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Posts with tag Activision-Blizzard

World of Warcraft down to 6.8 million subscribers

According to today's Activision Blizzard earnings call, World of Warcraft is down to 6.8 million subscribers. That's a loss of 800,000 subscribers since the previous quarter. Once more, the losses are said to have occurred primarily in the Eastern market.

We think it's safe to say a year without any new content carries the bulk of the blame for these losses. Historically, since WoW's subscriber peak in 2011, content droughts tend to see the largest drop in subscribers. It's also safe to say some of the losses will return with the release of Warlords of Draenor, though it's unlikely that all lost subscribers will be recovered -- and it remains to be seen how long recovered subscriptions will hang around.

Filed under: News items

Activision-Blizzard sues over StarCraft II cheats

Activision Blizzard logo
On May 19th Blizzard filed a suit with the Central District of California over the practice of players who create cheats for multiplayer mode in StarCraft II. In particular, the suit names the "ValiantChaos MapHack" as one of, but not the only, hack being targeted by the litigation. The suit claims that the cheats undermine the nature of multiplayer gameplay and "disrupt or impair the online experience for purchasers of the computer game."

The suit targets the programmers behind the hacks, demanding compensation for the copyright infringement inherent in the cheats' modifications of the game. As noted in the BBC report, this lawsuit recalls a similar one from 1990s, wherein Nintendo unsuccessfully sued the creators of the Games Genie, also on the grounds of copyright violation. That lawsuit, however, took place in the days before widespread online multiplayer gaming environments, and it will be interesting to see how much, or how little, this case echoes that one.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, StarCraft 2

World of Warcraft down to 7.6 million subscribers

Today's Activision Blizzard investor call, covering the first quarter of 2014, revealed that World of Warcraft stands at 7.6 million subscribers. That's a 200,000 subscriber drop as of the most recent call, which set subscribers at 7.8 million.

All things considered, that seems to be a mild drop for the state of the game -- players collectively waiting for Warlords of Draenor without so much as an ETA.

Filed under: News items

Activision Vivendi injunction lifted by Delaware Supreme Court

A few weeks ago we reported on the holdup of the Activision-Blizzard buyback from Vivendi, due to court action on behalf a few stockholders. In September, an Activision stockholder sued Activision in the Delaware Cancery Court to prevent the deal from going forward. The lawsuit argued that the deal as it stood would give Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairman Brian Kelley too much control over the company, to the detriment of other stockholders. As of today, the Delaware Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Activision-Blizzard's appeal of the lawsuit. As a result, Activision-Blizzard looks to have the buyback completed by October 15th, 2013.

The buyback will move forward as originally intended, with Activision-Blizzard as a company acquiring around 429 million shares from Vivendi, and the private investment group ASAC II LP simultaneously acquiring about 172 million shares. The total buyback is worth over US$8 billion.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Activision-Blizzard split from Vivendi halted

As reported in July, Activision-Blizzard made the move to separate itself from majority shareholder Vivendi Universal by buying itself back to the tune of over 8 billion dollars in total. About a week after the announcement, shareholder Todd Miller filed a complaint against Activision-Blizzard for doing so. Earlier this month, shareholder Douglas Hayes instigated a lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard to stop the sale, alleging that the company's CEO, chairman, and a handful of investors will benefit disproportionately from the sale. As a result, the deal is now halted for the time being.

The lawsuit hinges around the fact that the Activision-Blizzard buyback from Vivendi is actually a two-part share acquisition. The first part involves Activision-Blizzard, as a company, purchasing around 429 million shares from Vivendi. The second part -- which was the subject of Todd Miller's complaint and is at the center of the lawsuit -- involves the private investment vehicle ASAC II LP, headed by Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairmain Brian Kelly, concurrently purchasing around 172 million shares from Vivendi. Hayes v. Activision-Blizzard alleges that the approval of the second sale represents a "breach of of [Activision-Blizzard and Vivendi's] fiduciary duties" and violates "certain provisions of the Company's certificate of incorporation" because it failed to submit the sale's approval to a non-Vivendi stockholder vote.

For its part, Activision-Blizzard seems to view the halt as merely a setback, and intends to continue forward with the buyback. As per the following statement Activision-Blizzard "remains committed to the transaction and is exploring the steps it will take to complete the transaction as expeditiously as possible."

