Welcome to Bougafer
Welcome to Bougafer, the place for people who want to invest in the videogames industry. This website has been designed for anybody who is interested in investing in the videogame industry and, in particular, investing in publishers who are listed on one of the world's stock exchanges. It is chock full of useful information, and this little introduction is designed to help you find what you are looking for. I am an amateur in website design (as is obvious) but I have been successfully investing in the videogame industry since 1996.
Right here on the front page there is a column on the right hand side with some quick info. The top section shows the most recent comments in the forums. You need to register to post in the forums and my posts are included on this front page below this welcome block.
The next section shows any key events that are coming up. This could be earnings dates or trade show dates or anything else which could affect the stock price.
Underneath that are the most recent news items pulled in from various videogaming web sites. This is automatically updated every hour.
One of the most used pages is the charts pages which shows realtime intraday prices for the most popular videogaming stocks. I have also included some indices on it to get a feel for the wider market movements.
I have also included a dedicated page of key information for each of the publishers. This shows their release schedule, charts (for different time periods), key financials, top franchises, current forecast and earnings history. The publishers which have been includes are: Activision, Electronic Arts, Take Two, Ubisoft, Majesco, Zynga, Gameloft and King.
And lastly there is an archive of sales information split by territory.
|Take Two||$26.1||$2,100m||$1.18 eps||$1,450m||22.1||1.4|
|Ubisoft||€14.8||€1,450m||€0.94 eps *||€1,400m||15.9||1.0|
* approximation based on €150m non-IFRS profit
|Take Two||$21.7||$1,680m||$0.93 eps||$1,400m||23.3||1.2|
* approximation based on €150m non-IFRS profit
** based on analyst forecasts - the company does not give an official forecast beyond "growth"
Following on from all the publishers going through year end and giving current year forecasts it was time to have a look again at the relative fundamentals of all the major publishers. I delayed a little until after E3 which also co-incided with a positive NPD report for May. It is therefore not surprising to see the fundamentals of (nearly) all the publishers at strong levels, continuing the theme which has existed for a quite a few quarters.
Looking back on the 2012 fundamentals of the publishers, when I first started doing this, the p/e values of the US publishers have pretty much doubled in that time.
In terms of more recent history, we see that even though the stock prices have risen for all the publishers in the past six months, the strengthening fundamentals (i.e. increased earnings forecasts) has kept the financial ratios in check.
Looking at individual publishers then we can see that one of the big movers (in terms of financial ratios) is Take Two which has come off the back of a spectacular earnings year with GTAV to a more normal year. Consequently, the p/e of Take Two has risen from a lowly 4.6 to 23.3. That is mainly to do with forecast earnings for this year being about a quarter of last year’s achieved earnings.
The other clear feature is that Ubisoft is at a large discount and is very much the odd man out when looking at p/e ratios. Despite the strong run in the stock price, earnings are increasing just as fast and since it started off at a huge discount a few years back it remains out of kilter. It is unclear whether or not its fundamentals will ever catch up with its US peers but looking at the valuation put on Gameloft (also on the European exchange) then this does seem achievable.
For a fundamental investor who believes that Ubisoft’s forecast earnings are achievable then they remain the stand-out buy in the sector.
As we approach the full year results for Take Two I thought I'd write down some thoughts in advance of the earnings announcement. One thing that is a certainty is that these results are going to be fantastic. GTA was a huge hit and has set up Take Two for a bumper year in terms of both revenues and earnings. Although expectations were high, sales have surpassed every expectation and Take Two will be able to report record earnings and lots of cash.
However, what everybody is really going to focus on is next financial year (i.e. the year we're currently in). Take Two have been typically reticent in terms of giving details on release schedule and financial forecasts so it leaves investors taking a guess at what they may have up their sleeve. Coming off a bumper year, the bulls are going to be hoping that means this is a turning point for Take Two and, even if they can't match the fiscal results they will report, forecasts will show solid earnings and revenues going forward. The bears will be expecting that GTA is a spike and Take Two will still be in the boom/bust cycle that is their history.
Okay, let's pause there for a moment. All of the above could actually have been written in December 2008 when GTA was GTA4 and not May 2014 where GTA is GTA5. The parallel's in the lead up to the results are striking and it is sobering to think that in 6 years Take Two still treat investors with such contempt that we are already into the fiscal year and they have given no clue as to the forecasts beyond "profitable" and a release schedule which currently would give earnings at not much better than that.
