Video game producer Electronic Arts (EA 0.51%) has performed well for investors in 2022. The stock has significantly outpaced the S&P 500 index year to date, down only 4% compared to the index decline of 13%.
The video game industry is attractive for investors because of the ability of the most popular games to keep players entertained and spending money on content updates for long stretches of time. EA's top games are delivering exactly that in a challenging economic environment.
Here are three reasons to consider buying the stock now.
1. Live services growth
The most important indicator of how well a video game company is keeping players engaged with certain titles is the money they spend on extra content while playing a game. Companies use different terms for in-game spending, but EA calls it live services.
Live services refer to what games have become in the gaming industry. Games are no longer one-time sale opportunities; they are year-round services. Players stick with the same game for months at a time, playing online with friends, and that means lucrative sales opportunities for digitally delivered content updates.
EA includes several items in its live services revenue, such as subscriptions, extra content, and other revenue earned outside the base games. The extra-content portion of live services, such as in-game spending, nearly doubled to $3.9 billion over the last four years, according to Statista.
EA expects total bookings for fiscal 2023 to grow 6% year over year to about $8 billion, so growth in extra content will serve as an important driver.
EA's FIFA and Apex Legends games are key contributors of extra-content sales that still have opportunities to grow. The interest in soccer globally has been a key momentum driver of FIFA. The best-selling soccer title just completed a record first quarter in Asia, and management is looking to build on that momentum with the upcoming release of FIFA 23.
2. Apex Legends is on fire
EA's player network grew to nearly 600 million players in the fiscal first quarter of 2023. The growth stands out against the decline in monthly active users at rival game producer Activision Blizzard, which has seen its player base decline to 361 million from 408 million in the same quarter last year.
Apex Legends has been stiff competition for Activision's Call of Duty over the last year. In the second quarter, Activision reported a decline in in-game bookings, which the company credited to lower spending in Call of Duty: Vanguard compared to the previous release in the series.
Meanwhile, Apex Legends has experienced consistent growth since launching in early 2019. The number of viewers that watch others play the game on Amazon's Twitch streaming platform has increased from fewer than 20,000 in 2019 to nearly 100,000 this year, according to Statista.
The growing viewership on Twitch mirrors the game's contribution to EA's top line. Apex Legends posted double-digit growth in net bookings in the last quarter, and EA just launched a mobile version of the game, which should keep interest growing.
3. The best value in gaming
EA has the right mix of sports, action shooters, and lifestyle games (e.g., The Sims) to deliver consistent returns for investors. The company seems to have established a nice rhythm of releasing frequent content updates for its games that encourages players to keep coming back for more. This gives EA recurring revenue streams that are particularly valuable during challenging economic times.
The stock trades at a modest valuation of just 17 times forward earnings estimates. That is a discount to the S&P 500 average price-to-earnings multiple of 21. The relatively lower valuation makes EA the best value among the top video game stocks right now.