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Earnings Preview: Nintendo’s Last Decade & Why Its Bright Future Starts Now

 

It’s been a challenging few years for Nintendo, but that all changes today!

 

Well, technically tomorrow, when Nintendo Co Ltd $NTDOY is scheduled to shares its final quarterly earnings of 2016, along with its full year results ending March 30th. It’s the first earnings release that covers all the new ventures Nintendo is presently embarking upon, in particular its mobile initiatives and its latest console product, the Switch.

 

Exactly one year ago, I first wrote about Nintendo’s financial position. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere near ideal for gaming’s oldest and most recognizable company. I think that’s about to change, and I’ll tell you why.

 

Note that these are not adjusted for inflation, but rather are reported figures.

 

First, let’s set up the situation leading into tomorrow’s important earnings release. The couple of charts above show how Nintendo’s revenue and net income (i.e. profit) have fared during the last decade or so going back to 2006. Note that starting with this quarter, 2017Q4, these are estimates based on analyst consensus since these obviously haven’t been reported yet.

 

Technical jargon alert! These analyst expectations for this most recent quarter are: Revenues around ¥158 billion (~ $1.43 billion), with a Net Loss of ¥13.5 billion ($122 million).

 

Back to regular jargon? Both of these results would be nice improvements since the same time last year.

 

Now looking big-picture, the time frame here spans two “full” console cycles for Nintendo, the Wii in 2007 and Wii U in 2012, then of course the early days of the Switch which only released last month. There were also three handheld iterations during these years, if you count the tail end of the Nintendo DS that had versions release during 2006-2009, then Nintendo 3DS in 2011 and finally Nintendo 2DS in 2013.

 

You’ll notice the results recently have been somewhat soft since early 2011, even holiday sales had been trending down in recent years (these occur in Nintendo’s 3rd quarter). This can be mostly attributed to lackluster Wii U sales after its release in 2012, since to date these total only 13.56 million units which subsequently leads to lower software sales despite the console having some really quality games on it. Compare this to the crazy Wii sales at 101.63 million or even earlier consoles like GameCube at 21.74 million, and you’ll get a sense for how Nintendo’s console hardware business has been dragging it down recently. Luckily its handheld business has been propping up the company’s overall bottom line.

 

 

 

But alas! The oldest gaming company can in fact learn new tricks, and here are a handful of reasons why I’m mostly upbeat from this earnings release going:

 

  • Mobile software. (This is big.)
  • Switch sales momentum. (Even bigger!)
  • Old franchises, new games: Zelda, Mario, Pokémon, (potentially Metroid, Kirby, Star Fox and the list goes on.)

 

Its new back of tricks started last year with its foray into mobile games, starting with Miitomo in March 2016 though really reaching peak phenomenon with Pokémon GO last July. It has since released Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, with plans for an Animal Crossing game slated for this year. When it comes to financial impact, Nintendo admitted that Super Mario Run came in below expectations but I believe that’s a byproduct of the company testing different pricing models for its mobile games. Once it settles into the mobile space from a monetization standpoint, I expect it to be quite lucrative and have an impact right away on its results this year.

 

Nintendo’s toe-dipping into mobile is all well and good, but we know it for being a company that makes great games for its own cool hardware. Think about the classics: the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super NES, the Nintendo 64.. You get the picture. Though it’s been a while since these came out, Nintendo’s success has often hinged on it leveraging great hardware to create memorable experiences for all ages, and this is where the Switch comes in. I mentioned in a recent post the early sales success the hybrid console is having, so I won’t delve too much into the specifics, but suffice to say that I am confident Nintendo will hit us with some very positive figures and guidance when its earnings report is revealed tomorrow.

 

What would constitute “very positive”? According to Bloomberg, analysts on average are expecting that around 10 million Switch consoles will be shipped during April 2017 to March 2018. Personally, my expectation is in-line with this and I’ll even go as far to say that my personal prediction is 11 million will ship, bolstered by upcoming games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 but most importantly Super Mario Odyssey this holiday. Combine this with the likely 2 million units that shipped during March, and that number through this time next year could very well be 12-13 million. Which is essentially what the Wii U has sold during the past 5 years combined. So, increased sales in a shorter window equals a financial boon.

