140. Why small-caps are the place to be in this part of the economic cycle
Simon Moon, manager of the Unicorn UK Smaller Companies fund, tell us why smaller companies are the...
Watching Katherine Ryan’s new Netflix special over the weekend, one part stuck with me – and it wasn’t even part of her comedy routine. It was when she asked a male, Joseph, in the audience what he contributed to the household. His response: “I clean the kitchen.” She prompted him for more and all he could muster up was “I play video games.” I laughed at the sad truth of that statement along with every other female in the audience, while the men sat rather more quietly – my own husband included – as she carried on interrogating poor Joseph.
I acknowledge there are any number of men who are active parts of their households – who have an equal partnership. But globally, 75%* of unpaid work is done by women, who spend between three and six hours per day* on it, compared with an average of thirty minutes to two hours* for a man. Additionally, while housework time is most equal between single men and women; when women start to cohabit, their housework time goes up, while a cohabiting man’s goes down* – regardless of their employment status.
So what exactly are men doing with all their time? Well, according to Joseph, they’re playing video games. And he’s not the only one. We saw this trend when we looked closer at emerging market millennials. So how exactly can we profit from the leisure time of 50% of the population?
‘Every age has its storytelling form, and video gaming is a huge part of our culture. You can ignore or embrace video games and imbue them with the best artistic quality. People are enthralled with video games in the same way as other people love the cinema or theatre.’
– Andy Serkis, English actor
Gaming is a multi-billion pound industry and – my own issues with video games aside – it’s a surprisingly investable area of the tech industry. We tend to think of video games as consoles like PlayStation (Sony) or Xbox (Microsoft), but tech giants such as Google (Alphabet) have announced their expansion into game streaming platforms.
Microsoft, the makers of Xbox, and a top ten holding** in Brown Advisory US Flexible Equity, raced to reveal their Project xCloud game streaming just a week before Google hosted their ‘future of gaming’ event earlier this year. Although no date has been announced for the release, it’s already created a buzz, as the demonstration showed a phone connecting via Bluetooth to an Xbox One controller and the player using their phone for the game instead of the console.
Not to be left out of any tech race, Amazon – a top holding in T. Rowe Price Global Focused Growth Equity** – is also looking to add game streaming to their repertoire. The number of people using global subscription streaming services has doubled over the past two years, according to research by Morgan Stanley***, what’s not to say it won’t cross over into video games streaming.
Can the two millennial trends converge? Mixing video games and online streaming subscriptions means a new kind of content. This means new games and new technology. Unicorn UK Smaller Companies fund invests in Frontier Development**, an award winning computer games designer whose proprietary technology has already led to projects with both Microsoft and Amazon.
In the FundCalibre office virtual reality (VR) is creating a buzz too. While the graphics and VR headsets available aren’t quite there in terms of high resolution or affordability for most consumers, our research analyst James Yardley says VR headsets are going to be the future of gaming – just give it a few more years. With consumer headsets launching back in 2016, the most successful thus far has been the Sony PlayStation VR Headset.
Oculus, a specialist in virtual reality hardware and software products, owned by Facebook (a top ten holding in AXA Framlington American Growth**), now has the Oculus Quest which operates without a PC or wires.
If this is the future of gaming, hopefully a company will also create a VR cleaning game (fingers crossed) and I can arm my husband with a bottle of Domestos (a product owned by Unilever – a top ten holding** in Investec UK Alpha fund) while he’s playing.
But in the meantime, I’ll stick to passive aggressive list-making and try to invest in his pastime rather than resenting it. Just nobody tell him that the UK’s first ever dedicated eSports arena is around the corner at Fulham Broadway station…
*Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez 2018
**Source: fund factsheets, 31 May 2019
***Investors Chronicle 28 June – 4 July