Like millions of other folks, I have maintained my sanity during the COVID-19 pandemic through videogames. To an older generation that may sound odd, but the reality is that gaming is very mainstream in the 21st century — and very big business, too.
Research firm NPD has shown that three out of four Americans, or roughly 244 million of us, play videogames for an average of 14 hours a week. And thanks to a lack of entertainment options outside the home in 2020, gaming sales worldwide surged 20% to a staggering $180 billion.
In fact, gaming is so popular and lucrative that professional esports now has an audience of about 500 million people worldwide — with a 70% increase in the number of viewers in the U.S. last year because of the pandemic and the lack of traditional spectator sports options. And as with so many other tech trends, these recent converts are likely to stick and continue powering the esports business. Here’s one way to put it in context: esports are expected to have almost 800 million viewers by 2024 – nearly as many as about 825 million or so fans of professional basketball worldwide today.
Some of the biggest publicly traded videogame stocks are already old news. Over the last 10 years, gaming powerhouse Activision Blizzard
has surged about 800% compared with about 200% for the S&P 500 index
in the same period, growing to almost $80 billion in market value. And of course there has been the frenzy over GameStock
that led to a congressional hearing.
But there are a host of up-and-coming companies looking to level up amid continued growth for the industry. If you’re looking to play the gaming and esports craze, here are some options worth a look:
The house of Mario has come back big time, thanks to its innovative Switch console that successfully bridged console and mobile gaming markets. Nintendo’s eShop is now bursting with “casual” games like the smash hit “Among Us,” which was originally built for mobile phones and boasted half a billion players in November. While there are big margins on $70 games or high-end hardware, Nintendo has built both its user base and its software offerings around low-cost diversions that collectively add up to serious revenue.
At the same time, a strange convergence of circumstances have created big tailwinds for Nintendo’s high-end titles. Since its prior console — the Wii U — was a bit of a flop, Nintendo was able to reissue many native games with big price tags during the Switch’s early years. Now the…
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