The sobering though is that back in December 2008, Take Two did release record results (~$2/share eps) but gave a forecast of 0-20c eps. The stock dropped about 35% when it opened the next morning and the announcement is infamously referred to as the "Z-bomb" (Zelnick heads Take Two).
History is not always relevant so the fact that Take Two did this in 2008 doesn't make it any more likely that they will do it again in 2014. But as we come into the results, I can't come to any conclusion other than having any position in Take Two is no different to tossing a coin and betting on the outcome. Take Two could (again) forecast 0-20c eps and just shrug their shoulders and claim they never said anything different. After all, their announced release schedule lacks anything other than the evergreen titles (NBA 2K, WWE 2K), Civ and the slightly quirky new-ip Evolve.
Alternatively, they could announce GTA5 for next-gen, Mafia 3, Agent, Bully, talk up the monetization of GTA Online and forecast earnings of $2.00. After all, we know the studios are working on something (Take Two have said they have ten next-gen games being developed) so maybe all those games are ready.
On the balance of probabilities, which is more likely? Both. Or something in the middle. Or something else entirely. Your guess is as good as anybody else's guess. And guessing is all anybody has.
The only thing I know for sure is that it is unacceptable for a public company to leave their investors so ill-informed for so long. If you have a position in Take Two going into the results then good luck - because luck is all there is to it.
With the last set of results out of the way it's now really time to look forward to the next year and beyond. Current gen is dying off quickly and next-gen is accelerating rapidly and we are starting to see some really exciting new ip to invigorate the industry.
Ubisoft have Watch_Dogs (which they are forecasting to the biggest selling new ip ever). Activision have Destiny (which they are forecasting to be the biggest selling new ip ever) and EA have Titanfall (which is the first new game of next-gen). Journalists recently had a chance to go hands-on with the game and the impressions were very exciting. Here are a few quotes, with links to the previews:
There are plenty more but they are all similar. Oh wait! Hang on! I've made a HUGE mistake. Those aren't the previews for Titanfall, those are the previews for Evolve which had a hands-on event for journalists the day before Titanfall.
Yes, that's right, the game that Take Two bought for just $10m from the bankrupt THQ and which, frankly, I'd dismissed, absolutely blew away the journalists when it was show to them a few days ago. And what really struck me was that, even though Titanfall also impressed people when it was shown the day afterwards, I'd say that in general Evolve had an even better reaction than Titanfall.
That means I've had to totally re-appraise Evolve's potential. Previews can be mis-leading but, based on what we know now, Evolve is as exciting as Titanfall and Titanfall is very exciting indeed. And Evolve is available for PS4 too whereas Titanfall is only available on PC/Xbone so the potential market is far bigger.
So, I now have to add Evolve to my original list which means that all the publishers now have new ip coming out this year which they will all hope to be the start of a big franchise. Suddenly, Take Two's opaque release schedule isn't looking quite as bare as everybody (including myself) believed.
Well, despite my concerns, Ubisoft did manage to scrape in near the bottom of their forecast. They talked about selling in "nearly" 10m copies of AC4 and expect to sell in another 1m units by their year end (March 31st).
I'm still not exactly sure how they managed to squeeze out those numbers but that takes care of this year and means everybody can now focus on FY2015 when the growth story is set to continue.
In terms of their big ip, they have announced Watch_Dogs, The Crew and Just Dance for FY15 and have said that there are 2 unannounced titles. Clearly, one of them is AC5 but the big, big question is whether or not both of those unannounced titles are AC5. What I mean by that is that they have said that for AC"5" there will actually be two different games - one for old-gen and one for new-gen. I'm therefore left wondering if these are the two unannounced games and we now know their FY15 line-up. Or do they also have Far Cry 4 or The Division up their sleeve?
My gut feel is that the two unannounced games are both AC and we now know their lineup and can start to think about how that looks. Starting at the bottom, The Crew is going to be a modest seller and Ubi have said as much. I forget exactly but I think they talked about 2-3m sales and that seems about right. Hopefully it's a great game, and will get great reviews, but ultimately it's a new-ip driving games with a bit of a multi-player twist and that isn't going to set the tills alight.
Just Dance is a bit of a staple and I expect it to be pretty reliable but with a low RRP and thin margins it's becoming decreasingly important to Ubi's earnings as their other titles ramp up.
