The Activision Blizzard Third Quarter Financial conference call took place on November 6th, 2013 at 1:30pm PDT.
Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said: “Our third-quarter results exceeded our expectations, and we are able to raise our outlook for 2013 net revenues and earnings per share.
Robust continued engagement with our core franchises drove digi tal revenue, which constituted a majority of all revenue. This quarter demonstrates that games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft engage and entertain our fans year round.”
Kotick added, “We recently released new titles in two of the most popular franchises in entertainment, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders SWAP Force. We are thrilled by the quality of those games and we are excited to show what we can do with them on next-generation consoles in the coming weeks. We are also in the process of a beta launch for our first major free-to-play game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
However, we continue to believe that the fourth quarter this year presents a unique and challenging landscape due to increased competition and uncertainties surrounding the console transition.
We are confident in our ability to navigate these challenges successfully, particularly in light of the recent completion of our transaction with Vivendi and the focus and flexibility provided by our return to independence.”
As of September 30, 2013, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 7.6 million subscribers.
In North America, Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm® was the #1 PC game for the first nine months of 2013.
Morhaime: Q3 was an eventful quarter for Blizzard. We launched our first console game in many years with Diablo III. We also announced an expansion pack for Diablo III — Reaper of Souls.
Additionally, beta testing for Hearthstone kicked off and we released significant content update for World of Warcraft.
All of this activity has netted out to a strong quarter where we ended higher in net revenue and operating income versus Q2 mostly due to the Diablo III console launch on September.
Revenues and income were down year over year — as expected — due to the successful launch of Mists of Pandaria and the ongoing sales of Diablo III during the same quarter last year.
Going into more specific details with World of Warcraft, we’re very pleased with the response to Siege of Orgrimmar — the massive content update we released in September. This update included a huge new raid dungeon with major story elements, as well as a new area to explore and features that improved the game’s accessibility.
Flexible rates now allow groups of variable size to participate in the end-game raiding dungeons. Meanwhile, the Proving Grounds feature trains players to improve their play in specific roles, preparing them to participate in end-game content. Player response to the content has been good, and we saw increased engagement that has contributed to maintaining relatively stable subscribership quarter-over-quarter. We’ll continue to invest heavily in World of Warcraft to deliver frequent, high-quality content to our players.
Moving on to Diablo III, we are pleased with the response to the games launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Lifetime sell-through of the game across all platforms has reached over 14 million copies, and reviews have been very positive about how the game plays on console. Much of the praise has been centered on changes we made to the loot system and our decision to keep the auction house off of the console platform. Players and critics alike have noted that these changes have resulted in a more fun and satisfying game experience. That reaction factored in our decision to remove the auction house from the PC version of Diablo III effective next March, which players have also responded very positively to.
We’re building upon those design philosophies for loot and incorporating them into Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion pack — which is coming for PC and PS4 in 2014.
In addition to the new loot system, Reaper of Souls will include an additional player class, the Crusader, and more gameplay modes for the endgame to keep players engaged. The reaction to Reaper of Souls at Gamescom was very positive, and we are looking forward to revealing more about the game at BlizzCon.
It was also a busy quarter for Hearthstone, our free-to-play digital card game for PC and iPad based on the Warcraft universe. In Hearthstone, players build decks of cards that feature familiar spells and creatures from World of Warcraft, and battle against each other using the cards. Players can collect cards simply by playing or by purchasing digital packs. They can also purchase entries into a special competitive mode of play called The Arena in exchange for either in-game currency or a small fee.
We’ve seen a great response from the community with the closed beta test, which kicked off in August. Hearthstone quickly became one of the most popular streaming games on Twitch, and we have been expanding the beta test to encompass more regions and a wider group of players. We’re continuing to work on polishing the game as we drive towards open beta testing.
Rounding out our big announcements since the last call is the name change of Blizzard All-Stars to Heroes of the Storm, which is our take on free-to-play hero brawlers. We’ve done an extensive internal test on Heroes over the past several months, and as the game has evolved, we felt it was appropriate to change the name to something more fitting of the gameplay experience.
