Video games continue to be red hot. Driven by constantly improving technology and a steady stream of imaginative titles, global sales of video games are forecast to reach $221.40 billion this year, according to market research firm Statista. Thus, many investors are looking for the top growth stocks to buy in this key sector.
Currently, 3 billion people (nearly 40% of the world’s population) identify themselves as regular gamers. Additionally, consumers are finding an increasingly wide array of platforms on which to game. These range from consoles and personal computers to smartphones and virtual reality headsets. Now, the addition of artificial intelligence promises to take video games into realms people have only dreamed of previously.
With video games continuing to steam ahead, we look at the seven best growth stocks to buy in the gaming sector.
Kicking off this list of growth stocks to buy in the gaming sector is none other than Japan-based Nintendo (OTCMKTS:NTDOY).
Nintendo continues to be a worldwide leader in the video game space, with game titles and characters that are household names such as Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda. Despite having a rich backlog of intellectual property, Nintendo continues to innovate and push video game technology forward. The company’s Switch console has been a smash hit, having sold 114 million units since it debuted in 2017. Plus, the company continues to churn out hit titles that include the bestselling Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet video games.
The company is widely expected to release a new console later this year to replace the Switch, likely in the fall ahead of the holiday shopping season. Additionally, Nintendo is growing its share of the digital game download market. Notably, this market offers substantially-higher margins, something investors watch closely in this space.
Finally, the company is aggressively monetizing its popular characters and game franchises through a series of movies and the opening of theme parks around the world. Nintendo’s stock, which trades over the counter in the U.S., has slumped 22% in the past year. That said, I think investors should see the decline as a buying opportunity.
Meta Platforms (META)
Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) may not be first on the list of growth stocks to buy when one talks about video games. However, the company has been making inroads into the gaming sector with its virtual reality headsets.
Recently, Meta Platforms lowered the prices on its range of Quest VR headsets. This was in a bid to help drive sales ahead of rival Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) expected entry into the space later this year. Thus, while many people associate Meta’s VR headsets with its development of the metaverse, most people today use the Quest hardware to play video games.
Video game titles available for play on Meta’s VR headsets include Horizon Worlds, games based on the comic book hero Iron Man and those derived from popular TV show The Walking Dead. People can also play a version of the popular video game Tetris on the Quest headsets.
To date, Meta Platforms has sold about 20 million Quest headsets. This puts the product on par with past sales of Nintendo and Xbox consoles. Accordingly, new video game titles for the VR headsets continue to be churned out at a brisk clip. After a brutal selloff in 2022, META stock is already up 70% this year. Indeed, I see the stock rising even more from here.
If Nintendo has a chief rival in the market for video games, it is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). The company behind the Xbox console and exclusive video game titles such as Halo, Forza Motorsport, and Gears of War continues to be a leader in the industry. And Microsoft’s share of the video game market looks likely to grow as its $68 billion acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) seems poised to be approved by regulators in coming months. Bringing Activision Blizzard in-house would give Microsoft’s Xbox division a big boost, expanding its number of exclusive hit titles and providing it with lucrative intellectual property rights.
If the Activision Blizzard purchase weren’t enough, Microsoft is also likely to be among the first gaming companies to add artificial intelligence to its video games and console due to its $10 billion investment in privately held OpenAI. The powerful ChatGPT large-language model AI system is already being integrated into Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and company executives have talked for years about the potential of AI to enhance the video game industry. MSFT stock has been recovering this year, having gained 18% since January.
Electronic Arts (EA)
Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) is best known for popular video-game titles such as Mass Effect and Medal of Honor, as well as its professional soccer, football and ice hockey titles. Today, Electronic Arts is one of the world’s biggest video-game developers with annual revenues of more than $7 billion.
However, despite its success and the enduring popularity of its video game titles, EA stock has been stuck in neutral. In the last 12 months, the company’s share price is flat (down 0.2%). So far this year, the stock has risen a little over 2%.
That said, Electronic Arts could be a dark horse in the race to add AI to video games. The company has openly discussed experimenting with generative AI, even using it to test a new edition of its popular game Battlefield. Electronics Art also makes the popular open world title, The Sims, which could benefit from the addition of AI. It is clear that the company hopes to use artificial intelligence to enhance the user experience and further grow its business.
This is a somewhat reluctant pick, given the company’s history as a meme stock. But video game retailer GameStop (NYSE:GME) makes it onto this list amid signs that the troubled company may have finally turned a corner.
At the end of March this year, GameStop reported its first quarterly profit in two years, leading to an immediate 40% spike in the company’s share price. For the fourth-quarter of 2022, the retailer posted a profit of $48.2 million, or 16 cents per share, which was a big turnaround from a loss of $147.5 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier.
GameStop clawed its way back to profitability by aggressively cutting costs, lowering its inventory, and boosting its online sales. This represents a huge change from the pandemic, when the company was caught flat-footed, as its network of more than 4,000 retail stores was forced to close, and it scrambled to move its operations online. Then came the meme stock craze in early 2021, and the company’s share price has been erratic ever since.
However, there are signs that GameStop might be maturing and normalizing. On a year-to-date basis, the stock is up 27%.
Activision Blizzard (ATVI)
As mentioned, video game maker Activision Blizzard looks likely to be acquired by Microsoft in a deal priced at $95 per share. However, the deal is not a fait accompli, and ATVI stock is currently trading below the price that Microsoft has agreed to pay for the company.
Someone who bought Activision Blizzard stock now could book a 12% gain should the acquisition be finalized. The deal is currently working its way through regulatory approvals around the world, but is widely expected to close this fall.
However, even if the acquisition by Microsoft does not go through as planned, Activision Blizzard remains a compelling video game developer. The company’s franchise titles include Call of Duty and Guitar Hero, among others. Activision is so well-regarded that even legendary investor Warren Buffett, age 92, is a shareholder. Buffett currently holds more than 50 million shares of ATVI stock, a position that’s worth $4.50 billion. If that isn’t a vote of confidence in a stock, what is?
Rounding out this list of growth stocks to buy in the gaming space is online video game maker Roblox (NYSE:RBLX).
Roblox remains particularly popular with kids, and that is enabling the company to continue to grow. RBLX stock jumped 26% in a single trading day earlier this year after it reported Q4 2022 earnings that beat expectations. Specifically, analysts liked that Roblox reported having 58.8 million daily active users on its online video game platform in Q4, up 19% from a year earlier. The continued growth has made Roblox stock a top performer this year, with its share price having gained 63% since the start of January.
Roblox is also researching generative AI, with plans to incorporate the technology into its online-gaming platform and video-game titles. Wall Street analysts like what they’re seeing from the company and the future impact artificial intelligence could have on its business. Investment bank D.A. Davidson recently reiterated its “buy” rating and price target on RBLX stock in anticipation of the company’s adoption of AI technology, saying they see artificial intelligence as a major catalyst for the company and its share price.
On the date of publication, Joel Baglole held long positions in AAPL and MSFT. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.