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Follow the Crowd or Follow the Trailblazer? The Differential Role of Firm Experience in Product Entry Decisions in the US Video Game Industry

Authors/Editors: Kretschmer, T.
Özalp, H.
Published: Forthcoming
Type: Articles in Refereed Journals (International)
Published by: Journal of Management Studies

Abstract

Firms take cues from their external environment under uncertainty and imitate the actions of others. However, a firm’s own experience may either substitute for these external clues because the firm can evaluate uncertain situations more accurately, or it may complement them because the firm can act more successfully on the external cues. We argue that the type of external cues determines which of the two holds in the context of product entry decisions into market niches. If firms observe a large wave of entrants, own experience conveys more information than the imprecise signal of a mass of other firms. Conversely, if firms observe trailblazers, i.e., highly successful and influential products in a niche, own experience can help firms develop a strategy as a fast follower in a growing niche. We expect the supporting role of own experience in following trailblazers to be especially pronounced in niches that have not been discovered by a large mass of other firms. We study and test our hypotheses in the context of the US PC video game industry between 1991 and 2010 and find support for both the substitutive relationship between own experience and niche popularity and the complementary relationship of own experience and niche trailblazers. However, support for the complementary relationship is limited to less populated niches.