Apr. 17, 2014, 6:58 PM
- While U.S. physical retail video game sales have been slumping for some time (as shown by NPD's data), SuperData estimates U.S. digital gaming revenue rose 9% Y/Y in March to $936M.
- Revenue for subscription titles such as Activision (ATVI +1.2%) cash cow World of Warcraft fell Y/Y, but download and free-to-play revenue rose. Electronic Arts' (EA -0.1%) much-hyped Titanfall delivered the most digital revenue among "boxed" titles.
- SuperData estimates conversion rates (i.e. the ratio of paying users to total users) for social gaming platforms rose to 2.3% from 1.9% six months earlier. But Zynga (ZNGA +4.4%), which had a Q4 conversion rate of 1.7% and only averages $0.13 per DAU (less than its closest rivals), continues to trail.
- Zynga rallied today after officially launching FarmVille 2: Country Escape (first announced in March) in the App Store and Google Play. Morgan Stanley praised the game's monetization potential last week.
- In spite of widespread concerns about slumping Candy Crush Saga (KING -1.3%) usage, SuperData thinks the game is holding up reasonably well for now. It estimates spending rose 1.2% M/M (3 extra days helped), with mobile MAUs rising 0.3% and social (read: Facebook) MAUs falling 2.1%.
- Other game developers: TTWO, GLUU, KNM, SGAMY
Apr. 4, 2014, 5:23 PM
- Activision's (ATVI) shelf registration paves the way for Vivendi (VIVHY) to halve its remaining stake to 5.8% through a future offering. (S-3)
- At current levels, such a sale would yield Vivendi gross proceeds of $830M. The filing comes 9 months after Vivendi agreed to sell most of a 60% stake in Activision through an $8.2B leveraged recap deal.
- ATVI -0.8% AH
Mar. 13, 2014, 9:28 AM
- BofA/Merrill's Justin Post has upgraded Activision (ATVI) to Buy, and cut archrival Electronic Arts (EA) to Neutral.
- Post sees several catalysts for Activision, including an upcoming Diablo 3 expansion pack, the 2H14 arrival of a World of Warcraft expansion pack and (possibly) a Chinese online version of Call of Duty, and (most notably) the Sep. 9 launch of first-person shooter Destiny, which Activision thinks could be its third billion-dollar franchise.
- His 2015 Activision EPS forecast has been raised to $1.38 from $1.31, and his PT to $25 from $20.
- As for EA, Post sees fewer catalysts following the March 11 Titanfall launch, and "more compelling content" over the next six months from the likes of Activision, Ubisoft, and Sony. Though he thinks EA has strong FY16 (ends March '16) growth potential thanks in part to new Battlefield and Star Wars launches, he doesn't see any titles driving major FY15 upside.
Feb. 7, 2014, 7:15 PM
- More than two decades have passed since Activision (ATVI +14.4%) last traded at current levels, as a Q4 beat, slight dividend hike, World of Warcraft subscriber growth, and game pipeline enthusiasm took precedence over below-consensus 2014 guidance.
- Rivals Electronic Arts (EA +2.8%) and Take-Two (TTWO +2.2%) joined in on the fun. Shares of both companies are roughly $1 removed from their respective 52-week highs.
- BofA/Merrill's Justin Post notes Activision has a history of issuing conservative full-year guidance to start the year, and considers the WoW sub growth a pleasant surprise.
- Wedbush's Michael Pachter is upbeat about a 2014 pipeline that includes updates to WoW and Diablo III, and the launch of anticipated open world first-person shooter Destiny. He thinks the game could produce $500M or more in sales following its September release.
- Activision stated on its CC (transcript) it thinks Destiny could be its third billion-dollar franchise (after Call of Duty and Skylanders), and that it's moving to a 3-year development cycle for Call of Duty titles (three studios take turns launching titles) to allow for better game development.
Feb. 7, 2014, 9:10 AM
Feb. 6, 2014, 4:48 PM
- Activision's (ATVI) guidance is a little soft, but investors don't seem to mind. The game developer expects Q1 revenue of $675M and EPS of $0.09 (below a consensus of $679M and $0.11), and 2014 revenue of $4.6B and EPS of $1.26 (below a consensus of $4.6B and $0.09).
