Image Shown: The video game industry has been placing a much greater emphasis on growing their mobile gaming operations in recent years. Part of that strategy has involved leveraging existing IP and well-known gaming titles to appeal to a wide range of users. Image Source: Electronic Arts Inc – Second Quarter of Fiscal 2021 IR Earnings Presentation.
As households have largely been “cocooning” indoors to ride out the ongoing coronavirus (‘COVID-19’) pandemic, demand for digitally provided entertainment options has grown considerably. NPD Group, an industry-tracking firm, estimates that US video game sales (software and hardware combined) will reach $13.4 billion in total in across November and December of this year. That would be up 24% from year-ago levels, and note this is only looking at the US market, which is estimated to have 244 million consumers of video game content according to NPD Group. Many of those consumers are considered casual video game players, playing mobile games on their smartphones and tablets, though NPD Group noted the number of more dedicated gamers (measured by hours played per week) is on the rise in both nominal and absolute terms. Mobile gaming options generally rely on in-game transactions, called microtransactions, to generate revenue. Usually those offerings include aesthetic upgrades or the ability to progress through the video game at a faster pace. For more conventional video game offerings--those normally played on PCs or consoles--video game companies have increasingly been successful in selling add-on content via high-margin digital packages (and in some instances, microtransactions have also been successfully implemented). Longer term, the rise of e-sports offers another revenue generating opportunity for companies in the video game and digital advertising world. Though a nascent part of the video game industry, initial levels of interest have been impressive. Beyond rising demand for video streaming services, demand for video games, a (usually) cost-effective entertainment option, has also held up incredibly well during the pandemic with several big video game publishers reporting strong financial results of late, too. Furthermore, Microsoft Corporation and Sony Corporation recently launched their next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, respectively. In theory, the console refresh cycle combined with growing demand for indoors entertainment options should provide the video game industry with several major growth catalysts in the coming quarters. One of the key positive attributes of the the video game publishing industry, generally speaking, is that these companies have strong balance sheets and stellar cash flow profiles (meaning a relatively modest amount of capital expenditures are required to maintain a certain level of revenues, and thus putting the firm in a position to better generate free cash flows). However, the performance of these companies can swing wildly depending on how well their blockbuster properties perform. The hit-or-miss nature of their operations has been a big reason why we haven’t added any videogame stock to the newsletter portfolios in the past, but their business models have become more and more attractive as the years have gone on. In this note, let’s get into the details of Activision Blizzard Inc, Electronic Arts Inc, and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, while we discuss broader industry trends.