Delta pushes growth of video gaming

With the coronavirus ripping through Australia, millions of Australians find themselves once again in lockdown and our lack of mobility is leading to increased video game use. Beyond the Delta variant of COVID-19, long-term structural trends favour the growth of video gaming and esports companies. There is little doubt that the global pandemic lockdowns too have boosted crowds and the growth profile of listed game developers and console producers.

Corporate activity in video games and esports continues to increase, with Netflix the latest the biggest US technology stocks to announce its intention to enter the space and it is easy to understand why. Aided by advances in technology, revenues from video gaming continues to increase and it comes from a variety of sources. Viewership figures and in-game player counts on Twitch and Steam (proxies for video game engagement), continues to set fresh records, surpassing levels achieved during the previous three months and the height of the pandemic (Figures 3 and 4).

Positive secular trends such as the increasing number of gamers and time spent in game, and changing global consumer behaviour, are projected to continue driving industry growth over the long term.

Here we are again

It has been said that waves come in sets of three. Looking at the seven day rolling average, the third wave may have started.

Chart 1: Worldwide new COVID cases, 7 day rolling average

The first wave resulted in worldwide lockdowns, as we scrambled to prevent the virus spreading. New variants of the virus have been difficult to contain, especially as it spread to emerging markets such as India during wave two. As economies were opening up, developed markets are once again in the eye of the storm. While the UK celebrated Freedom Day, their daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases is approaching new records.

The Delta variant is again forcing us to increase time at home. Much of Australia is now in lockdown. Based on 2020, there are a number of industries that thrive while we are confined to our homes and their adoption survives as the economy re-opens. Video gaming and esports has been one such example.

More businesses targeting video game development

While video gaming and esports have been increasing in popularity, given a boost by stay-at-home orders, Netflix has become the latest FAANGM stock to target video game development. Netflix recently confirmed that it intends to expand its content offering to include video games. Netflix joins Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet to enter the interactive entertainment space. The rationale is simple. Financial opportunity.

In terms of share of content, most of legacy media is shrinking however, the video gaming industry is one of the few large entertainment and technology markets with growth prospects. According to Newzoo, the global games market is expected to grow from $176 billion this year to $219 billion by 2024 with 3 billion people around the world playing video games today. Mobile technology continues to be a driver of growth.

Chart 2: Gaming revenue diversity

Advances in chips, cloud-computing services and game programming engines are enabling more immersive digital world experiences and new types of online social interactions from “battle royale” shoot-outs to Zynga’s social mobile games. For some of us in lockdown, these services are among the only social experiences we are having.

Meanwhile, viewership and in-game player counts on Twitch and Steam, proxies for video game engagement, hit new record levels in 2021, surpassing levels achieved during 4Q20 and the height of the pandemic. Other metrics such as consumer spending on video games also rose, driven by new content and hardware releases.

Big opportunities ahead

The sector’s long-term structural growth story is supported by other macro trends such as demographic shifts. Contrary to the common perception that young people dominate video game playing, the average gamer is between 28 and 32 years of age. They grew up playing video games and continue to do so. They are also well educated, earn more than the average consumer, and spend their money on video games and related activities. The demographics are replicated across the world, particularly in populous emerging market countries.

Another supportive trend is the change in consumer preferences, with consumers increasingly going for interactive, not just passive, entertainment. These days, consumers want interaction, even when they are gaming. Mixing social media and gaming allows them to bring their friends into the interactive online world.

Then there is the widening of monetisation avenues through subscription and free-to-play models. Games are increasingly moving towards a subscription model, much like Netflix and hence its move into the space. Such a model provides a more reliable path to monetisation for smaller, quality games that may otherwise lack the marketing or monetisation nous to break into the mainstream. Meanwhile, free-to-play games allow developers to monetise without needing to convince consumers to make up-front purchases. Instead, they offer in-game upsell opportunities such as upgrades and expansion packs.

Diversification away from the FAANGMs

Most investors have exposure to the FAANGM stocks however recent volatility has highlighted investor’s apprehensions about overpaying for their technology exposure. This makes the video gaming sector an attractive diversifier to the FAANG giants, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google owner, Alphabet.

Figure 5: Exposure to video gaming and esports

IMPORTANT NOTICE VanEck Investments Limited ACN 146 596 116 AFSL 416755 (‘VanEck’) is the responsible entity and issuer of units in the VanEck Video Gaming and Esports ETF (ESPO). This is general advice only, not personal financial advice. It does not take into account any person’s individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Read the PDS and speak with a financial adviser to determine if the fund is appropriate for your circumstances. The PDS is available here. An investment in ESPO carries risks associated with: financial markets generally, individual company management, industry sectors, ASX trading time differences, foreign currency, country or sector concentration, political, regulatory and tax risks, fund operations and tracking an index. See the PDS for details. No member of the VanEck group of companies guarantees the repayment of capital, the payment of income, performance, or any particular rate of return from any fund. MVIS Global Video Gaming and eSports Index (AUD) (‘MVIS Index’) is the exclusive property of MV Index Solutions GmbH based in Frankfurt, Germany (‘MVIS’). MVIS is a related entity of VanEck. MVIS makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in the Fund. MVIS has contracted with Solactive AG to maintain and calculate the MVIS Index. Solactive uses its best efforts to ensure that the MVIS Index is calculated correctly. Irrespective of its obligations towards MVIS, Solactive has no obligation to point out errors in the MVIS Index to third parties.

Arian Neiron
CEO & Managing Director, Asia Pacific

Arian founded VanEck Australia and leads VanEck's Asia Pacific business. Recognised as a thought leader and with deep experience in asset management across a range of asset classes, Arian’s passion lies in designing investment solutions and he is...

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