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Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI), Electronic Arts Inc. (EA): Are Video Games the Next Consumer Staple?

As you may know, people of all ages, but in particular 20- and sometimes 30-somethings, sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time playing video games. While I personally stopped playing this form of entertainment over 20 years ago, many still find these activities both pleasurable and arguably addicting. Obviously there’s a market for this form on entertainment, and as you might suspect corporations have been meeting the needs of these consumers for years. That means it’s a proven market, and it’s a market that, in my estimation, is more relevant than ever.

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA)So, let’s take a look at a few video game companies. First among them is Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI). Currently, analysts consider the stock a strong buy. However, I might disagree. If the recession were to persist long enough, do you think this form of discretionary entertainment would hold up? Perhaps not. Then again, thus far it has staying power, so let’s look “under the hood.” One product Activision offers is “Call of Duty,” and realistic action games such as this have been a big hit. Currently, Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) is attractively priced, with a trailing P/E of 14.21 and possessing very little debt and a 23.66% margin. To me, these metrics alone should raise some eyebrows and are certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Next, we’ll look at Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA), which has a P/E of roughly 33, so it’s not quite as attractively valued as Activision Blizzard. EA has greater debt on its books than Activision, with a 0.55 debt to assets ratio. Its margins weigh in at only 4.42%, and although Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) is renowned for its realistic sports games, overall Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) appears to be the better of the two.

Last, we’ll examine Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTWO). Take Two is most known for its Rockstar Games and is not currently profitable, with a -1.40 EPS. However, it’s forward-looking P/E is slated to be 6.48. Yet, as you might suspect, Take Two might miss on earnings, so forward P/E’s are always somewhat speculative, particularly in regards to consumer discretionary stocks (i.e. entertainment). Take Two’s debt-to-asset ratio is pegged at 0.48, so it’s financially healthier than Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA), but significantly more debt-ridden than Activision’s 0.20 metric. Take Two’s margins at -11.18% mean that Take Two lacks profitability and clearly is not the “best of the breed” in this respect. As a final note, Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) is the sole dividend payer of the three, paying out on a yearly basis, but unfortunately lacking a DRIP or DSPP. Clearly, given all the above-mentioned considerations, Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) seems poised for long-term success and is my pick among electronic entertainment/video game stocks.

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