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Casual Friday: August 12th, 2016

No Man's Sky Art

It’s Lonely Out There For No Man’s Sky

I would be remiss to not start this week’s installment of Casual Friday without first mentioning the game that every tech nerd and casual gamer alike is talking about: Hello Games’ space exploration survival-epic No Man’s Sky. It launched this past Tuesday on Sony Corp (6758)’s PlayStation 4 (PS4), and on PC today, to a variety of opinions after a crazy amount of hype since its reveal back at the VGX Awards in 2013.

Now I’m no reviewer, but I admit I’ve been playing and generally enjoying my time in the vast universe of No Man’s Sky. It’s not a game for everyone, though. Which is why it’s suffered from mixed messaging about its nature as a single-player vs multi-player experience (apparently it’s only the former), Sony throwing huge marketing power behind it then not offering advanced review copies for media outlets, its full-price tag despite being a game developed by a smaller indie studio and many gamers expecting it to be the “only game you’ll ever buy again” based on its promise of offering the ability to explore a world with 18 quintillion planets filled with wildlife and resources galore.

Time will tell how successful it will be, both critically and financially. The initial indication is that reviews are skewing toward the negative, but so many people are playing it that I can’t help but think my sales estimate of 1.5 to 1.75 million units sold is ultimately attainable.

Xbox One

Xbox (Is Number) One!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Microsoft Corp (MSFT)’s Xbox business. Last week, the tech giant released a slimmer, updated version of its latest console dubbed the Xbox One S after cutting the price of its original Xbox One model to $249 (the console launched in 2013 at a cost twice that amount). It seems this aggressive price cut has impacted sales, as the Xbox One became the best-selling home console in the U.S. during July 2016 based on a report by the NPD Group. This is the first month that the Xbox One has led its major competitor, Sony’s PS4, since its win in October 2015 around the launch of Halo 5.

 

Sony Invite

PlayStation Meeting.. PS4 Neo Reveal?

Speaking of home consoles and updated versions, news dropped this week by way of VICE Gaming and Gameblog that Sony Corp is to reveal a new iteration of its industry-leading PS4 home console next month. The company has sent invitations to a PlayStation event taking place at its PlayStation Theater in New York City on September 7th. The project, nicknamed “Neo,” will be featured at this event and is expected to have upgraded specifications and enable 4K gaming.

Note there are 43.5 million PS4’s in the wild as of the end of this past June.

NVIDIA

NVIDIA Is Stackin’ Chips

Semiconductor manufacturer NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA) reported record quarterly sales of $1.43 billion this week, beating analyst expectations on a 9% jump since last quarter and 24% increase since last year. The firm, whose chips are widely used in gaming applications in addition to Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars, showed profit growth of 29% since last quarter and triple-digits since last year! Gaming makes up a little more than half of its overall sales, and the company’s results were driven by its new “Pascal” chip series released this year as part of its future road map.

The company’s stock is the 2nd-best performing within the U.S. market benchmark S&P 500 index over the past year, growing 166% over this time frame as of last night’s price. Not a bad investment, I’d say!

 

DeNA

Nintendo LogoDeNA & Nintendo Sittin’ In A Tree..

Japanese mobile and social media company DeNA Co Ltd (2432) divulged some details of its partnership with Nintendo Co Ltd (7974) during the former’s earnings this week. DeNA said that mobile titles in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem game series are expected to release this upcoming fall, and that in total the firms have five different mobile games planned to release before May 2017 in hopes of creating medium-to-long term sustainable profits.

Nintendo will of course handle development and marketing of these games, while DeNA will handle infrastructure and back-end support services. Nintendo will cover all marketing costs. As a result, the firms will split revenue from these releases but we don’t know what the split will be just yet. DeNA expects contributions from this alliance during its 2016 fiscal year, which ends next May, so we can safely expect the same for Nintendo.

Alibaba

Alibaba vs SEC: Fight!

Lastly, yesterday Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group (BABA) had its best quarterly sales growth since its public listing back in September 2014 on $4.84 billion in revenue and operating income of $1.3 billion. This resulted in its stock price soaring 7% in trading today, leading to a 20% increase year-to-date.

Still, there’s a dark cloud hanging over the company’s earnings in that the U.S. financial regulatory body the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating its accounting practices when it comes to reporting of one of its sales metrics, called Gross Merchandise Volume. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure exactly what this metric is, but Alibaba itself did not address the investigation so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

Have a great weekend, folks!

-Dom

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Introducing: Casual Friday, August 5th, 2016

Casual Friday

 

Isn’t Friday just the best?

 

In honor of the greatest day of the week, I am happy to introduce a new weekly article series dubbed Casual Friday (of course)! During Casual Friday, I’ll make a few notes about items or stats or really just anything around the industries I cover that we might have missed during the busy week. I often post such tidbits on Twitter, but this is the best place to view them as it will be in a round-up fashion.

 

With that said, the highlights this week are as follows:

 

Titanfall Art

 

Electronic Arts (EA) CFO Blake Jorgensen said on the company’s earnings call this week that the original Titanfall game, released in 2014 on Xbox platforms, sold 7 million units. This sales figure was previously (incorrectly) reported as 10 million based on a tweet by Vince Zampella, studio head of developer Respawn Entertainment. Many like me had been waiting for a clarification on this number, especially leading into this fall when the sequel Titanfall 2 is set to release but this time on both Xbox and PlayStation platforms. Jorgensen says the firm expects 9-10 million units sold for the sequel.

 

Game of Thrones Poster

 

Time Warner (TWX) reported that Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which debuted back in April, averaged 25 million viewers per episode. This is a record number for the show. For perspective, the company also said that Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which aired on their TNT network, was the most-viewed NBA telecast of all time on cable. It had 16 million viewers.

