The last few years haven't been kind to Electronic Arts (EA 0.81%) stock, as it has transitioned from a period of high growth to one of more modest expansion.
Along the way, the company has been hit with complaints regarding its in-game money-making techniques, competition from new free-to-play rival game makers, and a general industry transition to cloud-based gaming. Since peaking in mid-2018, shares are still down some 25%.
Things are beginning to look a bit rosier for EA, though, and a relatively inexpensive share price doesn't hurt the investment thesis. Then there's also the looming release of new gaming consoles and new technology to support game streaming. All of that bodes well for the game maker, and the stock looks like a solid bet as 2020 gets underway.
A solid base for 2020
When we last caught up with Electronic Arts, revenue and earnings were back in growth mode on strength from its sports games like Madden NFL 20 and FIFA 20, as well as continued growth from the ever-popular Sims 4 life simulator.
Since then, there have been a few developments. EA's subscription video game service EA Access -- already available on Microsoft's (MSFT 2.11%) Xbox One and Sony's (SONY 1.73%) Playstation 4 consoles -- came to the PC via Origin Access. That's a key milestone as the race to video game streaming heats up.
Alphabet's Google entered the fray in November 2019 with the release of its Stadia game streaming platform shortly before that, to mixed reviews. EA's Project Atlas, its own proper game streaming service, has been testing with select players on PC, though a wide release date has yet to emerge.
Also of importance was that EA said its new release Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order quickly became its best-selling digital release of a Star Wars title in the first two weeks of sales and that it became its best-selling title for PC in that span as well. Receiving warm reviews from game critics and gamers alike, that bodes well for the sci-fi adventure at least reaching management's guidance for six to eight million copies sold.
In the year ahead, the free-to-play Fortnite competitor Apex Legends is still a focus and is expected to bring in $300 million to $400 million in bookings, as is the Sims 4.
There are upcoming strategy titles, like a remastered version of the original Command & Conquer series and Star Wars: Rise to Power for mobile. New consoles from Microsoft and Sony, the Xbox Series X, and Playstation 5 are also slated for release during the 2020 holiday season.
Almost three years after launch, Nintendo's Switch console has done wonders for the stock. EA doesn't get anything from the launch of the new Xbox and Playstation directly, but new hardware packed with new tech for high-end graphics typically spurs on upgrades from players and the subsequent purchase of new games to go with it.
A value on a slower EA
All told, management has called for 9% revenue growth and 15% earnings growth (when backing out one-time foreign tax benefits) for its 2020 fiscal year.
That means Electronic Arts is trading for 28.7 times earnings based on those tax-adjusted expectations, or just 11.5 times earnings when including the one-time tax benefits. As a massive gaming company, EA's sales growth likely won't be able to sustain a double-digit rate anymore like in times past. However, shares are flirting with value stock territory.
With an eventful 2020 for the video game world now upon us, and EA preparing to report Q3 fiscal 2020 results, this gaming stock is certainly worth keeping an eye on.