We’re looking forward to sharing more details about Heroes at BlizzCon, which is taking place this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. This is another sold-out show, with more than 20,000 attendees coming to Anaheim from more than 40 different countries.
Our global community will also follow along through DIRECTV, online pay-per-view on blizzcon.com and partner broadcast in other regions. We will be showcasing our biggest pipeline of games ever and showing our appreciation for our community through contests, meet-and-greets and of course, major eSports spectacles.
The World of Warcraft Arena invitational and the global grand finals of the StarCraft II World Championship Series will be taking place, along with an invitational tournament for Hearthstone, featuring popular community personalities.
All of us at Blizzard can’t wait to get back to BlizzCon and connect with our players. We hope you’ll join us there or follow along online with a virtual ticket available online at blizzcon.com.
We are looking forward to celebrating a shared passion of gaming with our players, hearing their feedback on our newest game content and taking that energy and knowledge back to work as we drive towards an exciting 2014 for Blizzard.
Activision Blizzard celebrated today their 2013 Second Quarter financial results conference call where Bob Kotick addressed their independence from Vivendi after purchasing their shares.
Bobby 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%.
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
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.
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)
Activision Blizzard announced the upcoming Second Quarter 2013 Financial results will take place on August 1, 2013.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. –(BUSINESS WIRE)– Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) intends to release its second quarter 2013 results after the close of the market on Thursday, August 1, 2013 . In conjunction with this release, Activision Blizzard will host a conference call that will be broadcast over the Internet.
Bob Kotick and Mike Morhaime spoke before the shareholders on Wednesday, May 8 to discuss the Activision Blizzard Q1 2013 financial results. Some key details were revealed in this quarter:
World of Warcraft subscription dropped 14% down to 8.3 million subscribers worldwide.
Diablo III (PS3) will be launched later this year.
Blizzard is developing new titles (plural) with new business models, including Hearthstone and Blizzard All-Stars.
1.1 Million viewers watched eSport matches during the Heart of the Swarm launch
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft enters beta testing this summer for PC/Mac.
Hearthstone will be released in 2013
Heartstone for iPad will be released shortly after the PC/Mac launch
I have to note that Mike Morhaime talked about each video game, paused to mention BlizzCon, and then talked about Blizzard All-Stars and the Next-Gen MMO.
It may be nothing, but it’s odd to not mention these last two along with the other games, but chose to mention them right after talking about BlizzCon. Hint?
Robert A. Kotic – Activision Blizzard CEO
Robert A. Kotick: Activision Publishing’s Skylanders was the leading video game franchise in both North America and Europe, including toys and accessories. Call of Duty was the #2 franchise in North America and Europe combined. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft remains the largest subscription-based MMORPG in the world. However, during the quarter, subscribership declined by approximately 1.3 million subscribers, roughly 14%, and we ended the quarter with approximately 8.3 million subscribers.
Though the majority of our subscriber declines occurred in the East, where we have more subscribers and lower revenue per subscriber, we saw declines in the West as well. And while we do believe further declines are likely and we expect to have fewer subscribers at year end than we do today, World of Warcraft remains one of the most successful franchises in the history of entertainment.
It’s important to note that the nature of online games has changed, and with the environment becoming far more competitive, especially with free-to-play games. To address this, we’re working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game.
We believe in the long-term value of this franchise and will continue to commit substantial resources to World of Warcraft.
During the quarter, Blizzard also launched its expansion to the long-standing StarCraft franchise, with StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. The expansion pack launched to strong critical response and was the #1 title for the PC in the quarter.
Blizzard Entertainment has already launched StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and will launch Diablo III for the PlayStation 3 later this year.
In addition, Blizzard is also developing new titles with new business models, including Hearthstone and Blizzard All-Stars. During the remainder of the year, we’ll continue to invest in our established franchises, invest selectively in new opportunities and to manage our costs very carefully.
