Tue, Apr. 14, 12:57 PM
- 5 years after the last update to the music game franchise appeared, Activision's (ATVI -0.4%) FreeStyleGames studio is launching a new Guitar Hero title on major consoles and iOS/Android this fall, replete with a new controller (i.e. plastic guitar) and multiplayer modes.
- Initial reactions from testers of the game, known as Guitar Hero Live, have been positive. The shift to a first-person view (on a virtual concert stage) receives high marks, as does the fact the new controller (features 6 fret buttons instead of 5) doesn't require using a pinky finger.
- Also: It looks as if Activision won't be requiring users to buy new titles to get more content. Instead, they can play songs over music videos through a free online service called Guitar Hero TV.
- The Guitar Hero franchise has produced over 25M unit sales over its lifetime, yielding retail revenue of $2B.
Fri, Mar. 13, 5:15 PM
- NPD estimates U.S. physical retail game sales rose 7% Y/Y in February to $338.9M, up from January's 5% growth and better than expected. Hardware sales rose 10% to $378.2M, as next-gen console demand remains healthy. Superdata Research estimates digital game revenue rose just 2% to $995M, thanks to weak mobile and social game sales.
- Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) had a good month: The recently-refreshed 3DS XL handheld was February's top-selling console - Ninetendo says 394K 3DS units were sold - and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (launched on Feb. 13) topped NPD's game rankings.
- Take-Two (NASDAQ:TTWO) also did well: Evolve (launched on Feb. 10) was #2 on NPD's list, GTA V came in at #5 (down from January's #3) ahead of its March 24 PC launch, and NBA 2K15 was at #6 (down from #5). Take-Two recently said it was "very pleased" with Evolve's launch.
- Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare fell two spots to #4, while Destiny (#9 last month) fell out of the top-10. Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:EA) Madden NFL 15 and FIFA 15 also dropped out.
- Piper observes Take-Two and Activision's NPD sales were respectively up 72% and 16% Y/Y in February, and that EA's were down 32% over the first two months of 2015. It maintains Overweight ratings on all 3 firms.
- Take-Two rose 3.9% in regular trading thanks to the numbers. GameStop (NYSE:GME) also got a lift, rising 3.5%. Activision rose 0.9% and EA rose 0.4%.
Fri, Mar. 6, 6:39 PM
- Blackrock Mountain, the latest expansion for Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) popular Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft strategy card game, will "[thrust] Hearthstone players into the middle of a war between powerful forces battling for control of the mountain," and "introduce a slew of new hot-headed bosses to put players dueling skills to the test."
- A trailer video has been provided for the expansion, which becomes available in April on PCs and tablets. Each "wing" will cost either $6.99 or 700 in-game gold; the full expansion can be bought for $24.99. Activision stated in its Q4 CC (transcript) Hearthstone has "attracted more than 25 million registered players" over its lifetime.
- The announcement comes shortly after Blizzard disclosed it's planning a subscription-free payment option for World of Warcraft: Users will be able to buy tokens from WoW's auction house and redeem them for 30 days of game time, as well as sell purchased tokens for in-game gold.
- Token-for-gold swaps will be based on a rate determined by a formula created by Blizzard. The WoW subscriber base has been gradually declining in recent years, though it did rise by 2.6M (to over 10M) in Q4 thanks to the launch of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
Wed, Feb. 11, 11:08 AM
- Worlds (OTCQB:WDDD) has added Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) recently-launched World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to its existing infringement suit (handled by a Massachusetts federal court) against the game developer.
- A ruling on an Oct. 2014 Markman hearing for the suit, which revolves around patents relating to 3D virtual worlds within MMORPGs, is expected soon. Worlds soared shortly after the Markman hearing was held.
Mon, Feb. 9, 7:21 AM
- A state senate bill floating around in Nevada proposes to allow more games of skill than chance on the floors of casinos in the state.
- A passage of the bill could set off a flood of new casino games based off of popular videogames.
- Videogames at casinos are seen as a way to draw in more of the 75M millennials who as a group have shied away from slot machines and games of blind luck.
- The potential also exists to introduce gambling through apps for games in Nevada and create cash tournaments online.
