All in all, it was a mixed financial quarter for the folks
at Activision. Earnings per share were higher than expected, but revenue fell
short – which was somewhat shocking for a company that has a reputation for
always meeting or beating the guidance it gives investors. The real story of
yesterday’s earnings announcement, though, was the force that digital downloads
have become for the company.
For the first time, Activsion’s revenue from digital sales
topped that of retail sales, as “Modern Warfare 2” continued to flex is
According to Activision execs, total sales of “MW2” map
packs year-to-date are high enough that they would rank as one of the year’s top 5 selling games. And if you add map pack sales with the copies of the game that
are still being sold at retail, “Modern Warfare 2’s” revenue would top “Red
Dead Redemption,” 2010’s top-seller so far.
All totaled, Activision says it sold more than 5 million
“Call of Duty” map packs during the quarter – the equivalent of between $50
million and $75 million in revenue.
Digital will be increasingly important to Activision this
year, as free trial periods of “Starcraft II” come to an end in Korea and
Taiwan, which should significantly increase sales of those titles. (Management
also said initial sales of the real-time strategy game were more than double
that of “World of Warcraft,” which certainly bodes well for the long-term power
of the game, as well as the two upcoming sequels/add-ons.)
Other tidbits from yesterday’s announcement:
Studios is now almost entirely focused on working on their next franchise,
which Activision will publish. Work on “Halo: Reach” has, for the most
part, wrapped up.
Crime: Hong Kong” has been pushed back to 2011 to give developers more
time to work on the game. (This is notable as Activision very rarely delays games – and the “True Crime” franchise historically hasn’t been a top
the work it’s doing on new “Starcraft” installments, a new “Diablo” game
and the upcoming “World of Warcraft” expansion, Blizzard Entertainment is
working on an “entirely new” intellectual property, which will be a
massively multiplayer game. (Blizzard has been working on that game for
over three years now – but yesterday’s announcement kills speculation that it will be an MMO centered around “Starcraft”.)