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Master the Meta: making sense of GameStop’s insanity

The MtM team took a look at the GameStop stock market frenzy

Master the Meta: making sense of GameStop’s insanity

Master the Meta is a free newsletter focused on analysing the business strategy of the gaming industry. MTM and PG.biz have partnered on a weekly column to not only bring you industry moving news, but also short analyses on each. To check out this week’s entire meta, visit www.masterthemeta.com!

Even though GameStop is a gaming business, this story - the fact that GameStop’s stock has more than 100x’d from its 52-week low - really has nothing to do with games… or its business. It’s actually a story of Reddit-fueled mass hysteria that’s taking aim at the Wall Street establishment.

So what happened? Well, the subreddit r/WallStreetBets came together with a simple mission: retail investors (aka everyday people) are tired of hedge funds manipulating the market, are tired of billionaires getting bailed out, and are tired of big media companies taking the side of Wall Street, so the community is rallying together to push up the price of one of the most shorted stocks in the market (GameStop). You can come up with your own opinions on this - especially now that censorship policies have now forced the community private on Reddit and kicked off of Discord - but it’s essentially a more effective, internet-driven version of Occupy Wall Street.

Obviously, there’s more nuance to the subreddit’s mission and how markets function, but the mob’s tactic is working in the short-term. Excessive buying triggered a massive short squeeze, which caused prices to skyrocket further - roughly up 10x in the past week - driving hedge funds (and others) who are short causing  GameStop to lose boatloads of money. It’s a fascinating example of how the internet enables communities to effectively voice their opinions at scale and influence financial markets. (It’s also why I’m not inclined to short!)

So what’s the catch? There are a couple. One, it’s all fun and games for now, but the good times won’t last. Sorry, but GameStop isn’t worth $24 billion, and it doesn’t deserve to be the most traded stock in the market. Many of the same everyday people who are pushing the stock price up will be the same people who lose a ton of money as reality inevitably sets back in. We’ve seen this time and time again (crypto 3 years ago, internet stocks 20 years ago, etc.).

Second, as you may have picked up on, I (Aaron here) haven’t even mentioned the business yet. Sure, maybe there’s a small turnaround story at play I previously underestimated; if GameStop can grow its online business faster than its retail stores close down (plus benefit from revenue share partnerships with console providers), maybe it can stay alive as a niche retailer. That’s what Chewy founder, Ryan Cohen, and his crew seem to think, and they’re taking on board roles. However, this hope is a far cry from being worth $20+ billion. There’s an interesting question of whether GameStop can opportunistically capture this moment, find a way to raise money, and then use that money to reinvest or acquire in a way it couldn’t do before. That’s classic reflexivity, but I have doubts management can pull it off.

Anyway, nothing on MTM is investment advice and this isn’t either. The bottom line is that 1) internet mobs are unlocking new forms of influence, 2) GameStop is a short-term beneficiary, 3) this has little to do with the underlying business, and 4) we’ll see if management can seize the moment to their advantage. It’s also a good time to re-internalise Isaac Newton’s classic quote: “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” So true! 

Master the Meta is a newsletter focused on analysing the business strategy of the gaming industry. It is run by Aaron Bush and Abhimanyu Kumar. To receive future editions in your inbox sign up here: 

 

Editor

Danielle Partis is editor of PocketGamer.biz and former editor of InfluencerUpdate.biz. She was named Journalist of the Year at the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019, as well as in the MCV 30 under 30 2020. Prior to Steel Media, she wrote about music and games at Team Rock.

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