 

 

Still, platforms are nothing without software. And I remain fully confident in Nintendo’s first-party software line-up, which features some of the most well-established brands and characters in all of gaming. Just this year alone we’ve already seen a brand new Zelda game in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and we’ll see a mainline Mario game in Super Mario Odyssey before the holidays. But going further, Nintendo has brands like Pokémon, Metroid, Kirby, Star Fox and more that are almost certain to be featured on Switch sooner rather than later, with some even expecting a Pokémon title to be brought to the platform this year.

 

This type of software portfolio is unparalleled in the games industry. Not to mention its development teams are super talented. So if Nintendo plays its cards right with quality new games from its oldest franchises, and gets them onto the Switch most importantly, the upside is significant. Software sells hardware. Plain and simple.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, questions remain with the company. Especially when it comes to these areas:

 

  • Third party software support. This means companies other than Nintendo’s studios making games for its platforms.
  • Its handling of its back catalog. Right now, Nintendo’s sales platform for older games called Virtual Console is not available on the Switch.
  • The online subscription service that it’s developing for the Switch for release this year. This is an integral part of “modernizing” its offerings.
  • Plus the firm’s baffling decisions surrounding its novelty “mini” platforms the NES Classic and Famicom Mini, the former of which being discontinued for some reason and even when it was available, there were supply issues.

 

But it’s nothing that Nintendo hasn’t faced before. Shoot, it’s been around over a hundred years! In the context of its recent history, if you take this quarter and upcoming year, I think there is more to be optimistic about than the flip side. We’ll hear more about where its business is headed tomorrow, but I anticipate it will be pretty good news.

 

Are you as bullish on Nintendo as I am? Or taking a wait and see approach? Have you bought any of Nintendo’s products recently? If so, how do you like them? Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a note on Twitter, where I often post daily about the games industry!

 

Sources: Nintendo Co Ltd, Bloomberg, NASDAQ, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Geek Insider

 

-Dom

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Earnings Calendar Apr & May 2017: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

Updated 5/15/2017

 

It’s “earnings season” again, and you know what that means! Time to get geared up with an updated calendar covering the usual gaming, media and tech companies. This particular part of the year is especially interesting and important, as many companies end their fiscal years in March and will be reporting both quarterly and annual figures.

 

As always, the image above shows you a number of relevant dates for this earnings season. Feel free to save or share, or if you’d like to view this in Google Doc form where it’s easier to access the links, check it out below.

 

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Apr & May 2017: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

 

As I mentioned, this time of year is always super important since full-year figures are provided, and then forecasts are given by companies on their upcoming fiscal years. Aka even more data than usual!

 

Within gaming, the “Big Three” console hardware manufacturers will all be presenting annual earnings within the next week: Microsoft $MSFT and Nintendo $NTDOY on April 27th then Sony $SNE on April 28th.

 

Out of these, I’m certainly most interested in hearing from Nintendo. Of course. It’s the first earnings release after the Nintendo Switch hybrid console launched in early March, and we will now know how many units were actually shipped/sold and also its early contribution to profit. Indications are that the Switch is doing quite well. Originally, the company said it would ship 2 million Switches in its initial roll-out, and according to NPD Group, 906K of those were sold in the United States during March. For some context, that’s more than the legendary Wii console sold during its launch month, and that console went on to sell over 100 million units. I’m not saying that the Switch will sell close to that in the long-run, but early on it’s certainly showing strong demand.

 

There have even been quotes as high as 2.4 million Switches being sold worldwide, per SuperData Research, so we’ll know for sure come next week how many fit into the time frame leading up to the end of March and more importantly, how these hardware sales and software like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are contributing to its bottom line.

 

 

As for other notable companies on the list, both Alphabet (Google) $GOOG and Samsung Electronics numbers come in next week, then the largest company on the planet, Apple $AAPL, will present on May 2nd. All will be quarterly reports.

 

Both Samsung and Apple will be sharing ongoing sales stats of their flagship smartphones of course, including the iPhone 7 which launched in September, and it will be worth watching Samsung especially to see how much financial impact from the Note 7 debacle. I expect it was much worse from a PR standpoint than it was on its profits, personally, since the Note series doesn’t contribute as much as other products. Note that Samsung launched its Galaxy S8 smartphone line today, so sales there will be reflected next quarter.