Mike Morhaime – Blizzard Entertainment President
Mike Morhaime: On the product side, Q1 was an exciting time for Blizzard as we announced 2 new games: Hearthstone, a collectible card game on Windows, Mac and iPad; and Diablo III for PlayStation 3 and 4. These games not only bring Blizzard into the mobile and console spaces, but in the case of Hearthstone, also represent our first entry into free-to-play.
We ended March with $330 million in revenue, up 31% year-over-year and $135 million in operating income, up 52% from the same quarter last year. This increase was driven in large part by the launch of Heart of the Swarm, as we didn’t have a comparable launch in Q1 2012.
For World of Warcraft, we ended the March quarter at 8.3 million subscribers globally. While we saw declines in the West, the majority of the decline came from the East, which has historically seen greater volatility. Given a more competitive market and the length of time since the last expansion, we do expect further volatility this year.
Looking forward, our objective is to deliver new game content at a quicker pace to improve engagement. Our next content update will release later this month and we will continue to invest in additional updates and improvements to continue to evolve the game.
More specifically, we’re examining ways we can ease the transition back into the game for returning players. We’ve always seen players come and go from World of Warcraft. Smoothing out that transitional period is something we’re studying, as we adjust our approach to player behavior and preferences.
On the StarCraft II side, the highlight from last quarter was a successful launch of Heart of the Swarm. In partnership with popular community personalities, we hosted an unprecedented 21-hour global Internet broadcast to celebrate the launch of the game. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to this broadcast to see eSports’ show matches, interviews and community produced content.
By the end of the second day on the market, Heart of the Swarm had already sold 1.1 million copies. And then that weekend, more than 1.1 million viewers watched the first major Heart of the Swarm tournament at Major League Gaming’s Winter Championship.
We’ve ridden that strong momentum into announcing this year’s StarCraft II World Championship Series, a global partnership between Blizzard and some of the biggest organizations in eSports. As a result of this partnership, world-class StarCraft II eSports can be viewed in prime time online throughout the world during the week. And StarCraft II is now available on Korean cable television 5 days a week. Viewership of the tournament has been consistently high and we look forward to continuing to improve the spectator experience over the course of the year leading up to the global finals at BlizzCon.
Moving on to Diablo III. We announced that the game would come to Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 and showcased the demo of the PS3 version at PAX East in March. Press on the PS3 version has been very positive, as we have put a lot of work into adapting the game to take advantage of the console platform’s strength. The controls and interface have been modified to suit consoles and the game will have local and online multiplayer capability. We recently announced pre-orders for the PS3 version, which is scheduled to ship later this year.
Rounding out our game updates, I’d like to talk about Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, our new free-to-play collectible card game for Windows, Mac and iPad. Players will be able to earn cards through game play and have the option to purchase card packs if they want to fill out their collection a little faster. Hearthstone is being developed by a small team at Blizzard, whose goal is to create a Blizzard-quality game experience at a smaller scale and scope than our typical project. At this early stage, it’s already clear that the team is achieving the depth and accessibility of the traditional Blizzard game with Hearthstone. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun.
The announcement at PAX East generated a great deal of interest and excitement from attendees. And thus far, we’ve received a massive response from players interested in trying out the beta. We expect the Windows and Mac versions of Hearthstone to go into public testing this summer and released later this year. The iPad version will be available for download shortly after.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that BlizzCon is coming this November to the Anaheim Convention Center. Ticket sales took place 2 weeks ago and our players enthusiastically claimed all available tickets in a matter of seconds. Details on virtual ticket sales will come at a later date.
As usual, we’ll be sharing the latest news on Blizzard games at the show. We’ll also be hosting the World Championship Series’ Global Finals and crowning a true StarCraft II world champion.
Overall, Blizzard has had a good start to a challenging 2013. We successfully launched StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and announced 2 new games that we feel will deliver Blizzard-quality experiences to new players on additional platforms. And there’s still more in the pipeline with our teams continuing to work on Blizzard All-Stars and our unannounced MMO.
With these new games and continued development on existing franchises, we hope to welcome even more gamers into the Blizzard community as we build towards the future.
