Activision Fourth-Quarter Tops Estimates on ‘Call of Duty’; Outlook Misses

Activision Blizzard Inc., the largest video-game publisher, posted fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates on sales of “Call of Duty.” The company’s forecast for this quarter fell short of projections.

Net income totaled $99 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with a loss of $233 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier, Santa Monica, California-based Activision said today in a statement. Revenue fell 1.4 percent to $1.41 billion.

Profit excluding some items totaled 62 cents a share, topping the 56-cent average of 19 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted sales, excluding changes in deferred revenue, were $2.41 billion, beating estimates of $2.2 billion.

This quarter, Activision sees profit of 3 cents a share, excluding items, below the 15-cent average of eight analysts’ estimates. Adjusted revenue will be $525 million, less than estimates of $787.6 million. The company has no major packaged good titles set for release before March, Bobby Kotick, chief executive officer, said in an interview. The first-quarter forecast also doesn’t incorporate a new Blizzard release.

Activision rose 0.9 percent to $12.66 at the close in New York and has gained 2.8 percent this year.

Photographer: Stephen Yang/Bloomberg

Copies of Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" video games are displayed at a store in New York. Close

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Photographer: Stephen Yang/Bloomberg

Copies of Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" video games are displayed at a store in New York.

Through December, Activision sold 21.5 million units of its “Call of Duty” shooter franchise, the company said in an e- mail, citing data from NPD Group, Charttrack and GfK.

Activision stabilized subscriber defections from the Blizzard unit’s “World of Warcraft” online multiplayer games, after losing almost 1 million the previous quarter. The number of paying subscribers fell to 10.2 million from 10.3 million in October.

New Online Titles

The online multiplayer unit plans to release two new titles this year, Kotick said. He declined to provide the dates.

“They are hard at work at making sure they’re going to deliver things that are going to satisfy their audience,” Kotick said.

Activision hasn’t followed other traditional game companies in developing games for social platforms such as Facebook Inc.

The company is trying to boost sales with digital downloads of new game levels and an online subscription service for its core “Call of Duty” franchise. As of Jan. 31, it had 1.5 million people paying $49.99 annually for strategy guides and other content.

“You’re seeing shifts in platforms, shifts in places people are consuming interactive entertainment and stratification to very high-quality experiences,” Kotick said.

Digital revenue accounted for more than 34 percent of total sales for the year, the company said in the statement.

For all of 2012, Activision forecasts profit of 94 cents a share excluding items, on adjusted sales of $4.5 billion. Analysts project 97 cents on revenue of $4.55 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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