 

 

Rounding out reports during May will be a couple of European companies, in particular Vivendi $VIV and Ubisoft Entertainment $UBI. I mentioned these two side-by-side as we haven’t heard much about the former’s ownership stake in the latter for a number of months now. At last measure, Vivendi owned 25.15% of Ubisoft, which signaled to some analysts that a hostile takeover was upcoming. Personally, I don’t know if that’s a battle Vivendi wants to fight right now, especially as Ubisoft strengthens with two of the best-selling games this year in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and For Honor. I don’t expect a takeover to happen just yet.

 

Note that there are still some companies that haven’t announced dates yet, including Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent Holdings, Japanese game makers Sega Sammy and Square Enix plus noted domestic publisher Take-Two Interactive $TTWO, so I will update accordingly when we hear from them.

 

Any companies on the list that you’re keeping an eye on? Did I miss any? Are you as excited as I am (you should be!)? Let me know, and thanks for checking in!

 

Sources: Each of the companies listed, Google Finance, NPD Group, SuperData Research

 

Disclaimer: I have owned Intel Corp $INTC stock in the past. As always, this is not a recommendation to invest in any companies but used for informative and analytical purposes.

 

-Dom

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ESA Report: Essential Facts About Computer & Video Games Industry

 

The Entertainment Software Association, better known as the ESA, has released its annual “Essential Facts” report about the gaming industry in the United States. I’d like to share the report itself and highlight some of its more interesting statistics, especially in the context of how much is spent on games here in the States and how much the industry contributes to the overall economy. This will be a bit more of a visual post, with some written excerpts from the report itself and commentaries from yours truly.

 

First, a quick overview of the report: it’s based on a survey of 4,000 U.S. homes plus data provided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), NPD Group (who you’ll recognize from its monthly reports on the U.S. gaming industry) and gaming research and consulting firm EEDAR. If you’re interested in gaming and the business surrounding it, these are among the best sources to follow and I often reference data provided by them.

 

 

Now, let’s dig into the report. Above images show some of the general talking points and statistics:

 

  • 67% of U.S. households own a gaming device, and 65% are home to someone that plays 3 or more hours of games per week.
  • Average gamer is 35 years of age. Women under the age of 18 play more games than men within the same age bracket.
  • Consumers spent $30.4 billion on video game software, hardware and accessories in 2016.
  • 1 in 3 of the “most frequent gamers” said they were likely to buy a virtual reality device in the next year.
  • More than half (53%) of the “most frequent gamers” play multiplayer games at least once per week.

 

Keep in mind that these stats include mobile games, so a gaming “device” is everything from smartphones to computers to dedicated gaming consoles.

 

 

Given that my focus here is mostly on the business side of technology and gaming, I’d like to expand on the spending and economic impact sections of the report.

 

In 2016, almost 3/4 of gaming purchases were digital. You’ll notice above that this is a sizeable shift from where this number was even a handful of years ago, such as in 2012-2013 when the split between digital and physical was about even. As games become more service-oriented and publishers continue to support games long after release with additional content or cosmetic items, I expect this trend to continue and settle somewhere in the 75% to 80% digital range.

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, $30.4 billion in total was spent on video games last year. This includes software, hardware and accessories. “Content” spending, or the money people spent on games, was $24.5 billion. Hardware accounted for $3.7 billion, while the remainder was accessories such as controllers and virtual reality devices.

 

Basically, since 2010, annual dollars spent on games has grown 40% to that $24.5 billion figure. Today’s households are spending much more on games, and I attribute that to a variety of reasons: the rise of mobile gaming, digital purchasing capabilities become more widespread on all devices plus gaming becoming more mainstream and an alternative to more “mature” forms of entertainment such as films and TV. With new hardware such as the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft’s Project Scorpio combined with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones, I anticipate the growth will continue at its current pace into at least next year.

 


Going further into gamers’ spending on individual software, the best-selling games of 2016 were Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Activision Blizzard $ATVI), Battlefield 1 (Electronics Arts $EA) and Grand Theft Auto V (Take-Two Interactive $TTWO). Sports games Madden NFL 17 (Electronics Arts $EA) and NBA 2K17 (Take-Two Interactive $TTWO) rounded out the Top 5.

 

Yes, you read that right. A game that originally released in 2013, Grand Theft Auto V, was one of the best-selling games of all last year. This ties back into my earlier comment on digital spending in that the reason it’s been so successful is in part to the ongoing support provided by its developer Rockstar Games. Granted, it’s basically the must-own game this generation and is often purchased when someone buys a new console, but its constant online updates and live events entice players to stick around and spend more time (and more importantly, money) than they would in other games.

