Gamification and entrepreneurial intentions

« Gamification and entrepreneurial intentions », Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development.

José L. Ruiz-Alba, Anabela Soares, Miguel Angel Rodríguez-Molina, Arnaud Banoun, (2019)


Gamification and entrepreneurial intentions (EI) are two relevant topics in the business literature that still lack empirical investigation. These areas have been mostly addressed separately, mainly from an organisational/service marketing perspective (Huotari and Hamari, 2017; Vesa et al., 2017) or from entrepreneurship and an educational perspective (Mwasalwiba, 2010; Liñán et al., 2011). In this study, we bridge both fields by investigating how gamification can influence the EI of a group of students of an online platform provided by a privately owned company and we explore the rationale for investing in this type of gamified products and gamification businesses.

Gamification has been studied in a context of entrepreneurship education (EE) which has become a serious matter for university administrators (Gielnik et al., 2015; Rauch and Hulsink, 2015) with a clear impact on economic growth and employment (Audretsch et al., 2011). Gamification is relevant not only from an educational standpoint but also from a business perspective, and is gaining momentum as an established industry segment with growth estimates of over $11bn by 2020 (Markets and Markets, 2016). From an academic perspective, gamification is a relatively recent term that became popular with the Deterding et al.’s (2011) definition of gamification as the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. Nacke and Deterding (2017) stated that as a research field, gamification has risen to significance recently with no sign of slowing growth, rapidly evolving from a novel research topic into a thriving multidisciplinary field.

As a result, gamification is not only a temporary buzzword, but instead a major trend that future businesses should consider when dealing with their internal and external customers and which can represent new sources of revenue through differentiated business models (Storbacka et al., 2016; Larivière et al., 2017). Private companies (such as the one considered in this investigation) have developed games and gamification activities which are promoted to other businesses and universities as a means of helping employees, consumers and students effectively experience situations to help them develop certain skills such as team work, organisational procedures and a myriad of organisational best practices (Kristensson et al., 2017). Nonetheless, there is limited evidence and research is still scarce regarding the effects of these gamified services on performance, motivation, engagement and the development of desired behaviours (Storbacka et al., 2016; Dichev and Dicheva, 2017). The other area investigated in this research is EI that according to Liñán and Fayolle (2015) is a rapidly evolving field of research. In their bibliometric study, they identified more than 400 papers investigating EI in the last ten years, but there are no references to the use of gamification in relation to EI. And most publications in the EI field still focus on the links between EE and behaviours (Gielnik et al., 2015; Rauch and Hulsink, 2015; Fayolle et al., 2016).

As a consequence, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how gamification can influence entrepreneurial intentions (EI) of a group of users of an online platform provided by a private company. A quantitative research strategy was used with a sample of 220 respondents. These respondents were tested before and after the gamification experience. Main findings support literature suggesting a clear effect of attitudes towards behaviour and perceived behavioural control on EI, in line with the theory of planned behaviour (TPB). Once the basic assumptions of TPB were confirmed, we tested the effects of gamification comparing before and after results. Main findings highlight an increase of these effects after the gamification experience, aligned with the self-determination theory. These findings suggest that gamification is able to influence entrepreneurial behaviours. This contributes to both companies and educators’ knowledge on training for EI with gamification and the use of online platforms to this effect. Recommendations are provided. This is the first study that investigates the impact of gamification on EI and how gamification can influence the different relationships between the antecedents of EI.