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Posts with tag Activision

Activision Vivendi injunction lifted by Delaware Supreme Court

ActiBlizz
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

World of Warcraft loses 1.3M subscribers since February, down to 8.3M

WoW loses 13 million subscribers since Feb down to 8 mil
Today's Activision-Blizzard financial reports states World of Warcraft took a subscriber hit this quarter, losing 1.3 million players since February.

The loss brings the total number of WoW players down to 8.3 million, its lowest level since the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007. Subscriber levels have fallen by about a third since WoW's post-Cataclysm peak of 12 million subscribers. The loss is hardly unusual -- you have to remember that WoW is a 9-year-old game, and we're at a pretty uninteresting time in the expansion cycle.

Have we mentioned yet that we're really excited to see if Blizzard is announcing a new MMO at BlizzCon?

Filed under: Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, BlizzCon, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

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

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 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

Blizzard remains optimistic about WoW subscriber numbers

This past May, Blizzard announced its World of Warcraft playerbase had declined to 11.4 million, a 5% drop from its post-Cataclysm high of 12 million. Predictably, the game's detractors pounced on the news, citing it as evidence of WoW's impending demise.

The company isn't worried that it's all downhill from here, however, according to The Market for Computer & Video Games interview with Blizzard Entertainment's VP and executive MD of internal operations Michael Ryder. Citing the game's impending launch in Brazil, growth in China, and the new free-to-play aspect of WoW (at least, free-to-play up to level 20), Ryder insists that the world's most successful MMORPG has room to become even more successful.

Spin? Perhaps. But still, even if subscriber numbers continue a slow decline, there's no question that WoW will be profitable -- and thus, still around -- for a long time to come.
Brace yourselves for what could be some of most exciting updates to the game recently with patch 4.3. Look at what's ahead: new item storage options, cross-realm raiding, cosmetic armor skinning and your chance to battle the mighty Deathwing -- from astride his back!

Filed under: News items

The cynic's guide to World of Warcraft

We tend to be very careful while composing articles here at WoW Insider. We're always mindful that not everyone plays the game in the same way, or has the same experience on different servers or factions, but every so often a certain madness seizes us and we feel the urge to ... tell the truth. In that vein, I am pleased (sort of) to present The Cynic's Guide to World of Warcraft.

This article owes a heavy debt to Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary. If you want to see a real master at work, read that.

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Filed under: Humor

Activision quietly restructures senior management

An article from the LA Times reports that Activision Blizzard Inc. has quietly made some internal changes to senior management and internal organization within Activision: one focused on the military game Call of Duty, another handling internally owned properties like Guitar Hero and the Tony Hawk series, and a third handling licensed properties.

Why these changes weren't relayed to investors or the press is still unknown, but it's likely due to the fact that they could be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Activision has seen flagging sales for two of its former cash-cow franchises, Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero, and a recent very public scuffle with Call of Duty creators Jason West and Vince Zampanella following their ejection from their positions as heads of Activision's Infinity Ward studio painted the studio in a negative light with gamers. This kind of restructuring could point to turmoil within the company, an image that an industry juggernaut like Activision would want to avoid.

So, what do these changes mean for Blizzard, and for World of Warcraft? Activision got a hold of us to say "nothing at all" -- the restructuring was for Activision's side of the business only. It's important to remember that Activision-Blizzard is an umbrella company that contains two separate divisions: Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment. Activision restructured into three different units, but Blizzard remains independent.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Bobby Kotick didn't think Blizzard was worth $7 million in '96

Have you ever looked at something new on the auction house and thought "Who would pay a thousand gold for that," only to find that months later the item has skyrocketed in price and you missed a golden opportunity to pick it up on the cheap? Activision kingpin Bobby Kotick might make the same analogy. If he played video games, I mean.

The Escapist clued us in to this little story: back in 1995, Kotick was eating lunch with some folks from Davidson & Associates, and they told him that they had just bought up-and-coming software developer Blizzard Entertainment for the tidy sum of seven million dollars -- a number that a baffled Kotick believed to be ridiculous. At the time, Blizzard's claim to fame was Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans, and ... that's pretty much it, save for a few one-off games like Blackthorne and The Lost Vikings. Kotick called them nothing more than a "contract developer" and remarked that they weren't worth seven million bucks.

Of course, later that year, Blizzard released Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, which catapulted them into gaming history forever. Thirteen years later, in 2008, Kotick (and Activision) paid seven billion dollars to acquire Blizzard. For those not into mathematics, that's one thousand times more than what Davidson & Associates paid.

Well, he was right about one thing. They definitely weren't worth seven million bucks. He just didn't know how right he was at the time.

Filed under: News items, Interviews

Activision-Blizzard makes lots of money, no update on Blizzard earnings

Activision-Blizzard has released their third-quarter numbers for the financial year of 2009, and as you might expect for the company in charge of Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft, business is brisk. They were expecting to bring in around $700 million, and ended up pulling in around $50 million more than that. It's good, we guess, to be the king.

Blizzard, in particular, laid claim to three of the top five selling PC games in North America on the good side, and on the bad side, Activision acknowledges in the press release that they're happy to have WoW back online in China, but a little worried about the troubles it's seen over there lately.

