Theory of Computing Systems

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 41–52 | Cite as

On the Rate of Convergence of Fictitious Play

  • Felix Brandt
  • Felix Fischer
  • Paul Harrenstein


Fictitious play is a simple learning algorithm for strategic games that proceeds in rounds. In each round, the players play a best response to a mixed strategy that is given by the empirical frequencies of actions played in previous rounds. There is a close relationship between fictitious play and the Nash equilibria of a game: if the empirical frequencies of fictitious play converge to a strategy profile, this strategy profile is a Nash equilibrium. While fictitious play does not converge in general, it is known to do so for certain restricted classes of games, such as constant-sum games, non-degenerate 2×n games, and potential games. We study the rate of convergence of fictitious play and show that, in all the classes of games mentioned above, fictitious play may require an exponential number of rounds (in the size of the representation of the game) before some equilibrium action is eventually played. In particular, we show the above statement for symmetric constant-sum win-lose-tie games.


Game theory Nash equilibrium Fictitious play Rate of convergence 



This material is based on work supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft under grants BR 2312/3-2, BR 2312/3-3, BR 2312/7-1, and FI 1664/1-1, and by the European Research Council under Advanced Grant 291528. The authors would like to thank Vincent Conitzer, Paul Goldberg, Peter Bro Miltersen, and Troels Bjerre Sørensen for valuable discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für InformatikTechnische Universität MünchenGarchingGermany
  2. 2.Statistical LaboratoryUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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