- The company has also announced it's hiking its dividend by a penny to $0.20/share (1.2% yield), and is repaying a $375M term loan.
- Also of note: World of Warcraft subs, declining in recent quarters, managed to rise by 200K in Q4 to 7.8M.
- Console-related sales fell 14% Y/Y in Q4, and made up 64% of revenue. Online subscription sales (9% of revenue, heavily tied to World of Warcraft) fell 27% and made up 9% of revenue; PC sales (5% of revenue) fell 4%, distribution sales (8% of revenue) rose 29%, and all other sales (inc. mobile and toys/accessories) fell 14%.
- North American sales (53% of total) -8% Y/Y, Europe (40% of total) -14%, Asia-Pac (7% of total) -34%.
- R&D spend -11% Y/Y to $197M. Sales/marketing +8% to $239M.
- ATVI +7.1% AH. CC underway. Q4 results, PR.
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Jan. 31, 2014, 4:50 PM
- Less than 18 months after launching The Blast Furnace, the company's first mobile game studio, Activision (ATVI -0.8%) says it's "exploring all our options" regarding the U.K. studio as part of its efforts to align its 2014 resources with "anticipated business requirements."
- The Blast Furnace has been responsible for mobile games Call of Duty: Strike Team and Pitfall!. Compared with Electronic Arts (delivered $124M in mobile revenue last quarter), Activision has maintained a small mobile profile. Activision Publishing chief Eric Hirshberg stated last year he thinks "consoles are still the go-to" for his company.
- More than a few major game developers have struggled to effectively monetize mobile titles in the face of intense competition and fickle consumer tastes. Activision's comments come ahead of its Feb. 6 Q4 report.
Jan. 17, 2014, 9:31 AM
- Electronic Arts' (EA +11%) Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, and FIFA 14 respectively claimed spots #2, #4, and #9 on NPD's December bestseller list for U.S. physical retail game sales. Those rankings are hardly changed from November (#2, #4, and #10). Moreover, EA's total sales through the physical retail channel rose an estimated 47% Y/Y.
- "EA Scores December Hat Trick," reads the title of a bullish Cowen report. The firm thinks NPD's numbers suggest EA has a shot at beating consensus estimates and guidance forecasts when it reports on Jan. 28. Longbow, which had been prepared to cut its EA estimates in response to NPD's numbers, is hiking them instead.
- On the other hand, NPD thinks Activision's (ATVI -0.1%) U.S. physical retail sales fell 40% Y/Y in December, thanks in part to tough Call of Duty comps. Call of Duty: Ghosts was the bestselling title for the second straight month, but Skylanders: Swap Force fell to #10 from #7. Shares +0.9%.
- Take-Two's (TTWO +2%) Grand Theft Auto V, which debuted in September to record sales, fell to #7 from #5. NBA 2K14 rose a spot to #5.
- Altogether, NPD thinks U.S. physical retail game sales, still pressured by a shift to digital channels and mobile gaming, fell 17% Y/Y. That's a little better than November's 24% drop.
- Previous: EA, Activision, Take-Two underperform after GameStop warns
Jan. 14, 2014, 2:27 PM
- Activision (ATVI -1.7%), Electronic Arts (EA +0.3%), and Take-Two (TTWO -1.2%) are underperforming on a strong day for tech stocks after GameStop (GME -19.4%) reported disappointing holiday game sales and issued a Q4 EPS warning.
- Though GameStop saw its new hardware sales (a low-margin business) double Y/Y thanks to the PS4/Xbox One launches, a bigger-than-expected decline in PS3/Xbox 360 game sales led new software sales (high-margin) to drop 22.5% Y/Y. Pre-owned sales rose 7%, and digital sales 15%.
- Compared with peers, Electronic Arts is holding up relatively well thanks to a Credit Suisse upgrade to Outperform. EA reports on Jan. 28, and Take-Two on Feb. 3. If history is any guide, Activision should report in early February.
Jan. 7, 2014, 1:30 PM
- Sony (SNE +0.1%) announces at CES PlayStation 4 end-user sales (i.e. sell-through) reached 4.2M as of Dec. 28. That figure suggests the PS4 soundly outsold the Xbox One (MSFT - 3M+ sales in 2013) last year, and has a good chance of surpassing Sony's target of 5M FY14 (ends March '14) sales.