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Activision Blizzard to take a stand on violent video game research

We may not know just what political stance Activision Blizzard has decided to take on the issue of S.134: The Violent Content Research Act of 2013, but we do know the company has hired lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to lobby the Senate over it. The bill calls for the National Academy of Sciences to study the correlation between children playing violent video games or watching violent video content and violent behavior -- and could be a stepping stone towards more legislation aimed at restricting game sales.

There have already been studies on video games and violent behavior, but the results have been mixed: ask a dozen experts and you'll get a dozen different opinions on how violent content might affect violent behavior. To this end, the bill also calls for study to identify gaps in current research. However, it's questionable whether more research will give us a real answer or just more mixed signals. In the meanwhile, game-makers are definitely edgy about how this could impact their bottom line... which is probably why Activision Blizzard has jumped on the lobbying bandwagon.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

MMOs don't work in the US says Take-Two Interactive

At the Cowen and Company Technology, Media and Telecom Conference this week, Take-Two Interactive's chairman Strauss Zelnick told crowds that MMOs just don't work in North America. "How many MMOs have been successful in the US?" Strauss mused. "Two: World of Warcraft and EverQuest." This is why Take-Two is focusing on Asian markets for its own massively multiplayer games and why, Zelnick suggested (without mentioning anyone by name), Blizzard had to reboot development of their own Project Titan.

However, while WoW's numbers have had a much-ballyhooed decline, its current 8.3 million subscribers is nothing to sneeze at. But does America's poor track record with MMOs mean Titan is doomed before it's even managed to get a release date? Zelnick and Take-Two seem fairly certain MMOs don't have a future, but we intend to wait and see.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

Bobby Kotick is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the U.S.

Activision Blizzard head honcho Bobby Kotick was one of the highest-paid CEOs in America last year, Bloomberg reports. Earning $64.9 million -- $55.9 million in of it in stock which he'll vest over the next 5 years, so he isn't just pocketing all of it in cash -- puts Kotick behind Oracle's Larry Ellison, America's top-paid CEO, who earned $96.2 million in 2012. Looking to other game industry execs, Kotick's nearest comparison would be EA's former CEO John Riccitiello, who resigned in March, but made $9.5 million in 2012.

So why the pay raise, an eight-fold increase over Kotick's $8.33 million salary in 2011? It's part of Kotick's new employment contract, which included big bonuses tied to corporate performance. If Activision Blizzard continues to do well, Kotick will keep earning big dollars -- if he hits the highest performance targets, he could be making even more this year.

[Update: Clarified Kotick's stock vesting]

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Is Activision Blizzard overly reliant on core titles?

Is Activision Blizzard overly reliant on core titles
An Activision Blizzard Amended Investor Report was discovered yesterday by VG247, OXM reports. The report itself makes interesting reading, particularly the risks section. Firstly, though, a word of warning. It is good practice in Financial Services to have a grasp of potential risks to your business, forward-looking and current, in order to address them. In order to calculate for risk, and act, it is necessary to identify it. Only then can steps be taken toward mitigation.

And Activision Blizzard has done a thorough job. The "risks" section is 13,000 words long, so we cannot cover it in full, but one of the more interesting aspects of it is the company's reliance on core titles for their revenue. For example, quoting from the report:
"Revenues associated with the World of Warcraft franchise accounted for 61%, 90%, and 89% of Blizzard's net revenues for the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011, and 2010, respectively." (page 11)
And, furthermore, also from the report:
According to The NPD Group, the top 10 titles accounted for 30% of the sales in the U.S. video game industry in 2012 as compared to 26% in 2011. Similarly, a significant portion of our revenues has historically been derived from video games based on a few popular franchises and these video games are responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of our profits. For example, our four largest franchises in 2012-Call of Duty, Diablo, Skylanders and World of Warcraft-accounted for approximately 83% of our net revenues, and a significantly higher percentage of our operating income, for the year (page 44)
Why is this reliance on what are currently very successful titles a cause for concern?

Read more →

Filed under: Blizzard

World of Warcraft down to 9.6 million subscribers

World of Warcraft down to 96 million subscribers
Today's investor call for the fourth quarter of 2012 reported that World of Warcraft's subscription numbers are now at 9.6 million subscribers, down from the reported over 10 million at Mists of Pandaria's launch. This still makes World of Warcraft the largest subscription-based MMO out there on the market by a long shot, but the numbers have seen a dip. However, it doesn't mean that Blizzard isn't breaking records. Diablo III remains the #1 best-selling PC game at retail, and Mists of Pandaria came in at #3.

