Winners In The Next Video Game Wave Are Online, Social And Mobile

by: Dana Blankenhorn

While some investors are crying over the apparent demise of Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA), creators of Farmville and other light classics, predicting it might take down Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) with it, the video game industry is actually booming. A $70 billion market in 2011, Transparency Market Research says this will be a $117.9 billion industry in 2015.

The takeaway here is that while Zynga may go, don't give up on Facebook. Other studios will rise, and the network that can attract them will prosper.

Online expenditures on gaming, 16.7% of the market in 2006, will be 39.3% of the market in 2016, a new report says, making cable companies like Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) big winners, rather than console companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). The fastest-growing channel on YouTube, in fact, is Pewdiepie, a 22 year-old Swede who makes video gaming movies and has 2 million subscribers.

So while gaming drove client PC technology in the last decade, it's going to drive broadband in this decade.

The phrase that pays is "cloud gaming" - game experiences and communities delivered from cloud computing - and start-ups like Twitch are doing venture rounds as big as $15 million around it.

Cloud games are delivered onto mobile devices like tablets, they are heavily social, and increasingly they come from Asian companies like DeNA and Nexon. So-called "virtual goods" - simple icons like beer steins delivered online - are becoming a multi-billion dollar industry in their own right. Most are delivered with "freemium" models where you get the initial game but have the "opportunity" to buy multiple tiers of service above that.

Finally, if you're looking to rent out space in the local mall, look to another new form of gaming sometimes dubbed eSports, in which video gaming becomes a spectator sport, with tournaments held in large ballrooms, on giant screens, and the gamers themselves become stars.

Here is your investor takeaway. Broadband, not consoles, are the play. Asian gaming companies have better prospects than American ones, using "freemium" models that let anyone in, but charge regular customers. And as this generation of gamers mature, the field is going to break out of the basement and could become the next big spectator sport.

Disclosure: I am long MSFT. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.