By most measures, Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) has an exciting growth narrative. For one thing, Zynga stock is up more than 60% year-to-date, easily outpacing the broader markets. More importantly, shares represent a sharp contrast to rival Glu Mobile (NASDAQ:GLUU), which is down nearly 30% YTD.
Not only that, Zynga has the fundamental goods to back up Wall Street’s enthusiasm. A few weeks ago, the mobile gaming specialist released its results for the third quarter. Against a consensus target for earnings per share of 5 cents, the company produced an EPS of 24 cents. Not surprisingly, ZNGA stock enjoyed outsized gains following the disclosure.
Drilling into the details, one of the most impressive components was the growth picture. ZNGA rang up $345 million, representing a 48% lift from the year-ago quarter’s haul of $233.2 million. Although analysts were expecting $386 million, the actual tally beat out the $325 million management had previously forecasted.
And just as critical for the future prospects of Zynga stock were bookings of $395 million. According to Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau, this sets up a very positive demand picture for the coming new year. Moreover, both the quarterly bookings and the revenue haul were company records.
Put another way, betting against ZNGA stock appears like a foolish way to lose money.
Furthermore, the broader gaming industry is shifting positively for Zynga stock. Smartphone-based games have increased their market share at the expense of traditional gaming platforms. Of course, as digitalization proliferates globally, we can expect mobile games to continue dominating.
That said, ZNGA stock has had trouble moving decisively past its highs of earlier this summer. Is this just a blip or a sign to get out?
Not All Is Well With Zynga Stock
With so many positive factors bolstering ZNGA stock, it’s hard to imagine any negatives surrounding the underlying company. And as I mentioned earlier, the gaming industry favors the mobile platform.
For instance, when I do some gaming, I prefer consoles, such as Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation. But no matter how you break it down, a console isn’t cheap. Add in the latest games and you’re racking up a pretty penny. However, if you have a smartphone, you already have the “console.” Thanks to Zynga’s easily accessible app platform, you can get up and running in no time.
Thus, given that Zynga stock is basically Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) with video games, one should expect continued user growth. However, the latest third-quarter report revealed that is not what’s happening. Daily active users measured 20 million, flat against Q3 2018 results. Additionally, monthly active users tallied 67 million, down 14% from the year-ago quarter.
To be fair, bookings per DAU increased noticeably to 20 cents from 12 cents. However, ZNGA bases its business model on connecting people globally through video games. Thus, you can’t just use bookings per DAU as a detraction against nominally flat DAUs and sinking MAUs.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 60% of Americans aged 18-29 play video games at least some of the time. Among those aged 30-49, the metric drops to 53%. And once you reach 50 years or above, video-game playing falls off a cliff.
In other words, Zynga stock may be at risk of aging out like its partner-in-crime Snap.
Go Tactical With ZNGA Stock
Also, to be fair, the mobile game industry challenges that I mentioned are not limited to ZNGA. Case in point is Glu Mobile, where its DAUs have declined almost 3% between Q3 2018 and Q3 2019.
But the difference is that the markets have already penalized GLUU stock. Therefore, the upside ceiling for GLUU is likely technically higher than it is for ZNGA stock.
On the flip side, as a Zynga stakeholder, you’re more worried about holding the bag. That concern is especially valid considering that the equity has seemingly encountered tough resistance at around the $6.40 level.
In conclusion, I think it’s wise to trim some profits off of Zynga stock. Although the company’s Q3 results were impressive, the declines in user base is off-putting. Furthermore, it’s interesting that despite such great results on paper, ZNGA remains below a clearly defined ceiling.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto is long SNE.