The video game industry experienced a massive boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, but then Americans spent 13% less on gaming in the second quarter of this year from the same period a year ago and more time outside. Consumer spending has also been taking a hit amid worries about the state of the economy. Still, tech giants have been shelling out billions of dollars recently to buff their gaming offerings. We’re digging into some of the massive investments that have yet to pay off in this week’s Five for Friday.
#5: Netflix Games?
Netflix’s status as one of the top streaming companies doesn’t raise many questions, but its foray into gaming might. The streaming giant quietly launched gaming in November of last year. It was so quiet that less than 1% of users have even downloaded a game. The company isn’t saying how much it has spent on the venture, but it did pay $72 million to buy Next Games, the company behind a Stranger Things puzzle game apparently no one plays. This isn’t Netflix’s first try in the gaming space either. Back in 2011, it attempted to separate the DVD-by-mail business from its streaming platform, rebranding it as Qwikster. They planned to add video games to that service to compete with GameFly, but backlash at the pricing structure forced the company to scrap the plan shortly after the announcement.
#4: Sony buys Bungie
Sony makes all types of electronics but the brand has now become synonymous with its Playstation consoles. Despite its heavy investment in gaming, in the second quarter, the company reported a 2% loss year over year in its gaming division, while operating profits tanked almost 37%. Sony recently paid $3.6 billion for Destiny-maker Bungie as its competition has been scooping up a number of high profile AAA developers and has also expanded its cloud gaming platform so more content could benefit the service in the long run. Meanwhile, the PS5 has been on the market for nearly two years but semiconductor shortages have limited supply, eating away at the bottom line.
#3: Take Two goes mobile
Mobile gaming is incredibly popular. In fact, analysts say more than two billion people worldwide play games on their phones and tablets. So it makes sense that PC and console game publisher Take Two Interactive would pay $12.7 billion for mobile behemoth Zynga. Take Two has been making a killing in recent years off microtransactions in games like Grand Theft Auto online. But its stock is down 50% this year as it still hopes to make waves with the Words with Friends and Farmville developer.
#2: Meta into the Metaverse
Back in 2014 when Facebook was still Facebook, the company spent $2 billion to buy VR headset maker Oculus. The move became part of a broader strategy to be at the forefront of the metaverse, even prompting the company to change its name to Meta. But Meta is having a rough go of it, posting a revenue loss in the second quarter of this year, its first since going public. And the company’s Reality Labs took a $2.8 billion loss in the quarter. And while accessibility to the VR headset has been a big selling point, Meta recently announced it will be increasing the price by $100 due to increased production and shipping costs.
#1: Microsoft’s gotta catch ‘em all
Microsoft’s $68 billion purchase of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard still faces regulatory scrutiny. And now that record price for a video game acquisition may face some additional questions from investors after the company’s gaming revenue fell 7% in the second quarter. The Xbox maker has been gobbling up studios for years to boost its Game Pass lineup, having spent nearly $80 billion on Activision Blizzard, Zenimax Media and Mojang deals.