In some markets, there are only a few firms compete. For example, computer chips are made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices and each firm must pay close attention to what the other firm is doing. How does competition between just two chip makers work? When a market has only a small number of firms, do they operate in the social interest, like firms in perfect competition? Or do they restrict output to increase profit, like a monopoly? The models of perfect competition and monopoly don’t predict the behavior of the firms we’ve just described. To understand how these markets work, we need the richer models.
Small Number of Firms Because an oligopoly market has only a few firms, they are interdependent and face a temptation to cooperate. Interdependence: With a small number of firms, each firm’s profit depends on every firm’s actions. Temptation to Cooperate: Firms in oligopoly face the temptation to form a cartel. A cartel is a group of firms acting together to limit output, raise price, and increase profit. Cartels are illegal. What Is Oligopoly?
Games and Price Wars Price wars might result from a tit-for-tat strategy where there is an additional complication—uncertainty about changes in demand. A fall in demand might lower the price and bring forth a round of tit-for-tat punishment. Repeated Games and Sequential Games