 

Breaking the top-sellers out by genre, the most was spent on “Shooters” at 27.5%, which makes sense as the two best-selling games of the year fall into this category. “Action” titles were next, accounting for 22.5%, while Role-Playing represented almost 13% of total spending. More than half of the overall spending was on just these three segments.

 

 

The last area I’d like to cover is where the report reveals a good amount on how gaming contributes to the overall U.S. economy. More than 2,300 game developers operate across all 50 states, while over 500 publishers are present in 44 states. As for employees, more than 65K folks are employed in gaming across the country, with an average salary of $97K annually.

 

These companies, both public and private, contributed $11.7 billion to the overall U.S. economy last year as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The largest public gaming companies headquartered in the country by market capitalization include familiar names like Activision Blizzard $ATVI ($26.8 billion), Electronic Arts $EA ($23.8 billion) and Take-Two Interactive $TTWO ($4.2 billion). All of these sizes are as of year-end.

 

Note there are many more topics in the full report from the ESA, including the demographics of U.S. gamers plus what drives purchasing decisions. It can be viewed here.

 

Personally I think these are fun to talk about since it allows us to better understand the industry and where it’s headed, and I look forward to seeing where the trends go next year! That said, how do you compare to the “average gamer” in the United States? How much do you spend on gaming purchases in a given year? Did you buy one of the best-selling games last year? Feel free to comment or shoot me a note on Twitter!

 

Sources: Entertainment Software Association, The NPD Group, EEDAR, Google Finance.

 

-Dom

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Bungie Reveals Destiny Sequel Via Images On Social Media

 

Hi folks!

 

As you’ll notice, this is going to be a bit of a different post in that it’s mostly news. I just am excited to share that game developer Bungie, the Washington-based studio behind early games in the Halo franchise, has posted the above image on its Twitter account. This tweet officially announces the sequel to its 2014’s shared-world shooter Destiny, simply entitled: Destiny 2. Like the original, it will be published by Activision Blizzard $ATVI.

 

Two more images below were posted almost simultaneously on Destiny’s Facebook page, showing a variation on the above image then a more detailed look at the bottom half of the area featured in the other two shots.

 

 

 

 

Humor me for a moment, as these are exciting times. Astute Destiny fans will notice that these imagines actually tell us a bit more than it may seem at first glance. The Last City is depicted as being on fire and burning to the ground, assumingly from some sort of attack from an enemy faction. In the original game, The Last City is the only remaining area populated by humans but it was in-tact and not under siege. I can only presume that the player character will be the one responsible for defending The Last City from these evil-doers, or maybe bringing the fight to them in order to take revenge in the name of humanity!

 

These photos also show the Traveler, that mysterious spherical body above The Last City, is essentially unharmed at least for now and it still resides above The Last City in its usual spot. Many in the Destiny universe revere the Traveler as being a “protector” over the last inhabited city on Earth, and it seems humanity desperately needs both it and the player to defend it in the upcoming sequel.

 

 

As for more details on the game itself, no further information from Activision Blizzard or Bungie was shared. So we don’t know anything formally yet on release date, new content, trailers etc. But the indication from the leaked poster above, which surfaced last week after being allegedly leaked by a GameStop Italy employee, is that that Destiny 2 will release on Friday, September 8th later this year. This would be almost exactly 3 years after the original, and for big fans like me, a perfect opportunity for Bungie to expand on the universe it established in the first game while also enhancing all of its aspects including narrative, exploration and of course, my favorite part, its “raids” which are six-person mega-missions that usually feature puzzles, unique enemies and big bosses to overcome.

 

 

 

Lastly, another interesting part of the timing in that it’s right before Bungie kicks off the last live event in the original game’s life span: Age of Triumph. This event is basically the ultimate fan service, where the developer is offering some new quests, bringing older content up-to-date then offering new, remixed versions of gear from the early days of the game which is something players have been requesting for a while. Age of Triumph begins tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28th.

 

What about you? Did you play the original, and if so what was your final verdict on it? Are you excited for Destiny 2 or will you be passing on the game? Feel free to leave a comment, or reach out on Twitter with your thoughts.

