After leading the charge amid lockdown-fueled growth in 2020, these videogame stocks have lagged the broader market this year. A number of factors have hit the stocks, including hardware supply shortages, reopening trends hurting time spent gaming, crackdowns in China, and other company-specific developments, such as allegations of harassment at Activision Blizzard (ticker: ATVI).
“We think this has negated any positive influence from the launch of newhardware from Sony and Microsoft, whereas in the past videogame stocks hadenjoyed outsized returns during the early stages of a console cycle,” Stifel analyst Drew Crum wrote in a note on Monday. “With that said, this view should prove to be transient, all else being equal.”
While chip-related supply shortages will continue to weigh on hardware sales, Crum does expect growth for 2021. Meanwhile, margins should get a hand as games on such consoles sell for $70 instead of the $60 price tag from the prior console generations.
The analyst expects the global gaming market to be mostly flat in 2021, with time spent gaming taking a big hit due to the economic reopening. That’s been bad news for live-services games—constantly updated online offerings that make money with in-game transactions. Still, Crum sees reason to be bullish on shares of Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts (EA), and Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO).
“We typically observe an increase in number of games during the first full calendar year of a new console cycle (which is this year) vs. the transition year (which was last year),” he wrote. “This is evident with EA’s slate, led by Battlefield 2042. Additionally, there were a few marquee titles pushed to ’21 due to Covid-19-related complications, such as Halo Infinite, which is (finally) launching this year.”
The analyst has Buy ratings on all three, though Activision is on his firm’s “Select List,” implying he is even more upbeat about that stock. He has a $121 price target on Activision stock, though he does note that the high-profile gender bias lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing could hang on the stock. The company has said claims made in the suit weren’t accurate, while CEO Bobby Kotick in July said a law firm would conduct a review of events. Following the initial reports of the lawsuit, employees shared allegations of misconduct on social media and staged a walkout.
Crum has a $230 price target on Take-Two, though he says the company is in a transition period as it invests in developing major releases in the coming years. For EA, he has a $174 price target and thinks the stock could benefit over the near-term and beyond—thanks to strong releases in fiscal 2022 and later years, sales driven by the new consoles, and the return of its NCAA football game.
Activision stock is down 16% in 2021, while Take-Two stock is down 27%. EA stock is up 1.2% year-to-date, while the S&P 500 index is up 18%.
“Investor sentiment has leaned more bearish, though likely already reflected in valuations, and we’d expect the negative news flow to dissipate and growth to return next year,” he added.
He also thinks concerns about China crackdowns are overblown, arguing that each of the three firms source less than 5% of their respective adjusted revenue figures from China, something he sees as not material to results.
Write to Connor Smith at email@example.com