Although subscriber numbers seem to have dropped, they have yet to reach the Cataclysm low of 9.1 million prior to the release of Mists. Keep in mind that these numbers are for the final quarter of 2012, ending on December 31, 2012 -- so they may not count players that received the game over the holidays and subscribed after the new year. For more information, the official press release from the investor call is available online.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

World of Warcraft subscriber numbers remain over 10 million

During today's Activision Blizzard investor call, it was announced that during third quarter of calendar 2012, World of Warcraft claims over 10 million subscribers.

The given number is not as precise as we've grown accustomed to during these calls, but even the general number of 10 million gives us a good idea of the game's current climate. World of Warcraft subscriber numbers saw a dip to 9.1 million subscribers prior to the release of Mists of Pandaria, shedding 1.1 million subscribers in the pre-expansion lull.

Mists of Pandaria is still a fresh release as far as these investor calls are concerned, so its overall effect on World of Warcraft's playerbase will not become clear until 2013.

Edit: Correction made to account for the 1.1 million dip earlier this year.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Rumor: Vivendi plans to sell Activision Blizzard

Rumor Vivendi plans to sell Activision Blizzard
Bloomberg reports that Vivendi is looking to sell its 61 percent holding in Activision Blizzard, according to "a person with knowledge of the situation." If they are unable to find a purchaser for the entire $8.1 billion stake, they will attempt to sell part of it on the open market.

Again, this is just a rumor, but the CEO of the French Company just quit this week during a board meeting, reportedly due to a disagreement about selling off the huge telecommunication and media company's assets. The Wall Street Journal reports that "people familiar with the matter" claim that the board is considering splitting up Vivendi outright.

Until the rumor is confirmed and the success of the sale or spinoff is resolved, we will not know the fate of Blizzard or World of Warcraft. Those who say the sale of Blizzard to the merger of Blizzard and Activision brought down the quality of the game may laud the situation, while others will add this to the many reasons they claim that WoW is doomed. But speculation is just that, and we'll keep an eye out for actual facts as they happen.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Rumors

World of Warcraft subscriber numbers remain at 10.2 million

Blizzard announced today in the investors call that the World of Warcraft population remains stable at 10.2 million subscribers. This is after the announced dip to 10.2 million in February 2012.

Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft® Remains #1 Subscription-Based MMORPG with Approximately 10.2 Million Subscribers as of 3/31/12

In other WoW news from the call, Blizzard has renewed its license with NetEase for China distribution: "On March 20, 2012, Blizzard Entertainment announced that they renewed their license with NetEase for the distribution of World of Warcraft in mainland China. The new license will continue for an additional three years following the expiration of the current license agreement."

There is no indication of specific North American / European numbers, nor is there any specific indication of when Mists will release.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

World of Warcraft subscriber numbers dip 100,000 to 10.2 million

During this afternoon's Activision Blizzard investor call, it was announced that WoW's subscribers numbers dropped another 100,000 players from September 2011 to 10.2 million at the end of December 2011.

World of Warcraft's subscriber numbers peaked around 12 million back in late 2010 and early 2011 and have been in decline since. The game slipped to 11.4 million subscribers in May 2011, then down to 10.3 million in September of 2011. While subscriber numbers continue to fall, the rate of lost subscriptions has slowed significantly.

In further clarification of the game's subscriber numbers, Blizzard President and Cofounder Mike Morhaime said that Blizzard has seen no significant change and that "December was a good month for us." This past quarter was, according to Morhaime, the "most competitive quarter ever." World of Warcraft's competition primarily came from Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Blizzard believes that the success of patch 4.3, community engagement, and the Annual Pass contributed to the subscriber retention it's seen.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

World of Warcraft profits on the rise in China

Sister site Massively reported earlier today that World of Warcraft isn't just doing fine in China, it's doing extremely well. According to Gamasutra, the Chinese WoW operator NetEase just posted its Q3 revenue for the year, and the profits are doing nothing but rising. This is a little surprising given the information from the Activision Blizzard investor call earlier this month, which reported a loss of subscribers, mainly in the east.

Regardless, NetEase posted revenues of 2.0 billion Chinese yuan, up 39.8% -- a substantial number. In China, it seems that World of Warcraft is still a force to be reckoned with, dropping subscriber numbers or not.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

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