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Activision Blizzard, Inc (ATVI)

- NASDAQ
  • Thu, May 7, 3:14 PM
    • After trading lower in after-hours action and today's premarket following yesterday's Q1 earnings report, Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) has risen 5.1% in today's trade as analysts look to game momentum and raise price targets.
    • Q1 got a boost from the company's franchise successes in Call of Duty and Hearthstone, and now eyes turn to the June 2 release of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's response to Riot Games' League of Legends and an entry into a lucrative "multiplayer online battle arena" genre.
    • The company provided some light Q2 guidance, but that could turn around depending on the new game, which is free to play but features in-game payments to unlock items, and which has 11M signups for a closed beta test.
    • Baird, Cowen, Piper Jaffray, Barclays and Sterne Agee CRT all raised price targets to $27. Shares are trading today at $24.38.
    • On the company's earnings call, it hinted at aggressive plans for content around its Destiny release, including "content being dropped throughout the summer" and "then in the fall we will have a major release, which will be the biggest addition to the universe yet, across all modes of play." The company claims 20M registered players for Destiny.
    • Piper's Michael Olson points to recent and upcoming releases, including a new Guitar Hero and the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 entry in November: "Management has historically under-promised and over-delivered."
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  • 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%.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Fri, Feb. 6, 9:12 AM
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  • 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
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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%.
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  • Fri, Jan. 16, 9:11 AM
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Nov. 14, 2014, 5:35 PM
    • After coming in at #1 in NPD's September U.S. retail video game rankings (following a blockbuster Sep. 9 launch), Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Destiny fell to #5 in October. Take-Two's (NASDAQ:TTWO) NBA 2K15, which launched on Oct. 7, took its place at the top.
    • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, launched by Take-Two on Oct. 14, was #4. Skylanders Trap Team, which Activision released on Oct. 2, was #6.
    • Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:EA) FIFA 15 and Madden NFL 15 were #7 and #8, down from #3 and #2 in September. The Sims 4 fell out of the top-10, as did Activision's Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.
    • Altogether, NPD estimates U.S. physical retail game sales fell 27% Y/Y to $350.3M. They were down 36% in September, thanks in part to tough comps caused by last year's GTA V launch. Xbox One/PS4 demand led console sales to rise 59% to $273.6M; Microsoft cut One prices by $50 early in November.
    • The digital transition continues: SuperData Research estimates U.S. digital game spending rose 12% Y/Y in October to $957M.
    • Activision's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launched on Nov. 3, and should be at or near the top of NPD's November rankings. Metacritic gives the game a score of 77/100.
    • ATVI -1.2% in regular trading. TTWO +2.5%. EA +0.1%.
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  • Nov. 5, 2014, 9:16 AM
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  • Oct. 17, 2014, 1:55 PM
    • With last year's Grand Theft Auto V (TTWO +0.3%) launch skewing comps, NPD estimates U.S. physical retail video game sales fell 36% Y/Y in September to $481.2M, a worse decline than August's 21% drop.
    • The ongoing spending shift towards digital channels naturally contributed to the drop as well: SuperData Research estimates digital game spend rose 8.6% Y/Y in September to $873M.
    • Hardware spend rose 136% Y/Y (up from August's 116%) thanks to next-gen console demand: NPD thinks PS4 sales nearly tripled from August levels with the help of Sony's (SNE +1.8%) Destiny bundle, and outpaced Xbox One sales yet again. GameStop (GME +2.7%) investors approve of the numbers.
    • Electronic Arts (EA +4.5%) is rallying after Madden NFL 15, FIFA 15, NHL 15, and The Sims 4 respectively came in at #2, #3, #6, and #8 on NPD's top-10 list. Of the four games, only Madden was on the August list (#1 in its launch month). Battlefield 4 (#9 in August) fell out of the top-10.
    • As expected, Activision's (ATVI -0.5%) Destiny was #1. But Diablo III: Reaper of Souls fell to #10 from #2, and Call of Duty: Ghosts (#5 in August) dropped out of the top-10. Activision, like Take-Two, is sitting out a market rally.
    • EA reports on Oct. 28, Take-Two on Oct. 29, Sony on Oct. 31, and Activision on Nov. 4.
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  • Aug. 29, 2014, 11:29 AM
    • Take-Two (TTWO +4.1%) president Karl Slatoff says his company is weighing the pros and cons of bringing Grand Theft Auto to the big screen. He adds Take-Two doesn't think a weak box office showing would hurt the GTA game franchise.
    • Dan Houser, the co-founder of GTA developer Rockstar Games, also appears open to doing a GTA movie. However, he insists Rockstar would want to make the film on its own.
    • Benchmark's Mike Hickey thinks a GTA film makes sense, and that it could compel Activision (ATVI +0.3%), rumored to be hatching plans for its own movie studio, to acquire Take-Two.
    • Hickey calls an Activision/Take-Two deal a "no-brainer," given Take-Two's developer talent, IP, and low valuation. He notes Activision can lower its business volatility by staggering Rockstar, Bungie, and Blizzard releases, and that Take-Two could help offset World of Warcraft's ongoing decline and Skylanders competition from Disney.
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  • Aug. 5, 2014, 5:55 PM
    • Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) expects Q3 revenue of $975M and EPS of $0.11 vs. a consensus of $893.3M and $0.13. Full-year guidance (a little harder to project) is for revenue of $4.7B and EPS of $1.29, slightly below a consensus of $4.71B and $1.31.
    • Revenue from digital channels grew 26% Y/Y in Q2 to $481M, overshadowing a 41% drop in retail channel revenue to $111MM. Distribution channel revenue grew 78% to $66M.
    • Console revenue fell 18% Y/Y to $201M, but PC revenue rose 201% to $131M (boosted by Diablo III). Online rose 4% to $201M. Mobile/other remains a soft spot, declining 34% to $59M; EA had $120M in calendar Q2 mobile revenue.
    • The World of Warcraft sub base fell by 800K Q/Q to 6.8M; the decline was "disproportionately concentrated in the East." That could be a negative for Chinese WoW partner NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES).
    • GAAP costs/expenses +6% to $660M. Activision notes Call of Duty: Ghosts remains the top-selling game on next-gen console in North America and Europe combined.
    • Q2 results, PR
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  • Jul. 18, 2014, 2:07 PM
    • After rising 57% Y/Y in May due to new game launches, U.S. retail physical game sales fell 3% in June to $286.8M, per NPD. But with June 2013 having a stronger launch title lineup, that figure was better than expected. Sales were also still up over 4% from a May level of $274M.
    • Ubisoft's (OTCPK:UBSFY) Watch Dogs was the top-selling title for the second month in a row. Electronic Arts' (EA +3.1%) UFC (launched on June 3) was #4, and FIFA 14 (receiving a World Cup boost) was #5. Titanfall (#8 in May) fell out of the top-10.
    • Activision's (ATVI +1.2%) Call of Duty: Ghosts rose 2 spots to #8. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (#6 in May) dropped out of the top-10.
    • Take-Two's (TTWO +4.1%) NBA 2K14 (boosted by playoff interest) rose a spot to #6, and GTA V came in at #10. Nintendo's (OTCPK:NTDOY) Mario Kart 8 and Tomodachi Life were respectively #2 and #9.
    • With the help of Microsoft's cheaper Xbox One package, hardware sales rose 106% Y/Y to $292.7M. Together with the software numbers, that's providing a lift to GameStop (GME +4.4%).
    • EA reports on July 22, while Activision and Take-Two both report on August 5.
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Company Description
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.