It's hard to shake the reputation of being yesterday's wonder boy. That's the lingering problem facing video game studio Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA), which for a brief moment ruled Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) with titles such as FarmVille and Words With Friends.
That moment is over and the company's been struggling ever since. Last Thursday it reported its Q2 results, which to no one's great surprise showed a pronounced loss. There were a few glimmers of hope in those figures, but likely not enough to bring a stampede of investors back to the stock.
For the quarter, Zynga took in revenue of just under $200 million, a year-over-year increase of 30%. Bookings, however, were essentially flat at $174 million. (Zynga amortizes the monies it books from sales of virtual goods and advertising over the "life" of said good; this spend is amortized over time. For the company, "revenue" is that amortized amount for the relevant quarter. "Bookings" are virtual sales made during the period).
The company posted a net loss of $27 million ($0.03 per diluted share) for the quarter, against a nearly $63 million shortfall in Q2 2014. On an adjusted basis, this past quarter's bottom line deficit was $7.6 million ($0.01).
That was better than the market expected, as was the revenue figure. On average, analysts were projecting a per-share net loss of $0.02 and a top line of $153 million.
In terms of operational metrics, the company experienced a slide in its number of daily active users. In Q2, this amounted to roughly 21 million, down 23% on a year-over-year basis. Monthly active users suffered a steeper decline, by 32% to 83 million.
The most popular games during the quarter were, in order, FarmVille 2, Zynga Poker, and FarmVille 2: Country Escape. Combined, the three were responsible for just over 50% of the company's online gaming revenue.
In Q2 Zynga released the latest FarmVille sequel FarmVille: Harvest Swap and the strategic war game Empires & Allies.
Going forward, Zynga doesn't expect to be profitable in the immediate future. It proffered guidance for its Q3 of a net loss of between $23 million and $31 million, on revenue of $175 million to $190 million, and bookings of $155 million to $170 million.
The company plans to release its next titles around the holiday season. Currently in the works are fantasy combat saga Dawn of Titans, racing game sequel CSR 2, and a new slots game with a Willy Wonka theme. The latter is slated for release in 2016.
This Fool's take
The market had fairly modest expectations for Zynga's Q2, which the company did nothing to exceed. The flat-lining bookings figure shows it's struggling to squeeze more sales out of its players.
It seems to me what Zynga really needs is a new breakout hit to get that metric rising, and reverse those drops in active users. The upcoming games are either sequels, a new skin on something already in existence (Willy Wonka slots), or tried-and-true concepts that have worked for other developers but are not particularly fresh in the gaming world. I can't imagine any of these being a sweeping success on the order of the original FarmVille.
Zynga's stock price had been down by nearly 8% on a year-to-date basis before the results were announced; following that, it bounced up to nearly breakeven. So, investors appear to be cautiously optimistic about the company's prospects. We'll soon see if that bullishness is justified.