2016 Year-In-Review: Top 5 Influential Gaming Companies of the Year

Back again with another 2016 Year-In-Review post!

This time, let’s keep it a bit free form. I wanted to post about some of the companies that have influenced my gaming habits this year, or those that have had significant impact on the industry as a whole.

So, in alphabetical order, here are five of the most influential companies in gaming for 2016 and a quick note about each. Which companies, developers or publishers influenced your habits this year?

 

 

Activision Blizzard, Inc.

Annual Revenue: $4.6 billion

Major public publisher produced some of the year’s most recognizable and top-selling games, including Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, World of Warcraft: Legion expansion and newcomer Overwatch.

 

 

Bethesda Softworks (Subsidiary of ZeniMax Media)

Annual Revenue: $89.2 million (Parent Company)

Independent, private publisher responsible for various notable titles in 2016, in particular: id Software’s DOOM and Arkane Studios’ Dishonored 2.

 

 

Electronic Arts

Annual Revenue: $4.4 billion

Along with its usual annual sports titles, which it continues to support with “Ultimate Team” fantasy-type modes, EA produced a pair of notable FPS games: the resurgent title in the Battlefield series, Battlefield 1, and critical darling Titanfall 2.

 

 

Sony Corp

Annual Revenue: $72.1 billion

Sony manufactures what continues to be the highest-selling console this generation, the PlayStation 4, which saw an upgraded “Pro” version in 2016 plus the firm launched its foray into virtual reality with the PlayStation VR headset.

 

 

The Pokémon Company & Niantic, Inc.

Annual Revenue: NA

TPC and Niantic were responsible for the year’s biggest gaming phenomenon in Pokémon GO, not to mention the former published two new entries in the Pokemon handheld franchise late in 2016 in Pokémon Sun and Moon.

 

 

-Dom

Earnings Calendar Oct & Nov 2016: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

working-casual-earnings-calendar-oct-nov-2016

 

Quarterly earnings season has started again for public companies, where they report how business is going over the latest 3 months period. I started this type of post last quarter, and have again compiled an Earnings Calendar above for select companies in the gaming, media and technology sectors that you might be interested in following.

 

This is also available as a Google Doc at the link below, in case you’d like to visit any of the Investor Relations sites with ease.

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Oct & Nov 2016: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

Microsoft Corp ($MSFT) and Advanced Micro Devices ($AMD) are the first of these firms on the list to report, with results coming after U.S. stock market is closed for the day. This kicks off what is always an interesting, fun time for those of us who enjoy knowing how companies are doing and hoping for as much transparency as possible!

 

Some of the names to keep an eye on this quarter are the following:

 

apple-logo-rainbow

 

Apple Inc ($AAPL): Reporting on Tuesday 10/25, the largest company in the world’s earnings are always a great indicator of consumer sentiment worldwide. It will be especially interesting this quarter with the release of its latest mobile iteration, the iPhone 7, plus the ongoing woes of its major competitor Samsung Electronics ($005935) which recently lowered guidance because of the discontinuation of its Galaxy Note 7 line of products.

 

HACS_001_logo_R_ad

 

Nintendo Co Ltd ($NTDOY): Just this morning, Nintendo announced its long-awaited new console (code-name “NX”) as the Nintendo Switch, a device that gamers can use at the home or on-the-go as a handheld platform. This obviously won’t impact earnings just yet, as it’s slated for release in March 2017, but this will be the first financial release where the very popular mobile game Pokemon GO contributes to sales. Still, I expect another sluggish quarter for Nintendo as it doesn’t receive 100% of the revenue from Pokemon GO plus its existing hardware is getting long-in-the-tooth and doesn’t have many titles driving sales.

 

sony-ps-vr

 

Sony Corp ($SNE): Sony has “lost” the battle with Microsoft in the U.S. when it comes to console hardware sales during the last three months according to the NPD Group, with the Xbox One outselling Sony’s PlayStation 4 during this time frame. A lack of major exclusive games and the Xbox One having a new “slimmer” model are primary factors, though the PlayStation 4 is still leading when it comes to overall sales by a large margin. Sony also released its first foray into virtual reality last week in PlayStation VR, but this happened after its latest quarter ended so its contribution won’t be until next time.

 

Which companies are you watching closely this quarter? Any big products or news stories that you think might influence how firms in these industries are faring? Shoot me a note!

 

Sources: NASDAQ, NPD Group, Company Investor Relations & Press/Media Websites

-Dom

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

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

Prediction: Which Console Exclusive Will Sell More: Uncharted 4 or Quantum Break?

2876987-uncharted4amazon2916116-quantum-break-box-shot-jpg

Prediction: Which gaming console exclusive will sell more copies across its lifetime: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, releasing May 10th on Sony Corp’s (6758) PlayStation 4 or Quantum Break which is out tomorrow Apr 5th on Microsoft Corporation’s Xbox One? Note that the latter will also be available on PC.

