Activision plays ‘Guitar’ for profit

Videogame sales begin to rebound

As sales of videogames start to rebound, so too is the bottom line of the industry’s largest gamemaker.

Activision Blizzard reported a better-than-expected $15 million profit during the third quarter, helped by the release of titles including “Guitar Hero 5,” “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2” and “World of Warcraft.” It lost $108 million during the year-earlier period.

The company generated $703 million in revenue during the quarter, down a slight 1.1% from last year.

But comparing the company’s quarterly figures isn’t completely fair, considering Activision and Blizzard merged and began operating as one entity during the third quarter last year.

Despite softening sales for music games this year, Activision said it had two of the quarter’s top 10 titles in the U.S., with “Guitar Hero World Tour” and “Guitar Hero 5” on that list, according to NPD Group. It has “DJ Hero” and “Band Hero” out during the fourth quarter.

The new games will introduce newer hits and songs in the hip-hop, rap, techno and dance categories, which should help attract new gamers.

“What we didn’t do in the past was introduce popular music into the mix,” said company chief Robert Kotick. “We were satisfying the demands of classic rock.”

Sales are already up: In September, the music games category in the U.S. grew 72% over last year because of “Guitar Hero 5” and the release of the Beatles edition from MTV’s rival “Rock Band” franchise.

While sales of vidgames are off by 13% so far this year, Activision Blizzard expects its current slate of games, the bow of “Tony Hawk: Ride,” as well as the much-hyped launch of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” — which it aims to make the largest entertainment release of the year — to help reverse sagging sales.

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