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Bringing Game-Based Learning to Scale: The Business Challenges of Serious Games

27 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2009  

Date Written: October 26, 2009


Contrary to popular belief, it is not lack of product, or boring subject matter, or a more modest expenditure on game development that keeps learning games from attracting a significant audience. Data and use examples discount each of these initial hypotheses. Instead, this article proposes it is a series of business-related issues that prevent games from reaching scale: finding a sustainable business model, creating or obtaining a distribution network, and achieving consumer acceptance. Specific challenges include identifying a sufficiently large, paying customer base (though it appears adult learners/hobbyists may be a lucrative market niche); finding monetary support for consumer hardening, marketing and sales (grants, in particular, do not allow these cost categories); and creating a functional distribution network into K-12 schools (where attempts to partner with textbook companies have yet to yield fruit, and individual efforts have been agonizingly slow). Some consumer acceptance issues, e.g., adaptation to the culturotechnical environment of schools, appear to have been somewhat resolved for games, with design guidelines currently available. The paper bases its findings on interviews of academic, start-up and established commercial providers of learning games.

Keywords: games, learning, immersive education, serious games, game-based learning, distribution, scale

JEL Classification: D00

Suggested Citation

Mayo, Merrilea Joyce, Bringing Game-Based Learning to Scale: The Business Challenges of Serious Games (October 26, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Merrilea Mayo (Contact Author)

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ( email )

4801 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2046
United States

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