It seems to have come and gone with barely a response from the market, but the decision for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to build a video game platform akin to Steam from Valve Corporation should be applauded.
Since Aug. 18, when Facebook announced its intent to create an “all-new PC gaming platform,” FB stock has dipped about three-fourths of a percent.
That decline doesn’t have to do with negative reaction to the announcement, but rather with the general ebb and flow of the markets. The truth, it seems, is that Facebook’s video game business (remember Farmville?) is the only part of Zuckerberg’s operation that’s in decline.
I mean, just look at Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA), which used to be a major player in Facebook’s desktop video game operation. Today, ZNGA stock is down some 80% from the highs it set back in 2012.
That’s because no one is playing games on Facebook’s desktop anymore, so investors just don’t care about “Facebook” and “games” in the same sentence.
FB Already Has the Audience
Facebook’s sole contender in the space, Steam, entertains some 125 million users and takes a 30% cut of each transaction on the platform. To put that in perspective, that’s about three times more users than the 40 million PlayStation 4 sold.
As a private company, there’s not much transparency into the ship Valve is running over at Steam, but it’s estimated to have brought in $1.5 billion in sales in 2014, about $12 per user. Valve earned about $730 million that year, all told.
Facebook has 1.71 billion users. If each user spent $12 on Facebook’s game platform, that’s $20.5 billion in sales. At a rate of 30% per transaction, that’s about $6.15 billion for Facebook’s top line, roughly 34% of the revenue FB raked in in 2015.
“But not everyone who uses Facebook is going to pay money for games!” you say. And you’re right. But Facebook has already stated that 650 million are “either playing games on Facebook or with Facebook.”
Just wait until the Oculus Rift hits its stride.
The hardest part of getting people to try new things is getting them to try new things. I know this because I have kids. And sometimes, you have to put people in front of the thing they didn’t know they wanted and let them discover it for themselves.
I didn’t know I wanted Pokemon Go until it was already too late, and neither did around 45 million others at its peak in mid-July. The success of Pokemon Go actually validates virtual reality as much as augmented reality (ignoring the fact that Pokemon Go isn’t even truly an AR game).
But if you build it, they will come. Better yet, if you build it and let them try it for free, they will probably buy it if it’s a good product. In that respect, Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY) is giving Mark Zuckerberg an early Christmas gift, upping the number of stores demoing FB’s Oculus Rift from 48 to 500 just in time for the holidays.
With the Oculus Rift and Unity, Facebook has the “how” figured out. And while Facebook doesn’t develop games of its own (yet) like Valve, it still has the “why” sorted out.
Unity Technologies, notable for its game engine in use with 31% of the top 1,000 grossing mobile games, is teaming up with FB to “build new functionality into Unity that streamlines the process for exporting and publishing games onto Facebook.” Essentially, Facebook just opened its own shop to developers to start whipping up content for its 650 million or so avid game players.
What’s more, the lure of VR is compelling enough to get Steam users swap out for an Oculus. Eventually becoming sucked into Facebook’s gaming ecosystem where they can livestream on Facebook Live and invite an already robust lineup of friends through Messenger.
“The idea that Facebook can be a place where people share the games that they love is, in my mind, a pretty compelling thing,” said Facebook’s director of games partnerships Leo Olebe.
Bottom Line on Facebook Stock
Remember the heady days of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)? Back when it was a growth stock that dropped jaws every quarter? Y’know, just last year. This year, Apple stock isn’t even beating the S&P 500.
The problem is growth, as there are only so many iPhones the company can sell. Which is exactly why it’s a good thing Apple has a services segment buoyed by an increasingly important App Store of which it takes, yup, 30% of in-app purchases.
How many more users can FB reasonably sign up? Over the last five years, FB grew earnings at a nearly 70% clip. The next five years are halved.
If FB stock is to continue putting the fangs in the “FANG” stocks, it really needs another platform to monetize its users. Investors just haven’t realized that it has already been announced.
As of this writing, John Kilhefner did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.