AC4 has put a shot in the arm of the AC franchise after the rather disappointing AC4 and also demonstrates the staying power of the franchise. Selling 11m units, on the back of the disappointing AC3 and also at, possibly, the nadir of the console transition is a huge achievement and demonstrates the power of the AC franchise. Ubi said this is now a reliable 10m+ unit franchise and I tend to agree.
Which leaves Watch_Dogs.
Taking a page out of Activision's playbook Ubi said they expect this to be the best selling new ip ever (that's also what Activision said about Destiny). Given the timing of the releases they could both be right but, rather cheekily, Ubisoft managed to mention that if Watch_Dogs is the best selling new ip ever it will take the title from ... Assassin's Creed. You have to admire their style on that one.
Now, there's a reason why Assassin's Creed (released in 2007!) remains the best selling new ip and that's because, despite everybody moaning about sequels, that's what the majority of consumers like to buy. Nobody really knows how consumers will take to new ip and even huge amounts of hype, stunning previews and reviews are not guarantees of success.
For that reason, I think FY15 is all about Watch_Dogs for Ubisoft and with it's Q1 release (April - June) we will know pretty quickly how their year is going to turn out. Whereas investors may have previously waited anxiously for the holiday period I actually think this year it's going to be Spring which is the time to watch. Very simply, if Watch_Dogs is a "success" then Ubi are a safe bet to make their full year numbers (non-IFRS profit of €150m) and I would have thought their value is going to soar. If Watch_Dogs doesn't engage with consumers and fails then I can't see anything saving the year and then Ubi are back to a "jam tomorrow" message. With that, I think it's going to be difficult to maintain their current value.
So, that's my take. Time to focus on Watch_Dogs over the next 6 months and be guided on Ubi by it's likely success. As things currently stand, I think the likelihood is that it will succeed and send Ubi's valuation higher. But as we get more information, that view may change.
Ubisoft results tonight and I can confidently predict they'll be either good, bad or indifferent.
Joking aside, as I've been saying for quite a while now, I am quite bullish on Ubisoft's prospect for next financial year but am a little bit concerned that the current financial year may go from bad to worse. Specifically, I am not sure that Assassin's Creed 4 has sold enough for Ubisoft to make their revised forecasts and do worry they'll have to revise down (again) this current year.
They would then have to decide whether it was worth releasing South Park into a financial year that was already trashed since they would only have to delay it by a few weeks to move it into the next financial year where the revenues could do some good rather than throwing those revenues into a year that was already trashed.
So, I feel they'll either make numbers (somehow) or miss by a lot (because they'll also move South Park revenues out of this financial year).
Of course, how the market will react to the news is another matter since the US publishers post-results reaction has been pretty much totally based on what they said about the future (ignoring current performance) so even if they do announce a miss for this year it may not automatically mean the price will drop if they continue to talk about a rosy future.
Take Two has been giving its investors a very hard time over the years. There are a couple of very valid criticisms that can be thrown at this stock, the main one being the Board’s reluctance to share information on up and coming releases.
But Take Two is also the subject of a whole mythology which I thought it would be worth exploring to see if its fact or fiction.
Let’s look at myth #1 – they are a one product company who only make money in GTA years.
Firstly, let’s look at the raw data. The last full GTA release was in their financial year 2008 so let’s ignore that and see their eps since then (including this year’s GTA release).
This does, indisputably, show that Take Two makes a lot of money in GTA years, but it also shows that they do make money in non-GTA years, albeit a lot less. But when you have a product which is the largest grossing entertainment product across any medium (film, music, game) it’s not surprising that it makes the lion’s share of your profits.
What is interesting is to compare Take Two to its natural peers (Activision and Electronic Arts), both of which have a share price far higher than Take Two.
What this shows, rather graphically, is just how important GTA is to Take Two. It also shows that Take Two earnings are lumpy and inconsistent compared to the other publishers. However, what it also shows is that Take Two earnings, while being highly variable, have some big peaks which the other publishers can’t get close to. I haven’t included it on the chart but in 2008 they made over $2 eps which is way higher than anything the other publishers have achieved.
So, history tells us that Take Two does make money between GTA years although nothing like what it makes in the GTA years.
The next graph is really interesting but needs some explaining. What I’ve done is to calculate the average eps for each company over the past n years. So, on the right hand side, labelled 1 we have the average eps over the past year (i.e. this year’s forecast). Next to it, labelled 2, is the average eps over the past 2 years. And so on until we get the average eps for each company over the past 7 years.
