Today, Activision had their second-quarter investment conference call. I’ll skip over the rather dull numbers, but tell you that, surprise, they were more profitable than second-quarter 2010, mostly from World of Warcraft in China and Black Ops.
Activision estimated the global install-base of consoles and handhelds for 2011 will increase by 43 million. Xbox 360 was estimated to increase by 10 million alone, but Playstation 3 and Wii are right behind it with 8 million each. All handhelds were grouped together and are estimated to grow by 17 million.
Activision let investors know that retail establishments are excited about Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures. The video game that ties in with toys is sure to be a hit for stores like Toys’R’Us. I foresee kids’ meal tie-ins. There’s no avoiding it..
The interesting bits came from the Call of Duty franchise and Blizzard (of course).
Call of Duty
A good portion of the call was devoted to Activision’s flagship franchise:
- 14 million pieces of Black Ops DLC have been sold to date, which is 40% more than Modern Warfare 2.
- More people paid to play Black Ops than all Facebook games. (Take that Zynga!)
- Black Ops has sold 25 million copies since launch, while Modern Warfare 2 has sold three million less.
- More people play Black Ops on a daily basis than the top three Facebook games combined.
- Modern Warfare 3 will be coming to the Wii.
- Modern Warfare 3 currently has more pre-orders than Black Ops had.
There was also a bit of info about the upcoming Call of Duty Elite, most of which has already been announced. But, it has been announced that there will be Elite apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. These apps will let you view your stats, and customize your load-outs on your device and push them to the game nearly instantly, even while you’re playing. Well, maybe not the console-based apps. The Call of Duty Elite beta launched on July 14th, and already has 3 million registered users testing it out.
World of Warcraft
On the Blizzard side of things, there was the following news about World of Warcraft:
- 11.1 million subscriptions, which is down from last year.
- The Cataclysm expansion has been released in China, fueling growth in that region.
- A Portuguese-language version will be launched in Brazil before the year is out.
- The next content update will include more dungeons and raids.
Also talked about was releasing the “Starter Edition,” which is the first time I’ve heard it called that. This version of the game caps out at level 20, but doesn’t have a time limit. Previously the game offered a 7-day trial. This is an attempt to get more people hooked on playing WoW, so they’ll subscribe and buy the expansions and all that stuff.
Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty also saw a Starter Edition released, which lets you play through a portion of the Terran single-player campaign but lets you play unlimited amounts of multiplayer, as long as you like playing as the Terrans. Additionally, a Map Marketplace was announced, allowing map makers to sell their maps to willing buyers using actual money.
Star Craft II: Heart of the Swarm is still being worked on, and I’m sure the release date is “When it’s done.”
Speaking of using real money for virtual goods, it was recently announced that Diablo III will have an auction house allowing players to buy items using both in-game gold and real money.
If you’ve used eBay, you know how it works: you pay a fee to put your items up for auction, though you’ll be able to put a few up for free every week so you’ll have a bit of a buffer to put even more items up. When the item sells, a cut of the profits are also ponied up to Blizzard.
The interesting part of this is when real money is introduced. If you sell your item for real money, it’s held in your account, so you could use it to buy other items. If you want to cash out, Blizzard has announced your account will be debited, and a third-party company will give you your proceeds.
An external beta is targeted for a third-quarter release, and while Blizzard is hoping to have the game out by the end of 2011, there’s still not firm release date, and I imagine 2012 will be more likely as Blizzard reacts to the results of the beta.
In passing, Blizzard announced that Diablo III will have expansion packs which will add to the longevity of the game.
Overall, it seems that it’s business as usual for Activision. I’m sure they’ve got Treyarch working on Call of Duty 9 while Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer work on finishing Modern Warfare 3. And I’m sure there’s another WoW expansion in the works.