*FAIR WARNING* This will be a lengthy post, and more analytical than my usual ones. This is to dive deep into what is driving my predictions, rather than simply stating them blindly.

My personal guesstimates are below. In my opinion, Uncharted 4 has the better upside since it is the latest and likely last installment in a long-standing series. Additionally, PS4 user base is larger at around 36 million currently and I expect it to be as much as 50 million by end of 2016 based on growth since launch (and even more by the end of the generation, as we’ll see below). Moreover, Quantum Break is a brand new intellectual property (IP) for the lagging Xbox One this generation so its sales potential is lower despite its overall favorable critical reception now that review embargo has lifted as of last week.

When it comes to these two exclusives, quick predictions for sales this year and then rationale to follow:

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment)

Predicted Lifetime Sales: 8 million

Quantum Break (Remedy Entertainment, Microsoft Studios)

Predicted Lifetime Sales: 5.9 million

The basis for these predictions comes down to a handful of factors: Current and predicted install base of each current generation console, historical attach rates of similar titles (comparison of software units sold per units of its console), actual company estimates and finally pre-order figures.

uncharted-4-a-thiefs-end_2015_01-29-15_017

For Uncharted 4, the historical sales of each installment in the series is as follows over each game’s lifetime compared with the install base of PlayStation 3 on which all were originally released. Note these are lifetime sales:

Uncharted Series Lifetime Sales

Subsequently, current lifetime sales of select PS4 exclusives to date and corresponding attach rates based on 36 million units sold of the console itself. Caveats, obviously, these are newer than the older Uncharted games and some are available on PC. But these represent only console sales.

PS4 Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Pushing this one step further, let’s assume based on early sales trends that the PS4 will outsell the PS3 to upwards of 100 million (almost what the PS2 sold). Using this assumption, these are “potential” lifetime figures of the same select PS4 exclusives we just plotted at current attach rates:

Potential PS4 Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Which ultimately leads to my estimate of 8 million lifetime sales for Uncharted 4, assuming it achieves an attach rate of 7.50% which is comparable to earlier titles in the Uncharted series and a bit more than select titles currently available for the PS4 console. This is my built-in upside, as the title has already achieved gold status which is pre-order sales of 250,000 before it has even released.

Estimated Uncharted 4 Lifetime Sales

 

3004866-quantum_break_takedown

As for new Xbox One title Quantum Break, we’ll first look at historical sales of new exclusive titles available on “Original” Xbox and Xbox 360 platforms over the past few years again compared with corresponding console sales:

Xbox Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Now sales of Xbox One exclusives to date and attach rates based on 20 million consoles in the wild:

X1 Exclusives Lifetime Sales

Similar to what we had above, the following is “potential” lifetime figures assuming that the Xbox One sells exactly the same as its predecessor which is around 84 million. I am estimating less lifetime sales here than PS4 based on the Xbox One lagging for the foreseeable future.

Potential X1 Exclusives Lifetime Sales

Almost done. While Quantum Break isn’t a part of an existing series, I’ve charted how earlier games by Remedy Entertainment have sold on their individual consoles. Note these are not console exclusives except for Alan Wake.

Remedy Entertainment Lifetime Sales Final

And finally, this brings me to my Quantum Break estimate of 5.9 million lifetime unit sales. I have to assume the game has an attach rate similar to existing Xbox One exclusives like Halo 5 or earlier Remedy title Alan Wake rather than classic titles such as Halo: Combat Evolved or original Fable. And also, this assumes Xbox One again sells as much as the Xbox 360 which I think is realistic depending on how this generation plays out.

Estimated Quantum Break Lifetime Sales

 

Two MAJOR edits at this juncture: The Alan Wake sales figures above initially were high, as this is the figure was for the series overall. I have edited this to reflect Xbox 360 sales only which are around 1.5 million. Also, the big caveat that I didn’t properly convey is that at present Quantum Break is a console exclusive and it is available on PC but only via the Windows Store. Limiting distribution to one platform on PC rather than opening it up to others, namely Steam, will have huge negative implications for sales of the title overall. If MSFT doesn’t offer Quantum Break on the most popular PC distribution platforms at some point in its lifetime, and Xbox One doesn’t sell as well as Xbox 360, then my estimates would need to be revised downward.

Keep in mind, there are a ton of assumptions and estimates here. The bottom line is that I think Uncharted 4 has the greater potential when all is said and done, in that it’s the final installment in an established series going up against a brand new game in Quantum Break. This is despite higher historical attach rates for Xbox exclusives, as I think the Xbox One console could sell less than its competitor PS4 plus Quantum Break is an unproven brand. How do you feel about these assumptions and estimates? Do you think Quantum Break will actually sell more?

Sources: Sony Corp, Microsoft Corporation, Remedy Entertainment, NPD Group, Forbes, GameSpot, Amazon

-Dom