Game theory and open source contribution: Rationale behind corporate participation in open source software development

Julie E. Kendall, Kenneth E. Kendall, Matt Germonprez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


The rising participation of for-profit corporations in the development of open source software raises the question of why corporations are motivated toward this engagement. The increased participation is an observable phenomenon; many researchers and practitioners assume that the practice of community sharing does not improve the bottom line, but rather believe the practice is altruistic in nature. Our intuition is that participation offers tangible and intangible benefits to corporate participants. We show this by exploring a variety of models in game theory and use game theory as a methodological lens to explain the rationality of corporate participation in open source software development. Since game theory has evolved to include rational- and emotional-based reasons, we explore such lenses as cooperative games, metagames, coopetition, and Drama Theory. Our research question, “Why do for-profit corporations participate in the development of open source software?” was broad enough to adopt several useful perspectives to understand our data. One useful lens was game theory. In this article, we examine interview responses and field study data from corporate members of open source communities to determine how they justify devoting time and effort to community engagement. Our study makes a contribution to open source software literature by revealing that numerous rational and emotional reasons exist for corporate participation in open source software development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016



  • Coopetition
  • Drama Theory
  • game theory
  • open source communities
  • open source software

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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