Platform competition: Strategic trade-offs in platform markets


Correspondence to: Carmelo Cennamo, Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University, Via Roentgen, 1, 20136 Milano, Italy. E-mail:


Because the literature on platform competition emphasizes the role of network effects, it prescribes rapidly expanding a network of platform users and complementary applications to capture entire markets. We challenge the unconditional logic of a winner-take-all (WTA) approach by empirically analyzing the dominant strategies used to build and position platform systems in the U.S. video game industry. We show that when platform firms pursue two popular WTA strategies concurrently and with equal intensity (growing the number and variety of applications while also securing a larger fraction of those applications with exclusivity agreements), it diminishes the benefits of each strategy to the point that it lowers platform performance. We also show that a differentiation strategy based on distinctive positioning improves a platform's performance only when a platform system is highly distinctive relative to its rivals. Our results suggest that platform competition is shaped by important strategic trade-offs and that the WTA approach will not be universally successful. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.