The Activision Blizzard Q4 2012 financial results conference call took place today February 7th, 2013.
Mike Morhaime reported World of Warcraft has over 9.6 Million players as of December 31, 2012, and Diablo III has over 12 million players. Details about BlizzCon 2013 will surface later throughout the year.
Mike Morhaime: 2012 was a busy year for Blizzard Entertainment. We had some very ambitious goals, and successfully shipped 2 games: Diablo III and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. A third game, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, entered public beta testing in 2012, as well. On the year, Blizzard turned in strong financials with non-GAPP revenue of $1.6 billion and operating income of $717 million.
As of the end of the year, global subscribership for World of Warcraft added more than 9.6 million players, down slightly from the previous quarter. The majority of the decline came from China, while subscribership in the West was relatively more stable.
Looking ahead, the next major content update for World of Warcraft is already in testing and should reach players in the coming weeks. The development team continues to stick with the plan of more frequent content updates in the wake of the expansion launch, applying lessons that we’ve learned from past expansions.
Moving on to Diablo III, the launch of the game back in May had a tremendous impact on Blizzard and our community. Diablo III broke PC games sales records and as of the end of the year, had sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.
While this is a humbling achievement, we’re not satisfied with merely breaking sales records. The development teams have worked aggressively to update the games since the launch, adding new content, game systems, features and other improvements. A new update is in testing now, which will add dueling and other new content. Diablo is extremely important to Blizzard and we’ll continue to invest aggressively to support the franchise and its community.
On the StarCraft side, we’ve had a flurry of activity surrounding the game in the past few months. The Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai this past November was a great success. A big congratulations go out again to PartinG from South Korea who was crowned our global champion.
The Heart of the Swarm beta has also been ongoing since last year and the team continues to improve the game with player feedback. Over the past couple of months, we’ve announced numerous new online features for the game, unveiling the opening cinematic, and conducted a global press showcase.
The feedback from the community about the campaign and the new online features has been very positive and excitement continues to grow as we head into launch on March 12.
Lastly, I want to remind everyone that BlizzCon will make its return later this year. We’ll have more details announcements soon and we’re looking forward to reconnecting with our players this year to hear their thoughts, share the latest Blizzard news and share along with them at the Blizzard eSports Global Finals. We hope you’ll be able to join us at the show.
As we head into 2013, we’ll continue to work hard on our pipeline of games and deliver a great experience to our players.
Brian J. Pitz (Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division): What do you think about the World of Warcraft and MMO community? Do you think the audience essentially remains strong and willing to play? Or do you think they’re essentially in need of a new game? Can you talk about, really, the fatigue factor both in the MMO, as well as with specifically for the game, and then, I just have a follow-up question.
Eric Hirshberg (Activision Blizzard Publishing Unit CEO): Well, we have seen an evolution in player behavior since the launch of Cataclysm. Players consume content quickly. There are more apps that come and go from the community, which is why we are targeting more frequent content updates. We are currently testing our second major update since Mists of Pandaria. I think that another thing to note, if you compare the months following Cataclysm and the months following Mists of Pandaria, the trailing months have been stronger with Mists. And we have seen an increase in engagement in all regions with the launch of Mists of Pandaria.
Neil A. Doshi (Citigroup Inc, Research Division): Mike, if you can give a little more color on the China market, it seems like there’s continuously intense competition there and most of the declines seem to come from the East. Is there anything you could do to be more competitive in that competitive market?
Mike Morhaime (Blizzard Entertainment CEO): Yes, so with respect to competition, we’ve always had competition for World of Warcraft in all markets. I think it’s fair to say that competition has increased, but I think it’s also important to point out that World of Warcraft is competing against, really, all forms of entertainment for leisure time. And so that just underscores the need for us to continue creating new content, to keep up engagements. With respect to China, in spite of the decline in subscribership, it is important to note that the engagement levels of the core items did increase with the launch of the expansions and I think that, that suggests increased engagement by our core players.
