Zynga's stock rose steadily for much of February, after it kicked the month off with a strong earnings report. It did give back some gains as the market sold off, but it didn't decline as much as the major indices. Perhaps investors are mulling over the possibility that as people stay home to avoid the coronavirus, gaming activity will increase.
Zynga distinguishes between revenue and bookings. Revenue from in-game purchases is recognized over the useful period of those items. Bookings, by contrast, measures those purchases up front and can provide a more current picture of how the business is doing. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Zynga's online game bookings rose a whopping 80% year over year to $354 million.
A full 79% of Zynga's 2019 revenue came from online gaming, so it's not surprising to see investors cheer this robust bookings growth. Just for perspective, in 2018, Zynga's bookings grew only 14%. But 2019 saw a key strategy shift. Zynga focused on live services -- constantly updating "forever franchises." By keeping people hooked and engaged with game updates, it's been able to better monetize its properties. Bookings were up 61% in 2019, showing the strategy is paying off.
However, investors shouldn't expect this level of growth in 2020. Zynga is guiding for 12% bookings growth in the coming fiscal year. Even still, this guidance was positive enough to help investors overlook the bottom-line guidance. Zynga's guidance for 2020 includes a $130 million net loss as it spends heavily to market its products.
Zynga's climb has continued into March, as investors flock toward stocks that will benefit as people stay home because of the coronavirus. These include video streaming, telemedicine, and delivery services. Mobile gaming with Zynga is also seen as a great business that people will use as they sit around and wait the health crisis out.
If you need a reason to invest in Zynga, I wouldn't use a COVID-19-related thesis. It's true Zynga's business could benefit from more people staying home, but that would be a short-term boost only. The top stocks in the market today are the ones worth holding for the long term, after the present health scare is over.