In early 2021, ordinary investors caused major ripples in the stock market during the infamous GameStop short squeeze. Now, the story behind that event is being told in the new documentary, GameStop: Rise of the Players. It’s a fascinating look at a Wall Street play that cost hedge funds billions and made a handful of people very, very rich. However, not everyone was a winner in this story.
To understand what was happening, it’s important to know that short selling is a very common stock market practice. Large investors typically make an arrangement with a lender to borrow shares of a stock and sell them to other buyers. The investors still have to return the stock that they borrowed, but the key to the game is being able to buy the stock back at a lower price to make a significant profit. Essentially, they’re betting against the company and expecting it to lose value. However, the inherent risk is that short sellers are vulnerable to stock price variations. If the price goes up, they can lose a great deal of money when it comes time to repay the lender they borrowed the stocks from.
As depicted in the Rise of the Players trailer, some armchair investors realized the potential to get rich quickly. More importantly, they believed that GameStop stock was incredibly undervalued since the two newest video game consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, had recently launched. Plus, there was also an undeniable urge to stick it to the rich investors by driving up the stock prices to unsustainable highs. Thanks to social media networks, they managed to give Wall Street quite a scare. It even attracted the attention of Congress and captured the imagination of fan investors. And thus, the first meme stock was born.
Unfortunately, not everyone got a happy ending in this story. It’s true that some of the early buyers were able to sell their GameStop stock when the prices were still high. However, late investors who continued to hold GameStop stock as the prices came down to Earth lost a great deal of money themselves. Hedge funds and billionaires can usually withstand those financial setbacks. But for average people with modest savings, it’s completely devastating.
Jonah Tulis directed GameStop: Rise of the Players, which was produced by Blake J. Harris and distrusted by Neon’s Super LTD. The documentary is out now in a select number of theaters across the country.