Daily Archives: October 30, 2020

Blizzard Hangs On During a Quiet Q3

We got the 2020 Q2 financial results for Activision Blizzard yesterday, and it confirmed that the video game market is still doing pretty well.

Overall the combined company had a very good Q3 2020, well up over last year, though much of the good news came from the Activision side of the house, where they were still riding the Q2 Call of Duty launch for all it was worth.  The company is even talking about hiring 2,000 more people to keep up with demand.  That is a long way from the 2018 results when they were cutting staff.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2020 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

The Activision team was up almost 3x over their Q3 2019 net revenue.

Blizzard, while up, was only up a small amount over Q3 2020.  However, Q3 2020 was the start of the Blizzard revival where, after two quarters in the doldrums, WoW Classic launched and revived their fortunes.

Meanwhile, Q3 2020 was in something of limbo state as the Shadowlands expansion was slated for a Q4 launch.  There was little new to entice people players back.  There wasn’t even the expansion pre-patch to raise some excitement.

But the slide deck rightly looks for Q4 2020 to be a big deal.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2020 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

Blizzard got the Shadowlands pre-patch out earlier this month, unveiling the big level squish for all to see and experience.  And now we have a date for the start of the expansion pre-launch events, November 10th, and the launch of the expansion itself, November 23rd.  Blizzard will be able to recognize revenue on all those pre-orders the day it launches.   The is usually a pretty big ka-ching moment.

However, outside of World of Warcraft there isn’t a lot of big news.  Hearthstone carries on, with a new expansion on the way.

Overwatch remains popular, though a year after the Overwatch 2 announcement it doesn’t feel like much has changed.  I flagged Overwatch 2 as one of the “big four” announcements at BlizzCon 2019, but I don’t pay enough attention to the game to know what has gone on since then, except for the fact I haven’t seen any headlines about it lately.

Diablo IV remains somewhere in the distant future.  I think I said 2022 last year when it was finally announced, and I might have been optimistic with that call.

And then there is Diablo Immortal, perpetually in some new stage of testing, but never quite ready to launch.  It can’t fail it they never release it I guess.

So Q4 is almost guaranteed to be big for Blizz, but unless Shadowlands gets more traction than Battle for Azeroth did, there isn’t a lot else to depend on after that.  For all the other franchises, it is still WoW that carries the load.

You can, as always, find all the numbers over at the Activision Blizzard investor relations page.

SuperData Says September Superb for Crusader Kings 3

It is time for the monthly look at SuperData Research’s digital revenue chart.  The September version was made available last week and it heralds another banner month for video game revenue.

  • Digital games earned $10.7B in September 2020, up 14% year-over-year. Games earned more across all platform types than during the same period in 2019. Mobile revenue was up 9%, PC rose by 8% and console earnings increased 40% as major fall titles began to hit the market.

The chart itself shows some of those fall titles.

SuperData Research Top 10 – September 2020

On the PC end of the chart, the usual order has been restored to the perennial top four, with League of Legends back on top.

However, it is fifth place that is interesting, as it sees Crusader Kings III from strategy game developer Paradox make it onto the list.

  • Crusader Kings III from Paradox broke records for PC strategy games, selling 1.1M digital units in September. The medieval dynasty simulator sold more units in its launch month than either Total War: Three Kingdoms from Sega or Sid Meier’s Civilization VI from 2K. Crusader Kings III did earn slightly less at launch than its closest competitors because it was priced at $49.99 instead of the more common $59.99.

A pretty big deal for what seemed like a slow motion medieval reality TV simulator to some (okay, maybe that is just me), but it is good to see it break into the list on launch. I’ll be interested to see how it fares in the Steam charts come the end of the year.

Following CK3 was World of Tanks, returning to the list after a month away, Roblox, in seventh place as it last month, and World of Warcraft, which moved up two spots since August, no doubt due to anticipation related to the coming expansion… anticipation that was thwarted when the expansion was delayed.

After that comes Fortnite and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to round out the list.

On the console column NBA 2K21 drove to the top of the list.

  • NBA 2K21 was the top-earning title of the month, selling 1.9M digital units. Digital console sales were up 19% over NBA 2K20 at launch, and in-game revenue similarly increased by 8%. The game benefited from the rescheduling of the delayed NBA postseason. In August, NBA 2K20 also performed better than usual thanks to the return of the NBA on TV.

That was followed by the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, proving once again that nostalgia pays.

  • Nostalgia was a powerful sales driver in September. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 from Activision Blizzard sold 2.8M digital units, a significantly higher launch figure than the publisher’s previous remakes of Crash Bandicoot or Spyro games. Also in September, Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D All-Stars sold 1.8M digital units, which was by far the biggest launch ever for a Mario title on Switch.

Then there was Marvel’s Avengers, which also sold a lot of units, followed by Super Mario 3D All-Stars, mentioned above along with Tony Hawk.

With a pack of new titles dominating the console chart, Grand Theft Auto V fell to tenth position, the lowest I can recall ever seeing the perennial survivor.

On the mobile end of the chart there is Free Fire, the title from Singapore that popped onto the charts in third place back in July, then moved into second in August, now at the top.  Pokemon Go held in strong in second place, still ahead of Honour of Kings and the Chinese version of PUBG Mobile, Peacekeeper EliteCandy Crush Saga, my bellwether title, came in at seventh position.

Here is where I would normally put the NPD top ten in order to compare the above to US console and PC retail sales.  However, NPD has stopped sharing that data.  I am going to guess that the pandemic, which has pushed digital sales, had something to do with that.  They missed a couple of months earlier this year and now appear to have decided to stop sharing altogether.

So, instead, I will just wrap up with two additional bullet points from the September report:

  • In September, the mobile version of Among Us reached nearly as many players as Pokémon GO did during the peak of its popularity in August 2016. While the indie game originally launched in July 2018, interest in the game skyrocketed during the past summer as popular Twitch streamers took up the game. However, the high player numbers have remained subdued as in-game spending was limited to a handful of cosmetic items and the ability to remove ads. The game’s mobile revenue was not enough for it to break into the top 40 on mobile. Earnings were, however, still extremely high for a game made by only three developers.
  • Rocket League’s transition to a free-to-play business model paid off for developer Psyonix (now a subsidiary of Epic Games). Player numbers nearly tripled in September, up 193% a week after the shift. Revenue-wise, total digital sales from September 23 to 30 (when the game was free to play) nearly matched the three previous weeks. The game’s esports ecosystem should also benefit from a boost in potential viewers on streaming platforms such as Twitch.

That one about Among Us is timely, since on Saturday I was posting about some rando from the games industry who wanted streamers to pay to stream games.  This shows the power that streamer can have.