Activision Blizzard announced the next Financial Results conference call will take place on February 7th, 2013 covering the rounds up of earnings and issues throughout the fourth quarter of 2012.
Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime is expected to discuss any relevant details of how World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Diablo III held up throughout the quarter.
It is very possible, but not guaranteed, that Mike Morhaime might reveal details of BlizzCon 2013. I predict an approximate timeframe when Blizzard expects tickets to be sold. (i.e. end of Quarter X, mid-/or end-[of X-month], etc.)
We might get an update on Blizzard All-Stars. With the release of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm in the horizon, Global Launch schedule might go live in the following weeks after the conference call.
Do you have your own predictions? Share them with the community.
Activision Blizzard to Release Fourth Quarter 2012 Results on February 7, 2013
SANTA MONICA, Calif. –(BUSINESS WIRE)– Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) intends to release its fourth quarter 2012 results after the close of the market on Thursday, February 7, 2013 . In conjunction with this release, Activision Blizzard will host a conference call that will be broadcast over the Internet.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
1:30 p.m. Pacific Time ( 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time )
To listen to the call, please log onto:
U.S. and Canada : 888-427-9414
Anyone planning to dial in to the call should RSVP to Pam Beaver at:
The Activision Blizzard Q3 2012 Financial Results conference call was held on November 7th at 4:30pm EST / 1:30pm PDT.
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime talked briefly about the overall progress of Diablo III, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. He estimates StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is coming out on the first-half of 2013 (January-June range). BlizzCon 2013 and a Diablo III expansion were officially confirmed by Mike Morhaime at this conference as well. Listen to the recording below.
For the first nine months, Activision Blizzard was the #1 PC publisher in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, for the third quarter, Blizzard Entertainment had two of the top five PC games with Diablo III and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.
Since its release in May 2012, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III was the #1 bestselling game in dollars and units on the PC in the U.S. and Europe.
On September 25, 2012, Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, and sold through approximately 2.7 million copies of the game as of its first week of release. Additionally, on October 2, 2012, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria was released in China, marking what the company believes to be the first time any game has officially released in China as part of a global launch.
As of September 30, 2012, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with more than 10 million subscribers.
Diablo III has already sold an excess of 10 million copies.
Listen to the Conference Call
This recording captures only the portion where Mike Morhaime talks about Blizzard Entertainment’s results.
Mike Morhaime: The third quarter for Blizzard was a very successful one, thanks in large part to the launch of Mists of Pandaria at the end of September. As of the first week, more than 2.7 million copies sold through and subscribership had grown to over 10 million at the end of the quarter. We also launched the game in China just one week after the other regions, which as far as we are aware, is the first time any game has officially released in China as part of a global launch. Overall, it was a successful launch and we were very pleased with the reaction from players and critics.
The team worked hard to create a good variety of deeply engaged content for a wide range of players. The challenge mode and the new raids had been very appealing for hardcore players, while our other new features, such as the pet battle system have been popular with players across the board. This breadth of new content, combined with a vast amount of existing content in World of Warcraft, has resulted in the game that has a lot to offer for veterans, as well as newcomers to online gaming.
We’re looking forward to maintaining engagement by providing more frequent content updates. The first major update to Mists of Pandaria is already in public testing, with additional updates to follow. We have other initiatives planned for the holiday season that we hope will maintain momentum from the launch and continued growth in the community.
Moving on to Diablo III, the game continued to sell very well in the quarter, riding the momentum from its record-breaking launch in May. We’ve updated the game several times to add new features and these changes have been received well by the community. Next on the slate for Blizzard will be Heart of the Swarm, the first expansion to StarCraft II. With 6 million copies of Wings of Liberty sold to date, we have a large community of players eagerly awaiting the next installment of StarCraft.
Beta testing for Heart of the Swarm is well underway and the development team has been collecting great feedback from the community. Just last week, we made a major content update to the beta in order to test some important community features, which have been well-received by players. These features are designed to improve the social aspect, as well as the overall user experience for StarCraft players. We’re working hard towards a first-half 2013 launch for Heart of the Swarm.
