February 22, 2024

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Ignore the Reddit-fueled spike, GameStop is actually still in trouble

4 min read

GameStop’s stock price won’t help the stores make more money. 

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GameStop has been at the center of attention this week as its stock price skyrocketed and endured several massive swings. Share prices have increased almost tenfold since last Thursday, thanks to a growing movement on Reddit to buy the company’s stock. As exciting as it might be to try to make some money off this crazy situation, it’s imperative to understand that GameStop, fundamentally, isn’t doing so hot. 

The share price for GameStop — $325 when the market closed on Friday — doesn’t tell the whole story about the company. Indeed, one of the reasons for its stratospheric gains is because so many institutional investors were betting on it to fail — to an absurd degree. That type of investing, known as short-selling, opened the door to individuals who coordinated their efforts online to drive up the price. 

Stock prices have, at some level, always been disconnected from reality for the average American (just stack 2020’s stock market gains against the pandemic-fueled economic collapse), but this GameStop roller-coaster ride throws all logic and basic investment principles out the window. To those on the WallStreetBets subreddit that’s the point. 

Lost in all the hoopla is that GameStop continues to falter when it comes to all the important metrics for a company, with declining sales and the closing of 462 stores last year. Let’s take a look at how GameStop is performing as an actual business, and not just as the target of some enthusiastic individual investors. 

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How is GameStop really doing? 

Not that great. According to its fiscal third-quarter earnings report from December, GameStop’s sales declined 30% from the previous year. This comes during a pandemic, when the video game industry experienced months of increased revenue as Americans stayed home and played games because of lockdowns. But sales at retail stores suffered due to locations closing or the limited flow of customers as a result of those same lockdowns. 

It also doesn’t help that digital sales for games reached new heights during the pandemic. Major publishers such as Sony, EA and Take-Two reported that digital purchases surpassed physical sales in 2020, according to Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at Niko Partners. Microsoft’s Game Pass, which lets gamers access more than 100 games for $15 a month, hit 18 million subscribers, CEO Satya Nadella said on the company’s second-quarter earnings conference call. 

Cloud gaming also grew in 2020. Microsoft’s xCloud and Nvidia’s Geforce Now launched last year, following Google’s Stadia service, which came out in late 2019. These services let players stream games without the need for physical copies of games or even consoles.

In September 2019, GameStop CEO George Sherman tried to get gamers back into stores by turning a few test stores into hangouts for customers. But the company closed 462 stores in 2020, with plans to shutter more than 1,000 stores total by March. It still has more than 5,000 stores in the US. 

What’s the company worth? 

On Dec. 1, GameStop’s stock price was $15.80, which gave it a market value of slightly more than $1 billion. As of Friday, the retailer’s shares were trading at $325, valuing the company at more than $22 billion. That puts it at No. 464 on the Fortune 500 list, right behind video game publisher Activision Blizzard. The jump in stock price vaulted the value of GameStop over that of game publishers Ubisoft, Take-Two and Square Enix.  

Was GameStop going to go out of business?

Though the retailer struggled in recent years, it wasn’t on death’s door. 

“I actually think they are in a good position to grow revenue and earnings again with the console launches,” said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. “Earnings power like that supports a price in the high teens or low 20s.”

Pachter has GameStop’s stock at a target price of $16. Keep in mind this is just one analyst’s assessment.

What’s important to know is that GameStop’s skyrocketing shares don’t equate to financial success. The problems it had back in December are still there now. 

Remember that while deciding whether this is a roller coaster you’d want to brave.

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