The stock market has seen crosscurrents lately, and Wednesday was just the latest example of how the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) has done a great job of avoiding market downdrafts. Even though other benchmarks were notably lower on the day, the Composite managed to finish up 0.15%. The Nasdaq 100 index did even better, posting a gain of 0.3%.

Video game companies saw their shares move higher on Wednesday, led by Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) and Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO). The industry has seen some favorable trends during the coronavirus pandemic, but innovative game offerings are also helping the companies.

A big move higher in video game sales

May was the best month for video game companies in a long time, as sales figures were strong. Total sales for the industry were up 52% year over year, clocking in at $977 million, according to the latest figures from NPD Group.

Person holding game controller in two hands, with left thumb raised.

Image source: Getty Images.

Various subcategories of sales performed extremely well across the board. On the software side, sales of $438 million were higher by 67% from May 2019. Console and hardware revenue also jumped, rising 56% to $235 million. Even the slower-performing accessories and game card segment saw a 32% advance, topping the $300 million mark in monthly sales.

The numbers have been good all year long. Looking at year-to-date figures, total sales are higher by 18% on a 34% surge in hardware revenue and a 13% rise in software.

How Activision and Take-Two are capitalizing on good times

Activision stock was higher by more than 3% Wednesday, and the game maker is doing its best to sustain the strength of its most popular franchises. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare topped the list of best sellers for May.

Meanwhile, Take-Two, which rose 2%, has had a more balanced approach toward taking advantage of the favorable environment. Grand Theft Auto V remained at No. 2 on the May list of top sellers by dollar volume, but NBA 2K20 weighed in at No. 4, and Red Dead Redemption II was in the No. 6 position.

Yet both companies are thinking past their best franchises to look at more fundamental changes to the industry. Activision created the Overwatch League, which has been instrumental in furthering the nascent esports industry. With live sports having hit a hurdle because of the coronavirus pandemic and attendant concerns about health, esports could soon have their day in the sun. At the same time, smart acquisitions like its purchase of King Digital have helped Activision claim its share of the fast-growing mobile gaming market.

For Take-Two, esports is also important, as its lucrative sports-based franchises like NBA 2K have crossover potential for one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world. A healthy pipeline of new game releases should also help Take-Two sustain sales growth, and in general, video gamers seem to be more engaged than they've been in a long time.

Playing to win

The big question for video game companies is what happens if the coronavirus crisis ends in the near future. Some fear a reversal of the trends that helped support Take-Two and Activision during the shutdowns. Others believe that people's behavior has fundamentally changed and that video game companies won't lose the momentum they've built. At least today, bulls seem to be taking the more favorable view, and it'll be interesting to see what the future holds for both companies.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.