 

Sources: Bungie, Activision, Lega Network

 

-Dom

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Mass Effect: Andromeda Game & Sales Preview

 

Next Tuesday, developer BioWare is set to release Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest installment in its long-running Mass Effect video game series which saw its first entry a decade ago. Published by Electronic Arts ($EA), Mass Effect: Andromeda is being billed as a new standalone type of space, role-playing adventure that has loose ties to the original trilogy of games but is the start of a brand new story.

 

Now that the marketing speak is out of the way, I’d like to touch on my early impressions of playing the game while also give a brief explanation of my sales expectations for this year and beyond. Especially now that it’s been five years since Mass Effect 3, a game that was well-received but also lamented for certain aspects especially its ending.

 

I’ve played Mass Effect: Andromeda in a trial run under EA Access, the publisher’s subscription service that allows earlier games and previews of newer ones. My impressions have been mixed overall, to say the least, with a skew towards optimism once I was finished up.

 

 

First, the highlights of the early game for me:

 

  • Setting. The original trilogy was set in our own Milky Way galaxy, while the new game is (quite obviously) set in the Andromeda galaxy. This opens up much more potential for exploration and finding new species of planet, wildlife and aliens to encounter.

 

  • The game looks great. When it comes to visuals, art direction and color palette, the game has been stunning especially on its first “major” planet. I’m playing on Xbox One, though based on the consensus of previews online, this holds true for all platforms.

 

  • You have a Jet-Pack! I said it on Twitter recently but I will reiterate it here: BioWare has added a jet-pack to the game, and it’s the the single, most important update to the series in its history in my opinion. One of the biggest knocks on earlier games is that the combat and mobility isn’t on par with other games in the genre. Having a jet-pack completely changes combat, especially when used with the game’s diverse suite of abilities.

 

  • Story. I think there’s more to the story than the generic sci-fi setup that takes place early on. The premise is you are a key part of the Andromeda Initiative, a plan for humans to colonize a new galaxy. You wake from cryo-sleep to face hardship and a mysterious threat early on. I enjoy the way the game frames you has a futuristic explorer, dubbed a “Pathfinder,” rather than as a member of the military as in earlier titles. You have the choice at the beginning to play as one of two characters that are brother and sister, Scott or Sarah Ryder, then the other becomes a non-playable character existing in the world alongside you. The early story offers intrigue as to your background and how the relationship with your parents ties into your current situation, plus there are definite overtones of artificial intelligence and the relationship between mankind and machines.

 

  • Customization options. Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways you can spec your character, from appearance and skills to gear and weapons. But the most important improvement is that now you aren’t “locked in” to a certain type of character role as older games required. You can move swiftly between styles: soldier, tech specialist, ability-enhanced bad-ass and the like!

 

 

But that last point actually leads me to the first item on my list of concerns with the game..

 

  • All the customization, upgrade, skill, research and development options are overwhelming. After the game’s drawn-out prologue, it basically throws all its systems at you early on and it feels overwhelming even to someone that has played a lot of similar games. There are so many choices to make, the game boasts! Which is not always a good thing, especially early. I know this will ease over time, and you can re-spec your character as I mentioned above, I just don’t know where to focus my efforts in the early-game or have a good idea which combat abilities best suit my play-style. I almost wish there was a firing range or test area right away that I could leverage, rather than relying on the quick mini-tutorial videos that display each ability.

 

  • Odd first impression. The game starts…. slowly, and makes an odd first impression. Most games now have a glorified tutorial area masquerading as a mission, and Mass Effect: Andromeda is no different. I know I said just above that I wish more of the game was “tutorialized,” but I mean that from a customization and choice standpoint, not from a story or gameplay one. It seemed like most of the time at the start of the game was walking, stopping, walking, stopping, sometimes shooting but mostly walking. At least I had a jet-pack to make it to faster!

 

  • Animations. Especially those face animations. I can’t say much more than the internet has already said. There are plenty of videos and GIFs displaying the funny facial and other animations that are just a Google search away, and during my early play-through, I noticed the faces are particularly creepy.

 

  • Generic characters. Perhaps it’s because I’m familiar with the older games, but right now all of the characters feel generic and “safe.” Same races and similar roles that populated the original trilogy, albeit with less of a military focus. This will assuredly change as I progress, I mean we are exploring a brand new galaxy, right!

