Why Sony's PlayStation Now Won't Destroy GameStop

Streaming video games don't mark the end of the road for this retailer.

Jan 12, 2014 at 2:00PM

GameStop (NYSE:GME) has another big red target on its back. Sony (NYSE:SNE) last week announced plans for a new video-game streaming service that promises to give gamers instant access to titles through the Internet. GameStop's shares tumbled on the news, as investors feared that the retailer is headed down the Blockbuster path -- doomed by the unstoppable rise of digital content delivery.

The thesis sounds scary enough: Sony's PlayStation Now service will do to GameStop what Netflix did to the DVD retailing business. But there are some good reasons that analogy just doesn't fit.

A hit-driven business
For one, unlike the market for TV and movie content, the video-game business is focused on just a few key titles each year, meaning that there isn't a lot of demand for catalog games. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) published 36 games in 2011. That number dove to 13 last year. And in 2014 EA expects to focus all of its development and marketing energy on just 11 games.

The same trend is hitting Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), which collected 83% of its revenue last year from just four franchises: Skylanders, Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty. In an industry dominated by just a few, high-performing titles, even a deep catalog of prior-year games won't put a dent in the retail market.

Digital is already here
And let's not forget that digital gaming downloads are already a huge force in gaming. Sales from digital channels made up 60% of Activision's revenue last quarter and 65% of EA's business.

Gta Cover

Take-Two's GTA V was a huge hit last year. Image source: Take-Two.

But those wins didn't seem to hurt GameStop, which posted a 20% rise in revenue last quarter -- its strongest result since 2008 -- thanks to sales of the hit Grand Theft Auto V game and popular hardware like Nintendo's 2DS and 3DS. Rather than killing GameStop's business, the rise in digital spending seems to be complementing its model just fine.

GameStop's other businesses
That's partly because GameStop isn't just a video-game retailer anymore. The company has added a solid digital business to its portfolio and is also selling previously owned mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Through the first nine months of 2013, those business lines accounted for almost 20% of GameStop's revenue and profit.

That evolution away from a pure gaming focus continued last quarter, as GameStop completed two new corporate acquisitions. It bought Spring Mobile to gain a foothold in the wireless business, and it purchased Simply Mac, a provider of Apple technology solutions.

Foolish bottom line
We still don't know many of the important details about the PlayStation Now service, including its price, its library, and its technical ability to seamlessly stream games that require zero latency. Still, even if Sony manages to pull off an affordable service that delivers a deep catalog of games with no buffering delay, it won't be the GameStop killer that some investors fear.

Get 2014 started off right
GameStop has been a good stock lately, up 100% last year. But there's a huge difference between a good stock, and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Fool contributor Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Activision Blizzard, Apple, and Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard, Apple, and Netflix and owns shares of Activision Blizzard, Apple, GameStop, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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