How Does Sequential Game Theory Work?

In sequential game theory, each player takes turns making a decision. The order in which players make their decisions can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Players must consider not only their own preferences but also how their actions will affect other players’ decisions.

To illustrate how sequential game theory works, let’s look at an example. Imagine two companies are deciding whether to enter a new market. Company A can either enter or stay out of the market.

If Company A enters and Company B stays out, Company A earns $5 million and Company B earns nothing. If both companies enter the market, they each earn $3 million. If both companies stay out of the market, they earn nothing.

If Company A makes its decision before Company B, it might decide to enter the market because it knows that if it stays out and Company B enters, it will earn nothing. However, if Company B knows that Company A will enter regardless of its decision, it might decide to stay out to avoid competition.

Why Is Sequential Game Theory Important?

Sequential game theory has many real-world applications in economics, politics, and business strategy. Understanding the strategic interactions between players in sequential games is essential for making informed decisions.

For example, consider a political campaign in which candidates take turns making speeches. Each candidate must consider not only their own message but also how their message will affect the other candidate’s speech. By using sequential game theory, political strategists can develop a winning campaign strategy that takes into account the actions of their opponents.

In business strategy, sequential game theory is useful for analyzing competitive markets and developing pricing strategies. Companies must consider not only their own costs but also how their competitors will respond to their pricing decisions.


Sequential game theory is an essential tool for understanding strategic decision-making in situations where players take turns making decisions. By taking into account the actions of other players, sequential game theory provides a framework for analyzing complex interactions between multiple decision-makers. Understanding sequential game theory is crucial for making informed decisions in economics, politics, and business strategy.