What this shows is that, even going back 7 years, Take Two has made a higher average eps than either of its peers. Of course, this results is massively affected by the huge earnings of GTAV this year but you can’t just ignore Take Two’s (and the industry’s) biggest product.
And perhaps this is the real issue here. Some people just discount GTA because it doesn’t create smooth earnings every year. But the product has a massive effect on Take Two’s performance and, although not annual, is totally reliable. Every full GTA release has been massive and the franchise only gets stronger.
It probably wouldn’t be fair to leave without doing what is obvious and using the current share price of each of the publishers to recreate the graph above but in terms of p/e rather than eps. What this shows is the following which, as a fundamental investor, is possible the most useful.
This looks at the current share price divided by the average eps over the past n years. It’s no surprise that if you look at Take Two over the past year then it’s p/e is totally out of kilter with its peers. Anybody would expect that.
What is more interesting is that even if you look at the p/e when compared to average eps over the past several years Take Two remains at a big discount.
In summary, the myth about Take Two never making money apart from in GTA years appears to be fiction rather than fact. The truth is that Take Two does make money in non-GTA year but never to the same degree. The question really is whether or not GTA should be discounted from Take Two valuations since it is not annualised or if it should be spread through the non-GTA years in a method similar to above. If you accept that GTA is a huge and reliable source of recurring revenues (albeit not annually) then Take Two appears to be on a big discount to its peers which is, arguable, undeserving.
Next myth I’m going to look at that Take Two have nothing in their pipeline because they haven’t announced anything in their results. But that’s for next time.
Wow, but I think almost all of those revenues were made in Korea (the N American version shut down due to lack of interest). In general I try and ignore Korea because it's a market that only seems accessible to non-Western publishers but I was struck by the League of Legends revenue which is, I believe, far more international.
I thought it would be worth looking once again at the f2p (free to play) business model in light of some new stats that have just been released.
A report has been published by Superdata which gives the 2013 top ten in terms of revenue along with some other stats. Click through for all the stats but here's the table.
It isn't exactly clear how they collated this information but I suspect they don't have access to the real numbers so these figures are just indicative. However, even on an indicative basis, it is clear that there is serious money to be made from the f2p model. Putting it into "real" terms then if you assume that a publisher would receive around $40/revenue for a boxed copy then you can see that for every $100m of revenue is the equivalent of selling 2.5m boxed units.
So, looking at the top ten, then the tenth best selling game is the equivalent of a 3m unit selling boxed game and the top game would be the equivalent of selling a whopping 24m units!
However, the top selling game is Korean and that's a market which is a long way from Western markets in terms of size (it's huge for digital games) and accessibility (Western publishers don't really access those markets).
But what we do have a model (f2p) which can, in some circumstances, be as significant as the boxed model for revenue and that's interesting.
The other interesting stat we have is from Riot (who develop League of Legends) which gives usage numbers. The two stats that are interesting are that they have around 12m users active daily and around 67m active at some point each month.
If you assume that most of the users active daily are all paying users, say 10m, then if their annual revenue is $624m then each user is spending around $62/annum playing the game. In jargon the AARPPU (average annual return per paying user) would be around $62 which is very high. Double what World of Tanks talked about in the previous post which was just over a year ago.
With limited data points it is difficult to draw any hard and fast conclusions but what does seem clear is that the f2p model is one that is worth pursuing even for the largest publishers.
Ubisoft took everybody (including me) by surprise with their profit warning late last year which has led to an obvious weakness in the share price.
However, they do look quite good to deliver on their promise of €150m profit for FY15 with a very strong line up. They will have the delayed games of Watch_Dogs and The Crew, Just Dance will zing along and Assassin's Creed will be split into totally separate games for old and next gen. Although nothing has been announced I think there's a reasonable chance of another iteration in the Far Cry series (following on from Far Cry 3 which was a blow-out hit) but I expect The Division to slip into FY16 without causing any problem to the finances.
That just leaves this year to navigate which is what I am spending most of my time thinking about because I do have a concern that they won't make numbers and have been focusing on AC4 sales.
