Zynga shed plenty of users
in the first quarter, and shut down some major Facebook games, but analysts haven't completely given up on the company yet. They're expecting a rough year for the social games giant, but a year that could mark Zynga's turnaround, as it focuses its resources on mobile, "mid-core" games and intellectual property that can be expanded into marketable franchises.
Here are excerpts from five leading video game analysts, who interpreted Zynga's latest quarterly results in recent research notes.
Baird's Colin Sebastian
"While Zynga still has intriguing value potential, we await more sustained signs of a stability and growth."
"Dependence upon whales remains high, but stable. ... As Zynga transitions to a 'mobile first' strategy, the company appears to be losing ground to competitors, such as King, Kabam and Kixeye."
"While Zynga in well-positioned to create cross-platform experiences, given its large PC/web user base, this remains as yet unexploited. There also remains a sizable opportunity in mid-core games and real money gaming, in our view."
Macquarie Securities' Ben Schachter
"2013 is clearly a transition year and the company will likely need to show more progress on mobile and real-money gaming before we can get more constructive on the name. Key user metrics such as [monthly active users, daily active users and monthly unique payers] all declined. As the company itself highlights, it is still early in the potential turnaround and we donít expect any improvement until second-half 2013 at the earliest."
"The key challenge remains Zynga's ability to create a sustainable competitive advantage on mobile platforms. Zynga keeps hinting at meaningful changes to come on its ability to establish scalable network effects, profitably, on mobile, but we will need to see it before we can give them credit for it."
Stern Agee's Arvind Bhatia/Brett Strauser
"As we suspected, second quarter guidance is weak and supports our thesis that the social gaming industry is experiencing difficult trends on the web. Zynga's challenge is to offset this pressure through new growth avenues such as mobile, direct revenue from Zynga.com, and longer-term, from real money gaming. None of these new areas is proven yet, though mobile is seeing some traction."
"The success of Farmville 2
is encouraging and is one of few positives the company has had recently. However, many of the older titles continue to underperform. Management is focused on cleaning the slate and has become stricter in the green-light process, resulting in de-funding of a few games in development."
Cowen's Doug Creutz
"The company expects to return to growth in second-half 2013 as the pace of new game launches reaccelerates; however, we note that competition continues to intensify."
"Management commented on the [earnings] call that real money gaming, recently launched in the UK, is not expected to contribute significantly to 2013 results."
Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter
"Real money gaming presents a new and significant growth opportunity, but many hurdles must be overcome before [it] meaningfully contributes to revenue. Zynga must overcome significant competitive and legislative issues, among others. The near-term impact of real money gaming should be limited."
"[We] believe the flexibility inherent in Zynga's business model makes a return to profitability (as early as 2014) far more likely than a period of sustained losses."