What Is the Relationship Between Game Theory and Oligopoly?


Martha Robinson

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of strategic decision making in situations where multiple parties are involved. It has wide-ranging applications in fields such as economics, political science, and psychology.

One area where game theory has significant relevance is oligopoly, which refers to a market structure where a few firms dominate the industry. In this article, we will explore the relationship between game theory and oligopoly.

What Is Oligopoly?

Oligopoly is a market structure characterized by a small number of firms that dominate the industry. The firms in an oligopolistic market have significant control over the prices of goods and services they offer due to the limited competition. The actions of one firm can significantly impact the other firms in the market, creating interdependence among them.

What Is Game Theory?

Game theory is a mathematical framework used to study decision making when multiple parties are involved. It involves analyzing how various strategies adopted by each party can lead to different outcomes. Game theory assumes that each party involved acts rationally and attempts to maximize their payoff or utility.

The Relationship Between Oligopoly and Game Theory

Game theory provides an analytical tool for understanding the behavior of firms in an oligopolistic market. Firms in an oligopoly must consider how their actions impact their competitors’ decisions and how their competitors’ actions may affect them.

One important concept in game theory relevant to oligopoly is Nash equilibrium. Nash equilibrium occurs when each player adopts a strategy that is optimal given the strategies adopted by other players. In an oligopolistic market, Nash equilibrium represents a stable outcome where no firm can improve its position by unilaterally changing its strategy.

Another concept relevant to oligopoly is dominant strategy equilibrium, where each player’s dominant strategy leads to a unique outcome regardless of other players’ strategies. Dominant strategy equilibrium helps explain why firms sometimes engage in non-cooperative behavior such as price-fixing or collusion.


In conclusion, game theory provides a useful framework for analyzing the behavior of firms in an oligopolistic market. It helps explain why firms in an oligopoly may engage in non-cooperative behavior and how they may reach stable outcomes through Nash equilibrium. Understanding the relationship between game theory and oligopoly is crucial for policymakers, economists, and businesses operating in an oligopolistic market.