Strangely enough, there is no information in the earnings about how much money World of Warcraft has pulled in for the company, or any updates about subscriber numbers. Usually, that gets at least a mention, so maybe, with subscribers certainly down in China, Activision-Blizzard wants to keep that under their hat for now.

Read more →

Filed under: Items, Blizzard, News items, Making money

Activision-Blizzard and their financial future

Barron's has a long article up about Blizzard's corporate overlords at Activision-Blizzard, and as is usual with most pieces of Activision news, people will probably see in it what they want to see. Those who think Bobby Kotick is just a money-grubbing exploiter will find more fuel for their firey fanboy rage: apparently he's a follower of Las Vegas casino entrepreneur Steve Wynn, and is modeling some of Activision-Blizzard's business plan off of that guy, Shareholders, however, will probably be thrilled. In terms of a purely financial sense, Activision-Blizzard is apparently one of the shinest futures around, with Kotick bragging that videogames will eclipse film and TV in terms of moneymaking in just a few years.

From our perspective, as longtime fans and players of Blizzard's games, the most interesting thing I see here is that Barron's makes no distinction at all between Activision and Blizzard any more -- the Activision-Blizzard company, according to the article, is equally responsible for both the Starcraft and Transformers franchises. Obviously, as gamers, we see a huge distinction between those two: one is a classic, storied, much-loved videogame series, and the other is a cash-in on a license that's panned everywhere but the box office. But for the financial guys, they're just both properties of Activision-Blizzard. That's not to say that our Blizzard is entirely lost (anyone who was at BlizzCon last week knows that's not true), but it is a sign that the merger is no longer news. From an outsider perspective, Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft are just two cash cows from the same company.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Economy, NPCs

Blizzard on the Battle.net update


Activision-Blizzard held their second quarter conference call yesterday, and in addition to addressing the Starcraft II delay, both Mike Morhaime and Activision CEO Bobby Kotick shared some insight into what the revamped Battle.net will be like. The brand new system (which is currently up and working, albeit in a very skeleton form so far) will have "social networking features, cross-game communication, [and] unified account management," in addition to features that will let players "share experiences" with each other online (we'd presume that means things like screenshot galleries and leaderboards, but who knows?). Kotick also spoke up, and compared the service to that other popular online community, Xbox Live.

Blizzard is still saying the new Battle.net will come in conjunction with the new Starcraft, so we'll have to keep an eye out for them both in the first half of 2010. It'll be interesting to see what other features Blizzard adds in, and exactly what form features like "cross-game communication" take -- do they mean actual in-game messaging across games, or just status updates and messages on a social network? Kotick's comparison to Xbox Live raises some questions, too, as that's a much wider service than you'd think Battle.net would be. But then again, the guy's a CEO, and all CEOs have a tendency to overestimate exactly what their company is doing. Like most of Blizzard's upcoming releases, we'll have to wait and see on Battle.net.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Account Security

NPD: World of Warcraft has sold 8.6 million boxes at retail

Gamasutra has received an interesting stat from the good folks at NPD: after hearing that The Sims 3 sold over 800,000 copies in its first month, they were curious to see what kind of unit sales our own World of Warcraft has experienced. And the numbers are pretty big: among the original game and all of the expansion packs since the vanilla release over four years ago, NPD says 8.6 million boxes of WoW have been sold in the US. That's a little misleading if you're comparing it to actual subscription numbers: remember that this is over three different releases (so the actual number of all-time players, not current players, is probably 1/3 of that), and it includes different collectors' editions of each of the three game editions. So there are nowhere near 8.6 million US players of WoW -- that's just how many times players have come through the retail line with the various releases.

What that is, however, is a lot of money. Gamasutra estimates that at an average of $30 for each unit sold (the vanilla game currently retails at $20, but the expansions all sell at $40, and of course the original game was more expensive once upon a time), that's $258 million in income for Blizzard. In short, Blizzard's making a mint at the retail counter, even before they sign anyone up for subscriptions.

Then again, if you look at their own costs, those aren't insubstantial, either -- Activision's Bobby Kotick claimed that anyone starting up an MMO to compete with WoW would have to throw at least half a billion dollars into the mix just to get started, so we can presume Blizzard has spent at least $500 million on their staff, development, and hardware. So it's not like they're taking it all to the bank, though we can at least presume they're sitting firmly in the black.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King

Pardo says Blizzard still not interested in bringing WoW to consoles

Blizzard has never been keen to put WoW on consoles -- while there have always been rumors, they've never bothered showing much interest. And in a new interview with IndustryGamers, Blizzard's Rob Pardo tells us why: the controller issue remains a problem (it's certainly possible to map WoW onto a controller, but not yet in any way Blizzard would approve of), and modern consoles have come up with even more problems of their own. A hard drive, says Pardo, would be pretty much required, since WoW is up to around 10gb so far, but even the Xbox 360 (which now commonly allows game installs on the HD) still doesn't guarantee players will have that much space available. And Pardo says that while they have been in talks with Microsoft about what the two companies can do together, he says he's wary of the patching process over there -- it's not exactly as quick as they'd like.

So it remains unlikely that we'll ever see WoW in its current form on any console systems -- while there's probably lots of money to be made, the game was designed from the ground up to be a PC game, and there are still too many issues flying around (and it's likely too late in the game's lifetime) for Blizzard to try and make the jump. But that next-gen MMO...

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Hardware

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