 

  • Controls. My last complaint, though it’s actually my biggest one too, is a through-line across all Mass Effect games. The controls are not good. They are still “loose” and never as responsive as I’d like. It doesn’t feel as good as other third-person action games. (Then again, it never did.) I don’t think there’s an easy way to swap weapons, or the game doesn’t go a good job of communicating if there is. Plus navigating the game’s variety of menu screens is tedious and cumbersome, not as snappy as it could be. Not to mention the fact that I have to press multiple buttons to even view the map in a game that’s based around exploration is beyond me.

 

 

All in all, I am mostly enjoying my time with the game despite its glaring flaws especially its frustrating controls. I’m planning on playing it more and seeing it through to completion, no doubt, as it appears BioWare has crafted a robust space RPG with just a few super rough edges.

 

 

As for sales, let’s jump right into fun prediction time: I expect the game to sell around 4 million copies during 2017. Then, it will have upside of 6.5 – 7 million worldwide during its lifetime, implying I think around 60% of its overall sales should take place this year. If it hits this amount, it would be the best-selling game in the storied franchise.

 

Why, you ask? This is my best guess based on the publisher’s own launch expectations, historical sales plus the current install base and environment of the latest generation of gaming consoles.

 

According to its most recent earnings call, EA itself anticipates the title will sell 3 million units to consumers within its launch week and up through the end of March. We can compare this figure to the launch numbers that EA presented for its earlier titles, though it’s not a perfect analogy of course since these will be shipped figures: Mass Effect 2 shipped 2 million launch week, while Mass Effect 3 shipped 3.5 million in the same type of time frame. Caveat being that not all of them sold, but it gives a good indication of the supply factor.

 

Going further, EA also said the launch figure of 3 million sold will be around “30% to 50%” of its lifetime sales, which implies a range of 6 to 10 million copies sold when all is said and done. As you’ll see, I’m leaning towards the lower range of this guidance.

 

To me, even these days when games have longer life-cycles due to offering downloadable content, ongoing multiplayer events or discounts, I still expect at least half of a game’s sales to happen near launch if not more. Especially for a game with a massive focus on single-player campaign launching early in the year, when there are less “blockbuster” titles. (You could argue this year has more early competition than usual, between Horizon: Zero Dawn, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, For Honor etc but it’s still less busy than a fall release slate.)

 

After the launch window, I’d expect the natural bump near the year-end holidays for most triple-A franchises, including one as well-known as Mass Effect. Between launch week sales and those throughout the year with a skew toward the holidays, 4 million sounds reasonable for 2017.

 

As for my lifetime sales estimate of up to 7 million, I mentioned this would make it the best-selling game in the franchise to date even though it’s technically below EA‘s guidance. We know Mass Effect 3 moved around 6 million copies, its publisher just said so on the same earnings call, then historical figures show Mass Effect likely sold 3.2 million implying Mass Effect 2 at roughly 4.8 million considering the franchise figure of more than 14 million was announced a couple years back.

 

 

The reason I’m coming in at the “lower” end of EA‘s guidance is I think some folks have been turned off over the years due to the game’s flaws or how Mass Effect 3 ended, and the series is already divisive enough to this day as illustrated by Mass Effect: Andromeda’s mixed previews. Not to mention 2017 is shaping up to be one of the best years for gaming in recent memory, with stiff competition if games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed “Egypt” and more release in the 2nd half. I’d rather be conservative on sales, despite being mostly optimistic about my own enjoyment of the game.

 

Have you played the Mass Effect series, including this latest game in a preview or trial? Did you find it to be enjoyable, or were put off by certain aspects? Are you bullish on its sales potential, or conservative in today’s climate? Feel free to comment or get in touch on Twitter.

 

Sources: Electronic Arts, BioWare, Polygon, Motley Fool

 

Note that screenshots above were taken by me on an Xbox One, except for the photo of the woman character named Foster Addison, which is sourced from Polygon.

 

-Dom

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Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2017: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

Here we have the first “earnings season” of 2017 for gaming, media and technology stocks, and just like last quarter, I’m right here to map out the schedule so you can keep up-to-date with all sorts of fun, interesting financial results. Why else would you be here!

 

As usual, above I’ve compiled a list of numerous companies that are reporting results this quarter. Since it’s the beginning of a new year, some will even report full-year figures from their latest fiscal years. Bonus content!

