Activision | Blizzard 4th Quarter Earnings Call Highlights
For those of you unaware, Activision and Blizzard merged and became one company. That company is called Activision | Blizzard.
With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 dubbed “the largest launch in entertainment history”, World of Warcraft maintaining its position as #1 subscription based MMORPG, and numerous franchises like Guitar Hero, Diablo, DJ Hero, and Starcraft all under one umbrella, it is no surprise that this company is sitting pretty. In fact they are the top third-party publisher in the United States and EU. What I really want to know, as a owner of Starcraft, Warcraft, Modern Warfare 2, Diablo 2, and perspective buyer of future Activision Blizzard titles, is what are their plans for the future? What will they do the same as usual and what will they do different?
Prepare yourself to go deep into the corporate mind of Activision | Blizzard as we sit in on their Fourth Quarter ’09 Conference that was held today where it was revealed that not only has ’09 been a great year for the company but many of their specific plans for 2010 solidify their successful position going forward as well. It should be noted that the statements made are not set in stone as they are referring to the future and may change at any time, however I still feel some perspective has been gained from this conference on the future of not only the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises but also Guitar Hero, Starcraft, DJ Hero, and True Crime franchises.
It may seem a tad on the dry side at first glance. We probe deeper beyond the large numbers showing tons of money earned. We find more numbers breaking down 200 million estimated potential customers by December 31st 2010 in US and EU across PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and handhelds. Then we begin to find the voice of the company which praises Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s success and credits the “excellent game quality, retail and marketing execution, and favorable competitive environment” for that success. One thing gamers already know is that Activision plans to continue releasing 1 or 2 Call of Duty games a year. The conference echoes this sentiment once further but furthermore states a planned “selling in” to the largest franchise audience to date. Does this mean they will start putting Nazi zombies in every Call of Duty out there, and listen to many other fan recommendations soon? It seems likely, or did they simply commit a typo and mean to say “selling out”. Only time will tell. With a arguably fair sized chunk of Call of Duty fans are steamed the next two games in the franchise are already in progress, this could also be an opportunity for Activision to give those same fans the innovation they’ve been demanding.
In the world of Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games, it must feel good up there at top of the music genre in gaming. DJ Hero is the most successful new intellectual property of 2009, and it should be no surprise that there will be more Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games this year. Activision is taking the hint from fans by reducing the number of different music games they put out and instead broadening the audience to each one.
World of Warcraft, with an estimated 11..5 million subscribers, is being innovated in many ways this year. Innovations to the Battle.net communications capabilities that will allow cross-communications across World of Warcraft realms, as well as other current and future online games, will give Blizzard fans a way to get in touch even they don’t agree on which Blizzard game is the best! World of Warcarft: Cataclysm expansion is planned to innovate the game in many ways that will benefit veteran and new players alike. Activision | Blizzard is also planning to release the Wrath of Lich King expansion pack to World of Warcraft in China soon.
As far as StarCraft II goes, it’s coming! It will undoubtedly be one of the most anticipated PC exclusives of all time and deliver over head strategy junkies an everlasting fix as well as continue the religion that is StarCraft. Blizzard is expecting massive growth from this game and are releasing it on disc as well as digitally distributing it via download on the Battle.net site. There are a plethora of reasons this game will be immensely popular to gamers of all walks, but one of the unique features I’m personally interested in is the built-in capability to sell and buy user-created content. This means that making your own content to StarCraft II will not only reward you with potentially infinite replay value, but also might make you a little video game cash on the side! Definitely a title to look out for if you have any PC RTS (Real-Time Strategy) gaming skills whatsoever, or are a hardcore gamer interested in making some maps for cash with what will hoepfully be a legit, hassle-free system.
Last but not least Activision | Blizzard talks about its plans to release “new and exciting” downloadable content, especially for its popular Call of Duty franchise! With such a forward looking company strategy and the idea of selling in to fans ideas a major possibility, could we be on the verge of a rebirth for the Call of Duty franchise via unexpected original DLC and installments? Maybe we are in for something new from the top shooter on the market, instead of being fed more of the same old, same old. While we watch World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion pack, StarCraft II, and most likely new Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games release this year we should keep our eye out on how much has changed and how much has stayed the same for these intellectual properties. After all, we shouldn’t continue to buy the same games over and over with little innovation. That is why they invented updates and DLC for games. Hopefully this conference let us in on the idea that yes, they are thinking what you’re thinking. Time to step it up! Look out for this industry leader as this insanely packed year in gaming progresses. It will be nothing short of enormous by the time Activision | Blizzard has made their contribution to gaming in 2010.