Call of Duty Boosts Activision To Strongest Year

By Alexandra Burlacu email: | Feb 09, 2013 09:25 AM EST

Activision Blizzard Inc. closed the books on 2012 with excellent news: it beat Wall Street expectations, thanks to its "Call of Duty" game.

Call of Duty saw blockbuster sales over the lucrative holiday quarter, helping Activision, the world's largest video game publisher, climb five percent. Furthermore, Activision also forecast a first-quarter profit that exceeded industry analyst targets.

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The company forecast earnings, excluding items, of 10 cents a share, while the average forecast guided to about 9.7 cents a share.

The North American game publisher said it generated $4.86 billion in revenues for 2012, reaching a new record since it was founded back in 1979. As much as 32 percent of that, i.e. $1.54 billion, came from digital sales.

For the fourth quarter specifically, which ended on Dec. 31, 2012, Activision managed to exceed both its guidance and analyst projections for revenues. The company saw earnings per share of $0.78, compared to an analyst average estimate of $0.72.

The company's "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" game had a big say in these results, as it saw higher dollar sales than any other game in 2012. "Skylanders Giants" was the fifth-highest earning game of last year. Skylanders Giants is the sequel to the 2011 game that sees in-game content delivered through separate sales of action figures. Activision has sold 100 million action figure accessories worldwide to date.

Meanwhile, the popular "World of Warcraft" finally dropped below 10 million subscribers. According to the company, 9.6 million people currently pay for the game. Activision may not have been able to stop the game from dropping, but "World of Warcraft" still has more subscribers than any other MMO.

The results are even more impressive considering that Activision has basically ignored social and mobile games so far. Instead, the company relied on blockbuster console and PC games, as well as digital add-on sales.

On the other hand, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said that he doesn't expect 2013 to compare to 2012, as the industry now faces a challenged global economy, as well as the "ongoing console transition." Moreover, Blizzard's record-breaking "Diablo III" success in 2012 will make it all the more difficult for 2013 to fare well in comparison. 

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