 

Below is also a Google Docs link you can use as a reference, in particular if you want to check out a company’s Investor Relations website as I’ve listed each alongside company name and ticker:

 

Updated 2/6/2017: More companies and dates are present

 

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2017: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

A couple higlights include Nintendo $NTDOY having its first earnings meeting since formally revealing its newest console, the Nintendo Switch. Might hear some sales expectations if we’re lucky.

 

This is also the first earnings release for Time Warner $TWX after announcing it will be acquired by AT&T $T. Might be some further guidance on this deal and its timetable, as it was one of the largest acquisitions announced in 2016.

 

And lastly, we’ll see if Vivendi $VIV provides more information on its ownership stake in publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA $UBI. At last count, Vivendi owned more than 25% of Ubisoft, which has pundits thinking a hostile takeover is fast-approaching.

 

Before I go, note that a handful of companies like Alibaba, Netflix, Samsung and Verizon and have reported already earlier this month, so going forward I’ll shoot to have this article up a bit earlier. Apologies, but hey we’ve got plenty of earnings season left to enjoy. Let me know if you are looking forward to any resutls in particular, or if I missed any you might want to see on the list. Thanks!

 

-Dom

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Introducing: Working Casual Email Subscription!

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Hi all!

 

I’ve finally gone and set up email notifications for all of my Working Casual articles. If you’d like to subscribe, see the sidebar and enter your email address! Whenever there’s a new article, you’ll receive a note directly in your inbox. Quite convenient, right?

 

Oh and stay tuned as later today I’ll be unveiling a new weekly article series that you might find pretty cool. Ciao for now!

 

-Dom

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Earnings Calendar July & Aug 2016: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Microsoft Logo

 

Every quarter, “earnings season” comes around and gets us financial nerds excited. This is the recurring time period when public companies around the globe announce results for their latest financial period, whether it be quarterly, semi-annually or annually. The releases for this latest quarter usually happen between July and August for the months prior to the end of June i.e. half-way through the year.

 

Different companies have different fiscal periods, of course, but this is the general timetable and it makes for an interesting time since it’s the best way to get a handle on how well a company is performing and also gather reactions from investors, analysts and industry commentators.

 

Ubisoft Logo

 

In “celebration” of our latest earnings period, I’ve compiled a list of select companies in the gaming, media and technology industries and the dates on which each will reveal their latest results. See this full list as follows.

 

This list has been edited as of 8/4/2016, with updates to some that were “estimated” previously. These are NVIDIA, NetEase, Mad Catz and GameStop.

 

Still unsure on Square Enix and NCSoft, will update accordingly!

 

Working Casual Earnings Calendar July Aug 2016 Update2

 

This is also available via the following Google Docs link, in case you’d like to visit the individual links I’ve compiled:

 

Working Casual Earnings Calendar July & Aug 2016: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

 

This is sorted based on timing, and I’ve included a link to each firm’s investor relations site which is where you can go of course to read the full announcements. Public companies will also have an earnings conference call where executives and key personnel announce the results formally and take questions from analysts covering their stock.

 

This is actually my favorite part of the earnings ritual, in particular the analyst Q&A sessions, as the calls offer even much more insight into how a company is doing. Sometimes executives will provide facts or statements outside of what is in the press release or filings, and it helps provide further context for results and also it’s revealing on who is running the company. And there are even times when an executive can’t answer one of the questions, or dances around the real answer, and it’s fun to see the back-and-forth between these parties.

 

Nintendo Logo

 

A couple highlights are today both Microsoft Corporation and Ubisoft Entertainment SA will reveal their latest results, then next week the world’s largest company Apple Inc will be reporting.

 

Nintendo Co., Ltd. will also report next week, after the exceptional initial success of its Pokemon Go venture with The Pokemon Company and Niantic Labs. I wouldn’t expect to learn how much this new mobile game sensation is contributing to revenue just yet, as it’s only been out for a week and a half (hard to believe, right!). Still, Nintendo will likely address the game in some capacity.

 

Technology manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is late next week, as is huge retailer Amazon.com Inc. These companies, in addition to Apple, are often a sort of barometer for how consumers are acting on a global scale.

 

Tencent Logo

 

Lastly, in August, we’ll hear from Tencent Holdings Ltd in its first financial release after acquiring Finnish developer Supercell for $8.6 billion. The company is now the world’s largest public gaming firm by revenue, and serves as a benchmark to seeing how well the international mobile games market is faring in particular.

