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ATVI – Activision Blizzard 2013 Q2 Financial Results Conference Call

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Activision Blizzard celebrated today their 2013 Second Quarter financial results conference call where Bob Kotick addressed their independence from Vivendi after purchasing their shares.

activision-blizzard-logoBobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said, “We are pleased with our second-quarter results, which confirm the preliminary results we released last week when we announced our transaction with Vivendi. The agreement we reached with Vivendi will make us an independent company and should deliver meaningful earnings per share accretion to our shareholders. Our solid performance across our franchises and strong digital sales, including continued significant growth this quarter in our Call of Duty® downloadable content business over the previous year, validate our belief that we will enter this new period of independence in a position to leverage the flexibility and focus that it provides.”

On July 25, 2013, Activision Blizzard announced that it reached an agreement under which the company will acquire approximately 429 million company shares and certain tax attributes from Vivendi, in exchange for approximately $5.83 billion in cash, or $13.60 per share acquired before taking into account any future benefit from these tax attributes. In a related transaction, ASAC II LP, an investment vehicle led by CEO Bobby Kotick and Activision Blizzard Co-Chairman Brian Kelly, will purchase approximately 172 million company shares from Vivendi for approximately $2.34 billion in cash, or $13.60 per share. Following the completion of the transactions, which are expected to close by the end of September 2013, Vivendi will no longer be the majority shareholder, but will retain a stake of approximately 83 million shares, or approximately 12%.

 

Main Highlights

  • World of Warcraft subscribers: 7.7 Million
  • Next-Gen MMO Titan is likely to be a non-subscription based MMO
  • Titan staff was moved to World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Blizzard All-Stars

Transcript

The second quarter was a relatively quiet quarter when compared against last quarter, which included the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm launch; and Q2 2012 when we launched Diablo III. We’ve been making great progress on Diablo III console and Hearthstone along with other ongoing projects, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Starting off with World of Warcraft, we ended the quarter with about 7.7 million subscribers worldwide, with the declines split about evenly between East and West. The most recent content update in late May has had a positive impact on stabilizing the churn rate in both regions.

Our next major content update, “Siege of Orgrimmar” is currently in the public testing phase. This update includes a massive new raid dungeon and a new questing area, as well as some new features. Proving grounds is a way for players to learn the skills they need for in-game contents and flexible raids allows groups of varying sizes to enjoy in-game rating. This will make it easier for players to experience compelling in-game contents with their friends. In addition to sustaining engagement for existing players, we believe these features can help make the transition back to the game more compelling for returning players as well. We look forward to releasing this update in the coming weeks.

Before I get into the other game updates, I want to say a few words about our unannounced project codenamed Titan. We’re in the process of selecting a new direction for the project and re-envisioning what we want the game to be. And while we can’t talk about the details yet, it is unlikely to be a subscription-based MMORPG. I also want to reiterate that there has not been an official announced or projected release date. What I can say is that the commitment to quality has always been at the core of Blizzard values. And we’ve gone through this type of iterative development process several times in the past on the way to creating genre-defining games. As we continue our assessment, we have shifted some of the resources from the team to our other franchises, including World of Warcraft and Blizzard All-Stars, which we believe will add immense value to those projects.

On the Diablo III side, we announced a September 3rd date for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions to the game. Our showing at E3 was a great opportunity to reinsure ourselves to the console gaming audience. The development team has done a lot of work to tailor Diablo III for a living room experience and these subtle changes have been very well-received by the press. We’ll be sharing more Diablo-related news at GamesCom later this month.

Moving on to StarCraft II. We just launched Heart of the Swarm in China a couple of weeks ago and in these early stages have seen a jump in concurrency in the region. In addition, our year-long StarCraft II World Championship Series is currently in its second season with the season finals taking place later this month at GamesCom in Germany.

We’ve also been putting a lot of focus on Blizzard All-Stars, our upcoming free-to-play online game. Action RTS games have become increasingly popular over the years. As we have in the past with games like World of Warcraft and the original Diablo, we’re looking to put our own spin on this genre and challenge some of the existing design paradigms. We’ve reached a significant internal milestone with Blizzard All-Stars going into wider internal testing and we’ll have more to say about the game later this year.

Rounding out our announced game projects is Hearthstone, our new free-to-play digital collectible card game. Hearthstone will launch initially on Windows and Mac PC followed by iPad soon after. We’ve made great progress polishing the game through internal testing and will be reaching the external test phase very soon. Our promotions in the last quarter, which included several live streamed game-play demos have generated great budge for the game since we revealed it at PAX East in March. Not only will this be our first game on iPad, it will also be the first time in a very long time that we have announced a game and launched it within the same year. This reflects the philosophy behind a small team of Blizzard veterans developing Hearthstone to create Blizzard-quality games on a smaller scale.

Looking ahead, we have BlizzCon coming up on November 8 and 9 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The show will be a good one with the latest Blizzard news, hands-on with games and development and of course, the global finals for our StarCraft II World Championship Series. We hope to see you there or following along via the online stream or on DirecTV.

As we enter the back half of 2013, what we’re showing at Blizzard is a broadening of our gaming portfolio. Just 3 years ago, we had one active game. Moving into the rest of 2013 and beyond, we will have several active and vibrant games across 3 major franchises on multiple platforms and with different business models. We’ll continue to work hard on creating epic game experiences for our players and look forward to delivering those experiences in a variety of ways.

 

Q&A

Brian J. Pitz: With respect to the wild sub declines, I think last quarter was more Asia based, now it seems to be ramping up more on the West. Can you just give us a little more color there on the split?

Morhaime: Concerning subscription decline, in aggregate in Q2, we did see a smaller decline than we saw in Q1, and I think it’s very important to note the impact that our content updates have had since the most recent update, mid-May. We have seen a very positive impact on the churn rate, and that’s across both regions.

Brian J. Pitz: Got it. And just one more follow-up on WoW. There’s kind of been rumors in and out of the press on a potential movie set with the WoW theme. Any updates there?

Morhaime: I don’t have any updates other than to say that we are continuing to work with Legendary Pictures. Duncan Jones has been selected as the director, who has been actively working on a movie, and we continue to be very excited about it.

Colin A. Sebastian : In the scenario that WoW were to continue declining, I’m wondering whether your priority, ultimately, would be to protect profitability of the franchise or to continue spending on potential growth initiatives?

Morhaime: Our priority is to continue delivering great contents to our players. We feel the WoW continues to be the top most compelling, possibly multiplayer online role-playing game available, and we think it still has a very long life ahead of itself. We think that over time, we have seen players come and go and return to World of Warcraft, and we recognize that there’s a lot that we can do to make the experience of coming back to World of Warcraft and the transition back into the game and meeting up with your friends much easier than it currently. And so I think that’s a big opportunity for us.

 

Brian J. Pitz (Jefferies LLC, Research Division)
Colin A. Sebastian (Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division)

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003 posting news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Next-Gen MMO, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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