In retrospect, the recent rally of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) stock shouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Activision Blizzard stock struggled last year, but the selloff of Activision Blizzard stock was much greater than the proverbial crime ATVI had committed. A rebound was largely inevitable, particularly once analysts got on board.
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Although ATVI stock is now overbought and ripe for a little bit of profit-taking, a new, bullish outlook has been established that replaces the older, pessimistic one.
In other words, analysts’ upgrades and price target hikes are good reasons to put Activision Blizzard stock back on your radar.
The Excessive Punishment of ATVI Stock
Just a little over a year ago, video-game publisher Activision Blizzard could seemingly do no wrong. In 2018, ATVI stock reached what would eventually be a record high, and it had proven to be one of the top trades of 2017 and 2018.
Then it all unraveled. A combination of lackluster demand for its newest Call of Duty entry, the strength of the hit online game Fortnite, a poor holiday-season outlook and the fact that its World of Warcraft game wouldn’t be revised in 2019 all contributed to a tumble of more than 50% by Activision Blizzard stock.
Other, more philosophical blunders were also made, such as failing to keep a finger on the pulse of how gamers are buying their titles and what sort of games they want.
It all made Activision Blizzard stock an easy target for short sellers and bearish analysts. Indeed, the surprisingly poor numbers and the ensuing downgrades caused ATVI stock and the shares of its rivals, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) and Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO), to drop sharply.
Now the opposite scenario appears to be unfolding.
What They Said and What It Means
“Going forward, ATVI should benefit from lapsed players coming back to games like Call of Duty or Overwatch as excitement around Fortnite cools,” wrote BMO Capital’s Gerrick Johnson in the note accompanying his upgrade of Activision Blizzard stock. Gerrick goes on to say, “Also, the idea that Fortnite exposed a new generation of gamers (including many females) to the shooter genre could be an added tailwind for ATVI.”
Also bullish on ATVI stock recently was Instinet analyst Andrew Marok. He upgraded ATVI stock from “Neutral” to “Buy,”,contending that the recent “launch of World of Warcraft Classic has driven strong, above-expectations engagement in the franchise.”
Stephens analyst Jeff Cohen just upgraded Activision Blizzard stock as well, pointing out the potential of its upcoming Call of Duty title and saying “We believe 2019 numbers are now de-risked due to the successful launch of World of Warcraft Classic and the announcement of a Nintendo Switch port for Overwatch.”
The common themes are crystal-clear.
The real underpinnings for more gains by Activision Blizzard stock, however, transcend the words. Look at the bigger picture, and specifically, the timing and speed at which that picture is improving. It’s all falling into place at the same time for ATVI, and that provides a powerful, positive, upward push.
Johnson even acknowledged as much, noting to investors “we are increasing the valuation multiple (on Activision Blizzard stock ) to 20x from 17x. As investors get more comfortable with the turnaround story and as new catalysts develop, we believe the company’s valuation multiple will expand.”
The Bottom Line on Activision Blizzard Stock
Activision Blizzard isn’t just the beneficiary of improving sentiment, to be clear. ATVI has thought a great about the business of designing and then selling video games.
It knows it has to push its way deeper into eSports. It also knows it has to respect and even fear the rise of mobile gaming and independently-developed titles. It knows the days of disc-based and cartridge-based sales are numbered, and that they will be replaced by digital downloads, which opens the door to all sorts of competition.
It’s addressing those challenges though. For example, it’s ramping up its eSports efforts, leveraging Overwatch. The company has tapped ratings agency Nielsen Holdings (NYSE:NLSN) to measure the fiscal benefit of sponsoring eSports events, which is a hint of a growing monetization push.
Still, more than anything else, Activision Blizzard stock is compelling again, mostly because investors are starting to believe in it again.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can learn more about him at his website jamesbrumley.com, or follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.
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