Yesterday Activision-Blizzard did their quarterly earnings call. The recording for it, plus the slide deck, are available here.
The overall message was that revenue was less than last year, but better than projected. Three of the five “Strong Product Performance” bullet points in the opening were for World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Hearthstone, followed by Skylanders and Call of Duty. The main future outlook for the Activision side of the house is on Bungie’s Destiny, about which huge dollar numbers are being thrown about, both in terms of sales projections and development costs. Activision is betting heavily on a Halo-like success here. It is slated for launch on the 15th anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast launch, so it has that mojo going for it.
The Blizzard slide ran down four of the key products in their portfolio.
On the WoW front, subscriptions dipped from 7.8 million to 7.6 million, which is a fairly modest change given some of the past “would kill any other MMO franchise” sized drops. I was wondering back in February, when the numbers were last announced as going up from 7.6 million to 7.8 million, if Blizzard getting a Warlords of Draenor pre-order out in March might help support subscription numbers. I guess, maybe, that it might have. But now a million people have bought the pre-order, have their insta-90s, and… now what? I expect that we will see a more significant dip for Q2 and Q3 unless Blizzard has a surprise to spark interest in the game.
The forward looking statement about the Warlords of Draenor launch being in the second half of 2014 seems a bit disingenuous after Blizzard has already put the date in the fall, heavily emphasizing that Fall lasts until December 20th. Still, I am sure somebody out there will read this and think it might mean an earlier launch. Given that we’re still in the “soon” phase for alpha, I find no reason to think the WoD is being pulled in.
Blizzard itself has been busy telling people about the changes coming for the 6.0 pre-WoD patch… a gating item for the expansion… and how to get tickets for BlizzCon, which will no doubt sell out in the first few minutes of availability.
Otherwise, Diablo III was praised for launching a successful expansion. Hearthstone was noted as a new launch, but is too new to have had any real financial impact as yet. And then Heroes of the Storm was pointed out as an upcoming title, currently in limited alpha. No mention of StarCraft II and the Legacy of the Void expansion, which has no target date right now. Of course, we just got Heart of the Swarm last year, putting the SC2 expansion cycle on something close to a 3 year clock. So, it could be worse for WoW players.
And so the world turns.