"Game On" is The Fly's weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.
NEW RELEASES: Among this week's notable game releases is the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S port of Microsoft's (MSFT) "Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition," a remake of the real-time strategy game of the same name. The game, which first launched in 2019, launches January 31 for Xbox consoles. Also out this week is THQ Nordic's (THQQF) "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake," a 3D platformer out January 31 for PlayStation 4 (SONY), Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch (NTDOY).
PLAYSTATION SUPPLY: Following more than two years of inconsistent PlayStation 5 supply, Sony said in a blog post this week that consumers should "now have a much easier time" finding PlayStation 5 consoles at retailers globally. "Since the launch of PlayStation 5 just over two years ago, we've introduced incredible games like God of War Ragnarok, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Gran Turismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West and Returnal, which showcase the boundless creativity of our development community and the extraordinary experiences they've been able to build on our platform," the company said. "To all our fans: thank you for your patience as we navigated unprecedented demand for the PS5 console amid global challenges. If you're looking to purchase a PS5 console, you should now have a much easier time finding one at retailers globally."
Following the release of the blog post, Bloomberg's Takashi Mochizuki reported that Sony halved its first quarter PlayStation VR2 shipment forecast to roughly 1M units after disappointing early preorders. Sony had previously aimed to have 2M units of the headset, which will be released on February 22, ready for the launch. According to people familiar with the matter, Sony has told a supply partner to expect reduced display panel orders, and now plans to ship around 1.5M units between this April and March 2024, Mochizuki said.
E3: The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short, for decades served as the most notable video game trade show every year, with the biggest companies making major announcements at the conference each year. After several years of lacking an in-person component to E3 due to the pandemic and declining interest from major game companies, E3's upcoming physical event this summer will not have official representation from Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo, IGN's Kat Bailey reported yesterday. The three gaming giants will not be part of E3 2023 or have presence on the Los Angeles Convention Center showfloor, Bailey said, citing multiple knowledgeable sources.
The news comes less than a week after Microsoft announce that it plans to have a special standalone showcase for its upcoming Xbox and PC game "Starfield" soon, and that its teams are "working hard and look forward to sharing even more of what is next for our fans when we return to Los Angeles for our yearly Showcase this summer." The Fly notes that Sony typically hosts its own event in June each year, but has not been affiliated with E3 for several years. In addition, Nintendo typically broadcasts a pre-recorded Direct presentation in June each year.
TAKE-TWO DOWNGRADE: On Friday, MoffettNathanson analyst Clay Griffin upgraded Take-Two (TTWO) to Outperform from Market Perform with a $140 price target. 2022 was "a dreadful year for Take-Two's stock," but after the "highly disappointing 2022," it's "back to the future" for Take-Two, said the firm, which thinks upward estimate revisions and multiple expansion can drive the stock higher from here with the "long-awaited content cycle near at hand."
EA PRICE TARGET HIKES: Meanwhile, no fewer than two securities analysts raised their price targets on Electronic Arts (EA) last week. On Wednesday, Barclays analyst Mario Lu raised the firm's price target on Electronic Arts to $132 from $130 and keeps an Equal Weight rating on the shares. The analyst previewed Q4 earnings for the SMID cap internet sector and views subscription names such as the stocks best positioned to continue their outperformance. Across the three sub-sectors of video games, online travel, and subscription, video games is the most attractive due to the condensed window driven by the pending Activision/Microsoft deal "that could lift all boats if it were to go through," the analyst told investors in a research note.
Later that week, Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju raised the firm's price target on Electronic Arts to $154 from $143 and keeps an Outperform rating on the shares ahead of the January 31 earnings report. The firm is focusing on the ongoing multi-pronged secular shift for the industry, including the further positive mix shift to digital, consumer adoption of microtransactions driving incremental monetization, as well as the expansion of EA's addressable market to target the global online user base, the analyst told investors in a research note.
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