As both a casual gamer and a person who studies long-term trends, I firmly believe in the video game industry’s potential. At the same time, I’m horrified at the steep losses that companies like Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) and Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) have incurred. Electronic Arts stock in particular cannot seem to find a bottom.
On a year-to-date basis, EA stock has dropped nearly 22%, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The renowned video game manufacturer has written a Jekyll and Hyde account. During the first half of 2018, shares were trending toward an outstanding annual profit. But in the second half, EA mercilessly cratered.
Pouring salt on an open wound, the markets sent Electronic Arts stock down more than 3% for Monday’s session. Is there any relief in sight?
To answer that question, we need to look at the key catalysts for the downfall in EA stock:
Sorry Folks: We’re in a Bear Market
Technically, the benchmark indices are in positive territory for the year. But who are we kidding? While the broader market has yet to fall 20% below its 52-week high, the writing is on the wall. By the way, I’m not saying it: Morgan Stanley analyst Michael Wilson is.
More to the point, technology firms have suffered the most. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is the worst performer compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. Adding to the jitters for Electronic Arts stock, companies who design video game components, such as Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), have also suffered sharply.
In such a bloodbath, you can’t expect most investors to hold onto EA stock. Right now, the focus is on safety and damage mitigation. We’re talking boring investments like government bonds and money-market funds. Even anachronistic gold bullion has recently started to climb the charts.
If folks are willing to take a risk in the equity markets, they’re likely thinking ultra-conservative companies with secular businesses. Again, in such an environment, Electronic Arts stock doesn’t have much to offer.
Key Product Delays Have Hurt Electronic Arts Stock
Video games today are much more similar to major film releases than any other entertainment medium. Game-development firms shell out millions to create the most compelling and attractive titles. While it’s always a risk, it’s well worth it if you hit pay dirt.
Recently, I covered Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO), which has generated considerable buzz. The company’s latest release, Red Dead Redemption 2, sold 17 million units in its first eight days. That translates to a whopping $725 million in revenue. To put that into perspective, this tally exceeds Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) Avengers: Infinity War opening-weekend haul by nearly $85 million.
But the cautionary tale, of course, is that the video game industry is ultra competitive. If you’re not on you’re A-game, you’re liable for a beatdown. Sadly, that’s what we’re witnessing in Electronic Arts stock.
As avid gamers know, EA owns a distinguished franchise in the action-adventure arena called Battlefield. Management originally slated the latest iteration, Battlefield V, to go up against Take-Two’s Red Dead Redemption 2. However, in late August, Electronic Arts decided to delay the launch to Nov. 20.
EA stock wasn’t doing too well prior to this negative announcement. However, you can see that shares gapped down a day after the disclosure. And no wonder: you can’t afford to commit unforced errors when the competition is so fierce.
EA Is Making Games for Shareholders, Not Gamers
I think the industry itself is falling into an underreported, but serious trend: Gaming companies are making titles for shareholders’ benefit, and not for the gamers themselves. This is particularly evident for EA, which is why Electronic Arts stock has fallen under hard times.
I recently stated that Take-Two’s sales success comes from their end-user focus. More often than not, gamers want engrossing stories featuring strong character development. That’s what made Red Dead Redemption 2 a must-have among gamers.
Take-Two listens to their customers. EA, though, gives the impression that they’re above it all. For instance, the original Star Wars Battlefront received criticism for not including a single-player campaign mode. In the follow-up, EA listened to the complaints and dutifully provided such a campaign.
But with Battlefield V, it seems like they’re repeating the same mistakes. Prior to its public release date, beta-testing revealed substantial bugs that frustratingly impacted gameplay. More critically, Electronic Arts made changes to popular gaming modes that left fans scratching their heads.
In summary, this indicates that the company is more interested in pleasing shareholders rather than their core gamers. It’s the opposite of what they should be doing: make great titles, and the sentiment lift in EA stock will eventually arrive.
Bottom Line for EA stock
Having dissected the fallout in Electronic Arts stock, how should investors proceed?
If you’re conservatively minded, I wouldn’t jump into this company yet. But that advice goes for nearly any tech firm at this juncture. Morgan Stanley analysts believe we’re in a bear market, and I’m not inclined to disagree.
If you’re looking to speculate, I think EA stock has much to offer. It is still incredibly risky, please don’t me wrong. However, the markets just erased nearly two years of equity valuation gains.
Yes, EA made a dumb move delaying Battlefield V, and perhaps management has become arrogant. Electronic Arts stock deserves volatility. But these are also fixable issues. Sometimes, people just need to get hit in the head enough times before they correct their behavior.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto was long gold bullion.