- Wider distribution - the PS4 is on sale in 53 countries, the One is only available in 13 - has helped Sony's next-gen console outsell Microsoft's. But so has a lower price tag ($399 vs. $499) and the backlash to the used game restriction and Internet access requirements initially planned for the One (before Microsoft backtracked).
- Sony has also announced the launch of PlayStation Now, its anticipated cloud gaming service. The service, which leverages Gaikai's cloud gaming platform, will provide access to PS2/PS3 titles, and (since it's cloud-based) run on everything from home consoles to TV sets to handheld/mobile devices.
- Also announced: a Web-based TV service that will include VOD content and a cloud-based DVR. However, Sony is short on details for now. Intel and others have taken stab at offering such a service, only to be thwarted by content owners and incumbent pay-TV providers.
- PS4 and Xbox One CPU/GPU supplier AMD (AMD +1.6%) is rallying for the second straight day. Game developers are also higher: EA +3.2%. TTWO +3.2%. ATVI +1.6%.
Dec. 13, 2013, 11:08 AM
- NPD estimates U.S. physical retail video game sales fell 24% Y/Y in November, after having risen 12% in October and (thanks to the Grand Theft Auto V launch) 52% in September. The fact many gamers directed their discretionary income towards buying next-gen consoles may have played a role here.
- Electronic Arts (EA +7.2%) investors appear pleased Battlefield 4 came in at #2 on NPD's bestseller list, in spite of the well-publicized bugs and gameplay issues EA is scrambling to address. In addition, Madden NFL 25 is ranked #4 after falling out of the top-10 in October, and FIFA 14 is at #10.
- Activision's (ATVI +0.1%) Call of Duty: Ghosts topped the bestseller list, and Skylanders: Swap Force is ranked #7. Take-Two (TTWO +2%) investors appear content with the fact GTA V came in at #5 after easily topping NPD's list for two months; Take-Two's NBA 2K14 is ranked #6, up one spot from October.
- NPD also states the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in November both in terms of hardware and game sales. But that might simply be the result of an earlier launch (Nov. 15 vs. Nov. 22). Sony claimed 2.1M+ PS4 sales as of Dec. 3, and Microsoft claimed 2M+ Xbox One sales as of Dec. 11.
Dec. 6, 2013, 11:01 AM
- Electronic Arts (EA +4.6%) has recouped the lion's share of the losses it saw yesterday in response to news its DICE unit is halting work on future projects to fix Battlefield 4. The efforts of several analysts to defend the gaming giant are likely helping out.
- While admitting Battlefield 4's game engine needs to be fixed, Piper's Michael Olson deems it unlikely EA's efforts have pulled in teams working other projects, and believes Battlefield 5 will ship in FY15 (ends March '15). Moreover, though he's only assuming 10M Battlefield 5 shipments for FY15 (compared with 13M Battlefield 4 shipments for FY14), Olson thinks EA can deliver more than $4.3B in FY15 revenue (consensus is at $4.23B).
- Pac Crest's Evan Wilson is more cautious. He argues Battlefield 4's disappointing initial sales, lukewarm reviews, and bugs have "lessened the value of the Battlefield franchise and the probability that it can indeed knock Call of Duty (ATVI +1.9%) off its perch." He also thinks they put into question "EA’s decision to standardize on the Frostbite [game] engine."
- Also: EA has launched iOS/Android games for its popular Heroes of Dragon Age strategy combat franchise. Like other EA mobile titles, the games are free to download, and monetized via in-app purchases.
Dec. 5, 2013, 11:44 AM
- With complaints about bugs and connectivity issues piling up for Electronics Arts' (EA -7.3%) recently-launched Battlefield 4, EA's DICE unit (responsible for developing the game) is halting the release of additional Battlefield 4 expansion packs, and is also stopping work on all "future projects," until the game's issues are sorted out.
- EA investors aren't responding well to the news. Without healthy sales of Battlefield 4 and its $50 premium service, EA could struggle to hit its Dec. quarter forecasts. Moreover, DICE's project halts could delay the release of two anticipated titles: Star Wars: Battlefront (due in 2015) and Mirror's Edge 2 (due in 2015/2016).
- Activision (ATVI -2%), whose mainstay Call of Duty franchise is the top rival to EA's Battlefield franchise, is also selling off.
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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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