Daily Archives: February 21, 2023

The Blizzard Q1 2023 Plan is… Early Diablo IV

After Blizzard’s record setting revenue results in Q4 2022 the big question was; so what will Q1 2023 be like?

Wall Street (and probably Microsoft) only cares about what you’ve done for them lately.  Blizz roared through Q4 on the backs on the late Q3 launch of Wrath Classic, Team Fortress 2 Overwatch 2, and the Dragonflight expansion for WoW.

But the forward looking statements in the financials had Diablo IV in Q2, leaving something of a launch gap in between now and then.  Unless somebody was hoping for Warcraft Arclight Rumble to appear out of nowhere, Q1 looked like it might depend on holding WoW subscribers at all costs and selling more copies of Dragonflight at a discount.

And, honestly, we’re almost to the end of February here, so Blizz has between now and March 31st to make stuff happen for the Q1 results. (And yes, I know that arbitrary timelines are no true measure of a company, but I don’t make the rules.  I’ve just lived through them for the last 30+ years.)

So this past week Blizzard came out and announced that Diablo IV would be available in March for early access and open beta weekends. (All the details here)

It is coming in March

Is it just me, or is it weird that early access is before open beta?  I feel like that is not the way things should work… but, as noted, I don’t make the rules!

All you need to do in order to join in on this early look at the game is BUY A COPY NOW!

The most expensive one is pre-selected, in case you were wondering which option Blizz favors

Also, I guess they had early access and open beta in mind… and in that order… back when they announced the June 6th launch date.

So yeah, they are clearly looking to boost those Diablo IV sales right now dammit.

“But Wilhelm,” I hear you asking, “What good is this push to get people to pre-order in Q1 if they can’t recognize revenue on any of this until they ship on June 6th?”

Yeah… I mean, I can imagine a scenario where they might try to sneak “early access” in as a product delivery for the sake of revenue recognition, but that seems likely to be challenged.  If it were that easy the CFO at a company I used to work for wouldn’t have been subjected to an FTC investigation for fudging revenue numbers before an IPO. (Though that was back in the 90s when the FTC still pretended to give a shit.)

But here’s the thing.  As Blizzard has been demonstrating with their perfunctory quarterly earnings announcements, they’re not really worried about the market and what Wall Street thinks.  Microsoft already has an offer on the table at a set per share value for Activision Blizzard, and that has a lot more influence on the stock price than Blizzard botching Q1 by once again not having anything new to ship.

No, the only audience that Activision Blizzard needs to impress is Microsoft, and they can go to Redmond and say, “Sure, Irvine didn’t do so well on the Q1 results, but look at all the pre-orders and interest they have built up for Diablo IV.  Look at all those sales on XBox!”

Hell, if you were to believe a word Bobby Kotick said, you might think that the Microsoft acquisition could be a done deal before Activision Blizzard even has to announce their Q1 2023 financials.  Yes, they’ll still have to do it, but if you think their current reports have been perfunctory, I suspect we’ll hit a new level of not giving a shit about any audience beside Microsoft.

And if they close the deal before June 6th it won’t even matter if Diablo IV ships late.  Activision Blizzard will be part of the Microsoft financial numbers and they’ll disappear, absorbed into general line items that will make even their final kiss-off report seem like a wealth of information about the company.

So we shall see how it goes.  But Blizz would like you to please go buy a copy of Diablo IV.