What Is Game Theory in Business Decision?


Vincent White

Game Theory is a mathematical framework used to analyze the behavior of individuals or groups in strategic situations. It is a tool that has found widespread applications in fields ranging from economics and political science to biology and psychology. In this article, we will explore how Game Theory applies to the world of business decision-making.

What is Game Theory?

At its core, Game Theory is concerned with predicting and understanding how individuals or groups behave in situations where their interests are interdependent. It models these situations as “games,” where players have different strategies available to them, and each player’s payoff depends not only on their own actions but also on the actions of others.

Types of Games

There are several types of games used in Game Theory, including:

Cooperative Games: Players work together to achieve a common goal and share the rewards equally.

Non-Cooperative Games: Players act independently to pursue their own interests.

Zero-Sum Games: The total gains and losses of all players sum up to zero. For example, in a poker game, one player’s winnings are another player’s losses.

Applications of Game Theory in Business Decision-Making

The principles of Game Theory can be applied to various business scenarios such as pricing decisions, marketing strategies, and negotiations. Let’s take an example to understand how it works:

Imagine two companies A and B competing for market share. If A lowers its prices, it will attract more customers away from B; however, this move could trigger a price war where both companies end up losing profits. Conversely, if both companies agree not to lower prices mutually (cooperation), they can maintain high margins while limiting customer churn.

This scenario can be modeled using Game Theory as a non-cooperative game called “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.” In this game, each player has two strategies: cooperate or defect.

Cooperating means not lowering prices, while defecting means lowering prices. The table below shows the potential payoffs for each player.

Cooperate Defect
Cooperate (5,5) (0,10)
Defect (10,0) (2,2)

In this game, the payoff is measured in profits. If both players cooperate (not lower prices), they earn $5 million each.

If both players defect (lower prices), they each earn $2 million. If one player cooperates while the other defects, the defector earns $10 million while the cooperator earns nothing.

The Nash Equilibrium is a state where neither player can increase their payoff by changing their strategy unilaterally. In this scenario, the Nash Equilibrium is for both players to defect and lower their prices. However, if both companies can collaborate and agree not to lower their prices simultaneously (cooperating), they can earn a higher profit ($5 million each).


Game Theory provides a powerful tool for analyzing business scenarios where multiple parties are involved and their actions are interdependent. By modeling these situations as games and understanding the potential outcomes of different strategies, businesses can make better-informed decisions that benefit all parties involved.

In conclusion, Game Theory can be used to make strategic decisions in various business scenarios such as pricing decisions and negotiations. It helps businesses understand how different strategies impact their profits and how they can cooperate with competitors to achieve better outcomes for everyone.