- Related stocks: LVS ,CZR, BYD, MGM, WYNN, SGMS, ATVI, TTWO, EA.
Fri, Feb. 6, 12:27 PM
- Off sharply yesterday after posting mixed Q4 results and offering soft Q1/2015 guidance, Activision (ATVI +1.4%) has erased its losses and then some today.
- Sell-side defenses of the game giant are helping its cause. Wedbush's Michael Pachter: "The company has historically been exceedingly conservative with its guidance, and over the last ten years, has consistently beaten the expectations it sets early in the year ... this year is no different."
- Pachter notes the guidance assumes no contribution from StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void or a still-unnamed title from Activision Publishing, only small contributions from Call of Duty Online and Heroes of the Storm, and flat Call of Duty and Skylanders revenue. He thinks there could be as much as $750M in upside to full-year guidance.
- Brean's Todd Mitchell observes forex and a higher tax rate contributed to the guidance. "While Activision is known for its conservative guidance, it seems exaggerated for 2015 in light of the potential for strong sell through of its major franchises, the positive feedback loop of scale for [downloadable content] including an alluded "mega" digital content offering for Destiny, and strong prospects for Blizzard's free-to-play title."
- In addition, Mitchell expects "the PS4/Xbox One console base to continue to outpace the prior-gen cycle throughout 2015, accelerating consumer preferences towards digital transactions and further consolidating the industry around blockbuster AAA franchises, a segment which Activision now dominates."
- On the CC (transcript), Activision Publishing chief Eric Hirshberg disclosed Destiny "now has over 16 million registered users with a massive audience of active players still averaging over 3 hours of game play per day." Blizzard chief Michael Morhaime mentioned Hearthstone now has over 25M registered users.
Fri, Feb. 6, 9:12 AM
Thu, Feb. 5, 6:34 PM
- Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) expects Q1 revenue of $640M and EPS of $0.05, well below a consensus of $777.7M and $0.18. Full-year guidance (harder to project for a game developer) is for revenue of $4.4B and EPS of $1.15, below a consensus of $4.71B and $1.15.
- The board has authorized a new $750M buyback program. It lasts through Feb. 2017, and is good for repurchasing 5% of shares at current levels. Activision also plans to pay off a $250M term loan; the company had $4.3B in debt at the end of Q4, and $4.8B in cash.
- Thanks to the launch of the Warlords of Draenor expansion pack, the World of Warcraft subscriber base was above 10M at the end of 2014, up from 7.4M at the end of Q3.
- The expansion pack drove a 98% Y/Y increase in online revenue to $398M. However, console revenue fell 15% to $1.22B, thanks to a 48% drop in prior-gen console revenue to $599M; next-gen console revenue more than doubled to $630M. PC game revenue rose 14% to $127M; mobile/other revenue fell 18% to $269M; and distribution revenue rose 6% to $190M.
- 31% and 46% of Q4 and full-year revenue respectively came from digital channels, up from 16% and 36% a year earlier. Q4 GAAP R&D spend fell 7% to $184M, and sales/marketing 3% to $247M.
- Shares have fallen to $20.05 AH.
- Q4 results, PR
Thu, Feb. 5, 4:22 PM
Wed, Feb. 4, 5:35 PM
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Fri, Jan. 16, 10:35 AM
- Activision's (ATVI +6.3%) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare topped NPD's U.S. physical retail game sale rankings for the second month in a row in December. Destiny, which Activision hopes will be its third $1B+ franchise, was #9.
- In a PR, Activision says Advanced Warfare was the "top-selling console game of 2014 globally," and that Destiny was the #2 2014 U.S. console game in terms of revenue. Skylanders was the top kids video game franchise globally (inc. toys/accessories sales), with a 30% sales edge over its biggest rival (presumably Disney's Infinity).
- Electronic Arts' (EA - unchanged) Madden NFL 2015 rose a spot to #3, and FIFA 15 returned to the top-10 (at #10). Take-Two's (TTWO +1.8%) Grand Theft Auto V was at #2 for another month, continuing to get a lift from its next-gen console and PC launches. NBA 2K15 rose three spots to #5.