We plan on closing out 2012 with one more major initiative, our Battle.net World Championship event, which will take place on November 17th and 18th in Shanghai, China. This event is the culmination of months of intense eSports competition, involving dozens of online tournaments and live events across five continents. The global finals will be very much like a World Cup of eSports with more than 60 top pro gamers in StarCraft II and World of Warcraft competing at the event. The sold out Battle.net World Championship will be broadcast online to a global audience. Live streams and information about the tournament can be found at http://www.battle.net/bwc.
In closing, we’re very pleased with the success of Mists of Pandaria and Diablo III continues to be a top seller on the PC chart. Heart of the Swarm is well on its way and we have other exciting projects in the pipeline. BlizzCon will be returning next year as well, adding to what will be a busy 2013 for Blizzard. We continue to build on our infrastructure for long-term growth and remain focused on creating high-quality content for all of our players around the world.
Douglas Creutz (Cowen and Company): You mentioned you’re at above 1 million peak concurrent users in China. I just wondered how that maybe compared to levels that you’ve hit after prior expansion launches. And then secondly, if you could just talk about where you are with DOTA All-Stars?
Morhaime: Let me start with the second one, which is Blizzard All-Stars is in development and we’re doing some great work. Some internal testing is underway. We’re doing a lot of things to experiment with gameplay and I don’t really have anything concrete to announce on this call, other than we’re very excited about the game. So with respect to China, I really don’t have anything to announce in terms of historical comparables. I think — other than to say that the engagement has increased with the launch of the expansion and we’re very happy with the reception.
Stephen Ju (Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division): The prior iterations of Diablo II expansion pack released about 1 year after the game itself came out. So wondering if you have anything you share in terms of whether or not you have a similar plan for Diablo III to keep your users engaged?
Morhaime: We do have a plan. An expansion planned for Diablo. I don’t have any timeline to talk about. I think that the most important thing for us always comes down to the quality of the expansion and the gameplay, and so that will be a big factor in terms of driving our schedule.
Starting tomorrow, Activision Blizzard will broadcast its third-quarter financial results conference call. Previous conference calls have been informative, while at other times not as much.
There is a slight chance that Mike Morhaime might announce or provide an approximate internal target for the official StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm release date. Again, it is a possibility. Not guaranteed.
Keep your eyes on Blizzplanet for images and details of whatever might come from the lips of Mike Morhaime. If you are able to listen to the broadcast on Wednesday, make sure to read the press release for further details. This news post will be updated tomorrow.
Activision Blizzard To Release Third Quarter 2012 Results On November 7, 2012
SANTA MONICA, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) intends to release its third quarter 2012 results after the close of the market on Wednesday, November 7 , 2012. In conjunction with this release, Activision Blizzard will host a conference call that will be broadcast over the Internet.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
1:30 pm Pacific Time ( 4:30 pm Eastern Time )
The Activision Blizzard Q1 2012 financial results conference call took place on May 8 at 1:30pm PST. Mike Morhaime discussed the latest progress with all Blizzard Entertainment’s upcoming projects.
2012 is already shaping up to be a busy an exciting year at Blizzard, as we’re poised to deliver fresh content to our players in all 4, all of our major franchises. I’ll begin discussing our franchise updates with World of Warcraft.
At the end of Q1, global subscribership for World of Warcraft remained at 10.2 million. Maintaining our subscriber levels puts us in a great position as we drive toward the launch of Mists of Pandaria later this year. We opened the beta in late March and have rapidly expanded testing through a good portion of our community, including the 1.2 million players who signed up for the World of Warcraft Annual Pass.
That program closed at the end of April and was very successful. Thus far, the feedback we’ve collected from the Mists of Pandaria beta tests have been great and development continues to move with a good pace as we open up more of the expansion content to players.
Mists of Pandaria will offer a brand-new continent to explore, a new player class, the monk, and more importantly, new game modes that will help World of Warcraft continue to engage its diverse audience. Scenarios will offer for a more relaxed way of playing at a group that’s less structured than traditional dungeons.
