Investing in Video Games (2020)

Thursday 6th August 2020 Dave Sharp Technology

Fundamentally, gaming is now more valuable than film, music and TV combined.
So, who are the players and where will this growth focus?
Gaming demographics show the bulk of the gaming audience to be 18-35 years old with an almost 50-50 gender split. Surprisingly, 20% of gamers are over 50. Asia clearly shows as the largest pool of gamers,1.5 Billlion identifying themselves as gamers, with mobile as the platform of choice, and this will continue to grow.

What is fuelling this growth?
Whilst stand-alone game titles are still in the majority, the growth of massively multiplayer games has driven the revenues to new heights. Fortnite (released in 2017 and updated regularly) has recorded record numbers – 250 million players around the world has generated £3Billion in revenue a year for Epic, the games developer. The broadcasting of games has become just as potent, averagely 42 Million hours of Fortnite is broadcast on YouTube a month.

eSports has added yet another high value column to the video gaming world. Professional teams and players now compete for vast sums and draw audiences that film and tv can only dream of. The 2019 League of Legends world championship finals had more viewers (100 Million) that the 2019 Superbowl (98 Million). The prize pool for eSports competitions has now rocketed through TV and sponsorship and can easily reach $30 million per event, with the winning team often pocketing $15 million. Behind a lot of this is the shadow of the gambling industry. There are now multiple betting platforms to allow customers to bet on esports and the value of that market is expected to be £14Billion at the end of 2020.

What does this all mean for investors?

  • Investing in games development

  • Investing in esports

  • Investing in infrastructure

Video games development is high risk/high reward. A AAA video game can cost £100Million+ plus huge marketing spend, with no guarantee of commercial success. It’s a crowded market. eSports teams, in my opinion, are currently overvalued. Its common to see x12 to x14 revenue multiples based around linear (not scalable) business models. This does not justify the high valuations. Infrastructure investment looks sane by comparison. In any gold rush, the real money is in the picks and shovels and building capacity to deliver games, broadcast them and scale events up as interest increases looks like the pick/shovel of gaming.

Key questions?

  • Risk: the industry has a boom / bust cycle to it, centered around the launch of new hardware / devices. How can this risk be reduced to acceptable levels and what strategies do management teams need to remain financially sustainable in the bust period.

  • People: what kind of management team is needed to make an impact. What business experience is required – not only gaming and technology, but marketing, community management, broadcasting, sponsorship, brand management etc. Ethics even.

  • Technology: Gaming is a high end technology environment, so what will the players, tournament organisers and broadcast companies be requiring over the next 3-5 years? Gaming on demand (essentially Netflix for gaming) is going to be the next big thing, so what software and infrastructure is going to be needed by the market to fuel the growth?

  • Market awareness: Picking the right fight. The revenues generated are drawing all the big players, so where in this space is it possible to make an impact , drive growth and create value? Going head to head with the latest first person shooter might look exciting but having the budgets needed to compete might not be feasible, so where else in the gaming landscape might represent a more viable opportunity?

  • Conclusion
    There are some massive opportunities for investment within gaming, as the sector is far from peaking and the potential for revenue growth is clear. My personal conclusion is that whilst the hype belongs to the Fortnites of the gaming world, the better opportunities are within the infrastructure development and workflow management tools. As the sector matures it will need to become efficient and taking a longer-term view towards having tools and technologies that drive that efficiency would seem a safer (if slower) direction.

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