Five years ago, not many people outside of China had heard of Tencent. But today, the company heads the list of the top 25 public companies with game revenues.
We’ve seen so much change that I thought it would be instructive to look at the biggest companies in the world when it comes to games and compare them to the past. We’ve got lists for 2011, 2014, and the first half of 2015. It is a very interesting way to visualize the gaming industry and the economic value it is creating, and it’s also a good scoreboard on who is failing or succeeding in creating long-term value in the game business.
Newzoo did the work to calculate the top 25 publicly traded game industry companies. Their list includes both game publishers such as Electronic Arts and platform companies such as Tencent, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Google, and Facebook. The side-by-side results are quite illuminating.
Tencent is China’s biggest Internet company with platforms such as Tencent QQ messaging and the WeChat mobile chat service. In China, it publishes online games such as the shooter CrossFire, and it also publishes a lot of games on mobile. Tencent has $4.2 billion in revenues in the first half of 2015, and it had $7.2 billion in revenue for all of 2014. In 2011, Tencent was No. 6 on the list with $2.5 billion in revenue. Tencent has also become better known in the West for making investments in Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, Riot Games, Glu Mobile, Miniclip, and Pocket Gems. Thanks to the combination of sexy Internet and game businesses, Tencent has a whopping market value of $220 billion.
By comparison, the No. 2 company, Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard (if you count its King acquisition, which has not yet closed, as part of it) has a market valuation of just $27.2 billion. King itself was not even on the top 25 in 2011, and it is now No. 10 in the first half of 2015. Back in 2011, Activision Blizzard had $4.7 billion in revenue, and in 2014, it had $4.4 billion in revenue. In the first half of 2015, Activision Blizzard had $2.3 billion in revenue. Once the King deal closes, Activision will move from No. 5 to No. 2.
Electronic Arts, the big rival in console and mobile games to Activision Blizzard, actually passed Activision Blizzard during the past few years. EA is now the fourth-largest video game company. In 2011, it had $3.8 billion in revenue, compared with $4.4 billion in 2014, and $2.4 billion in the first half of 2014.
As these numbers show, the game industry has become a business of giants. But the list is very game-centric, and non-game companies have not had the greatest luck in gaming. Disney was No. 15 on the game revenue list in 2011, and it was still 15 in 2014. Warner Bros., meanwhile has had a great year thanks to titles like Dying Light, Batman: Arkham Knight, Mad Max, and Lego Dimensions. In 2014, Warner was No. 11 on the list, and it has moved up to No. 9. In 2011, it wasn’t even on the list.
But while the list has many giants, it is also very dynamic and full of surprises. Ubisoft, which was ranked No. 9 in 2011 and No. 10 in 2014, dropped off the list of the top 25 public game companies in the first half of 2015. That’s due in no small part to the fact that Ubisoft didn’t release a major game in the first half of 2014.
“The traditional publisher is clearly struggling to adapt to the new business rules in the industry and still relies heavily on the holiday period,” said Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo. “It will definitely end the year in the top 25 but they need an extreme jump in sales over Christmas not to drop down to the 15th position or lower based on FY 2015 revenues. If the second half year also is 60 percent down, their revenues would drop way below $1 billion.”
In the past four years, we’ve seen a lot of disruption as companies made fortunes in mobile gaming. Konami hasn’t adapted that well. Konami was No. 7 in 2011, but it dropped to 21 in 2014 and it was No. 20 in the first half of 2015.
On the other hand, there were a lot of companies who were on the list in 2011 but are not on the list any more in 2015. The losers who dropped off the list include NHN, Neowiz, Capcom, THQ, Shanda, and Ubisoft.
Newcomers to the list include Warner Bros., Mixi, GungHo Entertainment, King, Changyou, Zynga, and NCSoft. I find it very interesting that Mixi, publisher of the hit Monster Strike, had more revenue in the first half of 2015 than Grand Theft Auto V publisher Take-Two Interactive, Disney, Zynga, and Sega. Sega, the maker of the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog, is barely hanging on with $360 million at rank No. 25 in the first half of 2015.
Mobile gaming’s impact has shown up in so many ways on the lists. Apple was No. 21 in game revenues in 2011, but it rose to No. 6 in 2014 and the first half of 2015. Google also rose from nowhere in 2011 to No. 7 in 2015. By contrast, Nintendo was No. 5 in 2011 and it is No. 12 in 2015. Facebook rose from No. 24 in 2011 to No. 18 in 2014 and No. 19 in 2015.
Oh, the times have changed. As virtual reality and augmented reality arrive in the next few years, I’m sure we’ll see big changes again. For game companies, the lesson is that they have to remember is that risk taking, constant change, and adapting to new platforms are critical for long-term survival.