Challenge modes will give hard-core players and guilds new ways to compete with each other while earning cool rewards. And the pet battle system will offer players a light-hearted diversion from regular questing, vengeance, PvP.
On the Diablo front, we are less than a week away from launching. In preparation, we recently conducted an open beta stress test for Diablo III where anyone could download and try out the game. Response we got was huge with more than 2 million people worldwide participating in the open beta.
All the testing we’ve done over the past several months has been critical for us in polishing and preparing Diablo III for launch, particularly in the case with the auction house feature. We believe that having this convenient method for item trading integrated within the game will enhance the overall player experience.
Now all that’s left is to get the game into the hands of our players. Official midnight launch events for Diablo III have been announced for locations around the world, including the United States, Europe, Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
More than 8,000 retail locations across North America and Europe will also be open at midnight to celebrate the launch. Our players are clearly excited about Diablo III as it’s already set a Blizzard record for pre-orders, including those who signed up for the Annual Pass.
We look forward to providing a more definite sales update in the coming weeks. Most importantly, I’m proud of all the hard work that the team has put into Diablo III. This game has been a long time in the making, and our community has been supportive of us every step of the way. I’m confident that their patience will be rewarded next week when we launch our best Diablo game yet.
Meanwhile, the StarCraft 2 development team continues to forge ahead. The team has begun early testing on the arcade update that will make big improvements to the custom game experience on Battle.net. In fact, the team is already working with map creators in the StarCraft 2 community to update their maps and take full advantage of the new functionality.
We’re aiming to make the new arcade system live in the next coming months.
In addition to the work being done on arcade, development on Heart of the Swarm is going very well. Just a few weeks ago, we announced that we would offer a beta sneak peak of Heart of the Swarm to attend the use of Major League Gaming Spring Championship.
The event will take place at Anaheim Convention Center from June 8 to June 10. It won’t be too long after the MLG tournament that we’ll be ready to announce plans for our beta.
We’ll also be running our own U.S.A. national finals for our own StarCraft dual championship series event at the same event. This is just one of the many such events that we’re running with partners in countries around the world. Our goal is to identify and foster local heroes in various countries and have them compete in the StarCraft II global finals.
New developments from Korea also bode well for StarCraft II eSports. Just last week, we announced partnerships with the Korean eSports Association and OnGameNet, the cable television station, to create new StarCraft 2 leagues in Korea.
These new leagues will complement GOMTV’s successful global StarCraft II league, providing viewers with even more options for StarCraft II eSports. This news has created tremendous excitement in the StarCraft community as many of the popular pro-gamers from StarCraft I are preparing to compete in StarCraft II.
As I mentioned earlier, 2012 is already a busy year at Blizzard. With Diablo III launching next week, Mists of Pandaria well into beta testing and Heart of the Swarm close to beta, we are well positioned to deliver multiple titles in the coming year, which means Battle.net is going to be an even more exciting place to be for online gamers.
This is a full transcript of the speech by Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime during the Activision Blizzard 2011 Q4 Financial Results Conference Call. Let’s start with a few quotes by Activision Blizzard Bob Kotick.
Bob Kotick: 2011 is another record year for Activision Blizzard. In 2011, we generated nearly $1 billion in operating cash flow. And over the last 3 years, we’ve generated over $3.5 billion in operating cash flow, and we’ve returned more than $3 billion in value to our shareholders through dividends and stock repurchases.
In the U.S. and Europe, we remain the largest and most profitable third-party interactive entertainment company and the largest and most profitable third-party interactive entertainment digital publisher. We again delivered better-than-expected financial results and achieved multiple financial and operational records, as we have for the last few years. We achieved record operating margins and record EPS, which grew more than 17% over the prior year, and as I mentioned, we generated nearly $1 billion in operating cash flow, which allows us to continue to invest thoughtfully in our future growth and return capital to our shareholders.