- NPD estimates total U.S. physical retail game sales fell 2% Y/Y to $1.25B. Hardware sales, facing tougher comps (given next-gen consoles launched in Nov. 2013), fell 4% to $1.31B, with the Xbox One outselling the PS4. Next-gen consoles are performing 65% better than prior-gen consoles had over their first 14 months. GameStop (GME +3%), just three days removed from reporting better-than-expected holiday sales, is reacting favorably to the numbers.
- Superdata Research estimates U.S. digital game spend rose 11% Y/Y in December to $1.2B. Mobile game sales (35% of 2014 sales) rose 17%, and digital console game sales (8% of 2014 sales) 10%.
- EA reports on Jan. 27, Take-Two on Feb. 3, and Activision on Feb. 5.
- Previously: NPD's November data
- Update (2:15PM): EA is now up 1.8%, aided by a 0.8% increase for the Nasdaq. Activision is now up 9.2%, Take-Two 4.2%, and GameStop 4.5%.
Fri, Jan. 16, 9:11 AM
Wed, Jan. 7, 8:08 AM
Dec. 12, 2014, 10:39 AM
- Though Activision's (ATVI -1.5%) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was (as expected) #1 in NPD's November U.S. physical retail game sale rankings, Call of Duty franchise sales were down 27% Y/Y and Activision's total sales down 22%.
- That has led Piper to slash its Activision target by $3 to $24. "Strength in the Blizzard side of the business (WoW & HearthStone) should allow for an in-line Q4, but we are slightly lowering our estimates to now be in-line with company guidance."
- Take-Two (TTWO +3.3%), meanwhile, has rallied towards its 52-week high after Grand Theft Auto V (recently become available on the Xbox One, PS4, and PCs) ranked #2. NBA 2K15 was #8, down one spot from October. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel fell out of the top-10.
- Electronic Arts' (EA +0.5%) Madden NFL 15 rose four spots to #4, but FIFA 15 fell out of the top-10. BofA/Merrill has hiked its targets (I, II) for both EA and Take-Two following NPD's numbers: It's optimistic EA can continue growing margins thanks to growing digital sales and cost controls, and argues Take-Two deserves a multiple similar to EA and Activision's.
- NPD estimates total U.S. physical game sales fell 2% Y/Y in November to $1.09B, a much smaller drop than October's 27%. With next-gen consoles having launched a year ago, hardware sales fell an estimated 23% to $1.01B, with the Xbox One (1.2M sales) outselling the PS4 following a $50 early-November price cut.
- Wedbush's Michael Pachter thinks game sales growth may have been positive after accounting for downloads and the frequent bundling of games with consoles. Meanwhile, Superdata Research estimates total digital game spend rose 23% Y/Y during the Thanksgiving period.
Nov. 20, 2014, 12:06 PM
- After announcing yesterday afternoon World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor had sold 3.3M+ copies following 24 hours of availability, Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) announced today Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (launched on Nov. 3) "is the biggest entertainment launch of the year, besting not only all other video games, but also the biggest movies, music and books launched in 2014."
- Activision adds Advanced Warfare is " the highest-selling digital launch in console history according to Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and internal Activision estimates," and that users played an estimated 370M+ online matches in the week following the game's release.
- Also: Activision says the company has settled a class-action suit related to last year's leveraged recap deal with Vivendi. "Various defendants" and insurance companies will pay $275M.
- Piper (Overweight) thinks the Warcraft and Call of Duty announcements suggest upside to Q4 estimates.
Nov. 19, 2014, 5:53 PM
- Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) reports over 3.3M copies of World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor were sold following the first 24 hours of availability following yesterday's launch. As a result, the WoW subscriber base, which stood at 7.4M at the end of Q3, is back above 10M.
- Draenor, the fifth expansion for WoW, is sold through a $50 standard edition and a $70 deluxe edition. It launched yesterday in North America and Europe (among other places), and is launching today in China and Korea. NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) remains Activision's Chinese WoW partner.
- While reviews have mostly been positive, initial Draenor users have complained about overtaxed servers. Activision/Blizzard is giving them five days of free subscription time to make up for it.
- ATVI +1.2% AH.
Activision Blizzard Inc is an online, personal computer, video game console, tablet, handheld, and mobile game publisher. It has three operating segments: - Activision Publishing, Inc., Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Activision Blizzard Distribution.
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