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Activision Blizzard sales, earnings helped by a handful of games

Strong sales of supplemental online content for Call of Duty: Black Ops as well as the popularity of two Blizzard Entertainment titles — World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty — propelled a 19% jump in revenue and a 53% leap in profits for the Santa Monica publisher.

August 04, 2011|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

Despite owning a broad portfolio of game franchises, Activision Blizzard Inc. continues to rely on a handful of titles from Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine and the Call of Duty franchise for much of its sales and profits.

The Santa Monica game publisher said its second-quarter revenue of $1.15 billion was up 19% from $967 million a year earlier, thanks to strong sales of supplemental online content for its Call of Duty: Black Ops, as well as the popularity of two Blizzard titles, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty.

Activision's income of $335 million for the quarter was 53% higher than the $219 million it earned a year earlier. The company credited some of the increased profit to Blizzard, whose online games were generally more profitable than traditional, disc-based console games.

Its shares, which gained 13 cents Wednesday to close at $11.82, rose an additional 22 cents to $12.04 in after-hours trading after the earnings release.

The quarter was not expected to be a big performer for Activision, which put out just three new titles in that period, including Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Wipeout in the Zone and an online-only release of additional content for its Call of Duty: Black Ops console game, which came out in November.

The Transformers game, based on the summer movie blockbuster that pulled in more than $1 billion in box-office receipts, sold a disappointing 100,000 copies in June. Wipeout, based on the ABC television show, sold fewer than 40,000 copies.

Activision did not say how many copies it had sold of the latest Call of Duty online content, but said that the franchise has sold more than 14 million copies of downloadable content at roughly $10 a pop during the first six months of this year.

"What's carrying the day for them is continued sales of Call of Duty and digital sales," said Matthew Jacob, senior leisure analyst at ITG Investment Research Inc. in New York. "Activision is the epitome of pushing fewer, bigger games."

alex.pham@latimes.com

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