 

Overwatch Artwork

 

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) revealed what most industry followers and regular gamers already assumed: Blizzard’s new hero shooter Overwatch is a huge commercial success. Since its release only three months ago, the game has amassed 15 million players, which is the earliest that any Blizzard game has hit this milestone. These players have devoted around 500 million hours to the game, and the company estimates the game has raked in a half billion dollars so far.

 

Take Two Logo

 

In an interview with GameIndustry.biz, Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO) CEO Strauss Zelnick said that the company’s guidance for 2017 does not include any contribution from Nintendo (7978)’s upcoming hardware, code-name “NX.” This implies that the company is not developing any launch titles for NX, as the console’s release date of March 2017 corresponds to the end of TTWO’s fiscal year. No mention of NX games in the pipeline beyond next March, either.

 

Total War Warhammer Art

 

Sega Sammy Holdings (6460) announced its Total War strategy game series has sold more than 20 million copies over its 16-year history. The latest title is this year’s Total War: Warhammer. And yes, it should have been called Total Warhammer, I agree. Golden opportunity, missed.

 

Pokemon Go SurveyMonkey Intelligence

 

And finally, it wouldn’t be an article in the summer of 2016 if I didn’t mention Pokemon GO! According to SurveyMonkey Intelligence, 63% of Pokemon GO players are women. Niantic & The Pokemon Company’s super-duper-megahit is most popular among folks ages 18-29, which comprise 46% of the game’s overall player base. Oh, and a Japanese Olympian racked up around $5,000 in data charges playing the game in Brazil. Now that’s addictive!

 

Any tidbits or topics that caught your eye this week? Leave a comment if so, and as a reminder you can now subscribe to email alerts by signing up in the sidebar to the right.

 

-Dom

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Bottom Line: How Healthy is Nintendo’s Financial Position Ahead of Earnings & NX?

Nintendo Logo

 

Ahead of Nintendo Co., Ltd (7974) earnings release and investor conference this week, let’s take a look at the gaming firm’s financials: how healthy is it really right now before the pending formal reveal of its latest hardware piece dubbed “NX” and its move into mobile?

If internet chatter and market sentiment are to be believed, Nintendo is struggling badly. Its stock is down 30% over the past 6 months, indicating investors are nervous. But is this warranted given its current situation and future prospects?

Perhaps, but I think it’s overblown. Compared to competitors Sony Corp (6758) and Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), Nintendo has smaller market capitalization and sales/income figures. But I’d argue it’s also a much more focused company that’s pure-play gaming, whereas the other two are broader corporations. When looking at strictly gaming-related figures, Nintendo’s sales are in fact lower than both though operating margin is comparable to Sony’s (Microsoft is better than both here) which indicates it doesn’t sell as well but it is actually more efficient from a profitability standpoint.

 

Comparison of Nintendo, Sony & Microsoft Gaming Segments 2

 

Edit: Caveats to above table is that Microsoft includes the following in its Computer & Gaming Hardware segment: Xbox gaming and entertainment consoles and accessories, second-party and third-party video game royalties, and Xbox Live subscriptions (“Xbox Platform”); Surface devices and accessories (“Surface”); and Microsoft PC accessories.

Additionally, it does not directly report Operating Income at its segment level but rather Gross Margin, so I have taken this figure out of the table for now. I would like to get a better estimation of Operating Income before updating again.

The main knock on Nintendo lately is that the Wii U console, released in late 2012, has been a failure. Below shows Wii U lifetime sales each fiscal year compared to both Wii and Nintendo 3DS, aligned for their launch timings. It’s true that sales of the console have been lackluster compared to recent consoles and Nintendo’s handhelds, but the success of the Nintendo 3DS in particular has supporting sales and earnings since its release in 2011.

 

Nintendo Hardware Unit Sales Launch Aligned

 

Still, you’ll notice below that from a monetary standpoint, Nintendo is actually not trending downward. In fact, it turned an operating profit in 2015 for the first time since 2011, just after peak success of the Wii (released in 2007). Its net income was also positive in 2015 compared to losses in 2014 and 2012. Sure overall sales have declined a bit over the past five years, but last year’s figure of ¥549 trillion (~$5 billion) is only around 15% lower than 2012. Additionally, taking into account its liabilities, the firm has around just under ¥100 trillion ($1 billion) of cash available which it can use to invest in future endeavors.

 

Nintendo Select Financials

Nintendo Select Financials 2

 

And Nintendo is also a software company, which is a key component of its overall business. Software sales have softened a bit over the past five years, but I expect a bump once NX is released in time for 2017 financials.

 

Nintendo Software Sales

 

Which brings me to the key going forward, as most gamers understand: Nintendo’s new NX hardware has to be a hit, its foray into mobile needs to be monetized and it needs great games in order to achieve a financial rebound. It has to differentiate NX from Wii U, similar to how Wii separated itself from its predecessor in GameCube. The way Wii had motion controls, NX needs to stand out.

Common speculation has it that the NX is a cross-over between a console and handheld, and that it will bridge the gap between home and mobile gaming plus offer an online infrastructure that is superior to the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. But Nintendo has yet to commit to any sort of messaging on the new console yet. The firm did release its first mobile game, Miitomo, this month however has yet to show any sort of monetization. It’s more of a foundation upon which to build future mobile games.

All in all, Nintendo’s current financial situation is somewhat concerning compared to recent years and its big competitors, but it’s not as dire as its stock performance or internet message boards will have you believe based on profit rebounding and cash on hand to invest in its future. Do you agree?

Sources: Nintendo Co., Ltd, Sony Corp, Microsoft Corporation, Google Finance.

Note that all figures above are based on today’s exchange rate between JPY and USD.

-Dom