 

Want to hear more about the releases as they happen? I often try to provide perspective and figures/numbers on Twitter when I’m not writing here, so visit me and shoot me a tweet! I should have a write-up on a couple of these companies soon, in particular both Activision Blizzard, Inc. and Nintendo. Until then, did I miss any companies you are following? Please let me know and I’ll add them accordingly.

 

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Wall Street Journal, Newzoo.

 

-Dom

2

Which Indie Video Game Has More Sales Potential: Mighty No. 9 or No Man’s Sky?

Mighty No 9 Box Art

No Man's Sky Box Art

 

There are a variety of factors that drive how well a product sells: cost, marketing, timing of release, inventories and consumer sentiment among them. When it comes to video games, publishers often target the demand side of the equation by either appealing to gamer nostalgia or innovating on a familiar concept in order to draw attention to their title within the vast landscape of games released today.

 

The creators of two upcoming indie games are using these tactics: Mighty No. 9, developed by Comcept/Inti Creates with publishing by Deep Silver; and No Man’s Sky, which is made and published by Hello Games. The former is a nostalgia play, with its Mega Man-influenced action-platforming gameplay, while the latter is a monumental effort in the space exploration/survival and flight simulation category, boasting an infinite universe for players to explore. Mighty No. 9 is releasing on a variety of platforms, while No Man’s Sky is a Sony PlayStation 4 “timed” console exclusive that will also be available on PC.

 

Deep Silver Logo

 

Both games have had an interesting history to date, which will certainly impact sales potential. Mighty No. 9 is the brainchild of former Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune, and was announced way back in 2013 with a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign that has since raised around $4 million on the strength of 67K backers. However, the game has been delayed multiple times, annoying backers and potential consumers, and has been ridiculed for generic gameplay reveals and an especially corny marketing trailer (see below). Review consensus also seems to be negative overall from early impressions.

 

 

Hello Games Logo

 

No Man’s Sky was revealed at E3 2014 to broad fanfare, though skeptics point out the game’s colossal ambition could ironically also be its downfall plus Hello Games has been quite secretive on what it exactly is that you do in the game other than explore its vast universe. The game has developed a fervent online following, and was originally scheduled for a release this month but has since been pushed back to August. Upon news of this delay, creator Sean Murray received death threats from crazed individuals. As much as this is pure insanity, it also displays the thirst for a game that perfects the space exploration genre.

 

Sean Murray Twitter

 

So, what kind of sales potential do indie campaigns like this have? Mighty No. 9 has a very attractive price of $30, though the negativity swirling around its Kickstarter campaign and several delays indicates to me that the hype level is dwindling at the worst possible time with its release this week. Though the Mega Man series that inspired the game has sold approximately 31 million units to date, the highest-selling title in the series is Mega Man 2 at around 1.51 million copies.

 

I can’t see Mighty No. 9 being anywhere near as successful, even considering the 67K or so backers. I can see around 450-500K copies worldwide lifetime at the most.

 

No Man's Sky Image

 

 

Now, No Man’s Sky is a bit of a different story. It has established a following that is already starved for both information and a great game in the genre itself, so I believe it can withstand its recent delay. And even though it is only releasing on PS4 and PC, and it’s a full-priced $60 game, I still see lots of upside with the current install base of PS4 being around 40 million and the game itself appealing to a PC audience. Another promising point is that we’ve seen solid sales for space titles recently, as names like Kerbal Space Program by Squad and Elite: Dangerous by Frontier Developments (FDEV) have sold over 1 million and 500K units, respectively. Even an older title like EVE Online by CCP Games is still estimated to have around 340K active players.

 

With the hype surrounding No Man’s Sky, success of (somewhat) comparables and its release timing before the pre-holiday rush, I estimate it could sell upwards of 1.5-1.75 million around the world with most of those coming this year.

 

Do you agree that Mighty No. 9 will sell less than No Man’s Sky? Or do you think the uncertainty around delays of both titles will mean that neither will sell particularly well?

 

Note that Mighty No. 9 releases on Tuesday 6/21, while No Man’s Sky is currently slated to come out on Tuesday, 8/9.

 

Sources: Deep Silver, Hello Games, No-Mans-Sky.com, Capcom, Frontier Developments, Kickstarter, YouTube.

 

-Dom

16

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