AC3 (although selling hugely) didn't strengthen the franchise and I think there's been a knock-on effect for AC4 sales. It's also been very tricky with current-gen falling away far quicker than most people forecast. I don't think it's ever been in their public releases but Ubisoft have mentioned a few times that they expect AC4 to sell 10m units by the end of March, down about 23% from the 13m that AC3 sold.
We are starting to get some numbers through which is helping to put some shape on whether or not AC4 is going to achieve that.
In the UK where for calendar 2013 AC4 sold through 12% less than AC3 with 777k sold. Although this looks, at first glance, like an excellent achievement it should be noted that there was very heavy discounting all across retail from mid-December which had a big impact. So, although the number of units were only down 12%, the value will have been considerable more than that.
The UK is, very roughly, about 1/8th of the worldwide market which, if you extrapolate up, means that AC4 would have sold through 6.2m in 2013 worldwide.
In France, AC4 was down 27% on AC3 with 425k sold through. I don't know what percentage France is of the worldwide market (it's the #3 market in Europe) so I can't extrapolate up but AC4 sold relatively better in France when compared to the UK than COD, FIFA or BF4. However, given that France is Ubisoft's home territory that is probably to be expected.
Unfortunately, The US (the biggest territory) isn't so transparent any more now that NPD aren't giving number of units sold.
In terms of chart position (for the whole year) we can see it was one place down on the previous year but so was everything else with GTAV taking top spot.
What is more interesting is next-gen sales where it looks to have sold through 850k - 950k units (all figures have been "calculated" by neogaf forum members and are unconfirmed). Since the US is very roughly half of worldwide that means AC4 sold through around 1.8m worldwide on next-gen in 2013 and, if there were 7.2m units of next gen sold in 2013 (4.2m for PS4 and 3m for Xbone) then that means about 1 in 4 people are buying AC4 for their next-gen console.
So, add it all up and you have AC4 sold through about 6m units worldwide in 2013. If you assume that there may be 1m units in the channels then that means AC4 will likely have to have sold through about 9m units for Ubisoft to achieve their 10m sell-in figure which leaves about 3m units sell through Jan-Mar for Ubisoft to achieve numbers.
That seems a bit of a stretch even with next-gen continuing to sell well and leaves me slightly wary of what they may say on Feb 10th when they report their Q3 sales. They will undoubtedly know by then whether or not they will be able to make numbers so I expect a confirmed steer from them on how the year will turn out.
This is the (potential) bump in the road that I see and makes me wary of Ubisoft until that is out of the way. I do think after that then the way is clear for Ubisoft to be a great investment but I do wonder if it's best to keep the power dry for the moment.
Front Page Articles
- 30/Aug Front Page Articles
- 03/Aug Take Two Q1 2013 results
- 26/Jul Zynga Q2 2012 earnings
- 26/Jul Gameloft Q2 2012 sales up 35%
- 19/Jul Ubisoft Q1 2013 results
- 15/Jul NPD June - down 29% year on year
- 12/Jul UK May sales down 38%
- 03/Jul NPD in the spotlight
- 28/Jun Free2play (Free to Play)
- 27/Jun New publisher valuations
- 25/Jun Publisher valuations
- 15/Jun May 2012 sales - no cheer
- 05/Jun Wii U (just about) support more than one gamepad
- 01/Jun 2012 continuing to look very tough
- 22/May Take Two Q4 2012 results
In the forums
External News Feeds
- MCV's 12 Games of Christmas: Far Cry 4
- Face-Off: Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes on PC
- David Goldfarb on: Three seasons in game development
- Gamasutra's Best of 2014: Brandon Sheffield's Top 5 'research' games
- Mining data to understand Street Fighter's balance and meta-game
- On 'comprehensive game criticism' and plastic ghosts of the past
- Nintendo prevails in yet another patent suit
- Get a job: Oculus VR is hiring a Gameplay Engineer
- Titanfall boasts 8 million unique players
- How to solve the PC resolution problem
- Video: How games reflect the tension between our hearts and minds
- Our indie game bombed... But a year later, we've sold 100,000 copies
- Best of 2014: The Rolodex
- Surgeon Simulator dev reveals physics-based multiplayer game Worlds Adrift
- Take care of yourself: A tip from the 2014 Game Career Guide
- For Miyamoto, games are more about systems than stories
- Simogo releases free interactive short story The Sensational December Machine
- Game audio pillars
- Chicago's High Voltage plans New Orleans expansion
- Gamasutra's Best of 2014: Leigh Alexander's Top 5 Games