Bertrand and Cournot Mean Field Games

Patrick Chan, Ronnie Sircar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


We study how continuous time Bertrand and Cournot competitions, in which firms producing similar goods compete with one another by setting prices or quantities respectively, can be analyzed as continuum dynamic mean field games. Interactions are of mean field type in the sense that the demand faced by a producer is affected by the others through their average price or quantity. Motivated by energy or consumer goods markets, we consider the setting of a dynamic game with uncertain market demand, and under the constraint of finite supplies (or exhaustible resources). The continuum game is characterized by a coupled system of partial differential equations: a backward Hamilton–Jacobi–Bellman partial differential equation (PDE) for the value function, and a forward Kolmogorov PDE for the density of players. Asymptotic approximation enables us to deduce certain qualitative features of the game in the limit of small competition. The equilibrium of the game is further studied using numerical solutions, which become very tractable by considering the tail distribution function instead of the density itself. This also allows us to consider Dirac delta distributions to use the continuum game to mimic finite N-player nonzero-sum differential games, the advantage being having to deal with two coupled PDEs instead of N. We find that, in accordance with the two-player game, a large degree of competitive interaction causes firms to slow down production. The continuum system can therefore be used qualitative as an approximation to even small player dynamic games.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-569
Number of pages37
JournalApplied Mathematics and Optimization
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 18 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Optimization
  • Applied Mathematics


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