With that in mind, we’re increasing our dividend 9% to $0.18 per share, and our Board of Directors has authorized a new $1 billion stock repurchase program. Our strong performance is a testament to the hard work and incredible talent of all of the Activision Blizzard employees around the world. Their commitment to excellence, teamwork and inspired creativity continues to drive our superior performance.
Today, we’re going to highlight a few important achievements from 2011 and provide some greater detail about our plans for 2012 and beyond, including our strong lineup, our expansion into new markets and new business models, and our development initiatives for new platforms.
2011 was a very competitive year. There were many great products released, and gamers had more entertainment choices on more platforms than ever before. Despite these choices and new competitors, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains far and away the world’s largest online subscription-based massively multiplayer game, ending the year with 10.2 million subscribers. World of Warcraft has a very loyal group of players and later in the call, Mike Morhaime will share some of this year’s plans for the franchise.
We expect growth from Blizzard. In addition to World of Warcraft, which provides a strong foundation, Blizzard plans to launch at least 2 titles this year, including Diablo III with its real money auction house. Business pipeline has never been stronger, including World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the Blizzard DOTA, and the next-generation MMO.
Morhaime: I want to quickly recap our activity from 2011. We launched both StarCraft II and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm in China and introduced the localized version of World of Warcraft with the fast-growing brazilian market. We also announced the expansion sets for StarCraft II, World of Warcraft, and kicked off the beta test for Diablo III. We’re preparing to launch multiple titles in 2012. And with next BlizzCon scheduled for 2013, our development teams are focused on bringing these games to players as quickly as possible.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Moving on to financials. In large part due to the record-breaking Cataclysm launch in 2010, our results in both Q4 2011 and the year are down versus prior year. Despite not releasing a new game, we still posted approximately $500 million in operating income for 2011 while investing in our strongest pipeline of games ever.
Subscriber numbers for World of Warcraft ended 2011 at approximately 10.2 million, with no significant change relative to the prior quarter. We released a major update in November, which included new dungeons and raids, as well as new features that made our exciting raid content more accessible to a broader audience.
This content update has been well received by the community, and we believe it has contributed to retaining our players in the wake of competitive launches. Another initiative that has been very successful is the World of Warcraft Annual Pass.
This program was announced at BlizzCon this past year. Under its terms, players who commit to being a World of Warcraft subscriber for one year will get a free copy of Diablo III, unique digital items in World of Warcraft, and other benefits. To date, we have signed up more than one million players in the West for the World of Warcraft Annual Pass.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Some of you may have seen recent news about the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. Last week, we began inviting global press to visit our office to get a hands-on look at the game.
The press visit will take place next month, and our players will be able to read the latest news on the game on March 19.
We’re looking forward to showcasing the game to our community and collecting more feedback as we prepare for the upcoming beta for Mists of Pandaria.
I mentioned earlier that we began beta testing for Diablo III last year. After receiving feedback from the community and our internal teams, we’ve implemented changes to the game, which we believe will greatly improve the game experience and ensure that the final release will live up to our high expectations.
We have also been testing the auction house functionality. This testing will help ensure a smooth rollout of this feature with the retail launch so our players can safely and securely trade items with each other. Given the popularity of the Action/RPG genre and the keen interest in Diablo III, we expect this launch to be a big opportunity for Blizzard. We can also confirm that we are targeting a Q2 launch for Diablo III. We expect to announce more details about the release schedule in the coming weeks.
2011 was definitely a banner year for eSports. One of the most popular leagues in the world, Major League Gaming, posted their more successful year ever. MLG has served more than 3.5 million unique viewers over the course of the year, with much of that viewership driven by StarCraft II.
We believe that the excitement for eSports drives longevity and demand for our games. And with the recent announcement of our Battle.net World Championship season, we’re looking forward to taking an even more visible leadership role in this space.
As part of the Battle.net World Championship initiative, Blizzard will work with eSports partners to create grassroots open tournaments at the national level to boost engagement in countries around the world. The reaction from our community on this initiative has been very positive, and we are looking forward to another exciting year for eSports.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
In the midst of all the eSports buzz, the StarCraft development team has been making great progress on the new expansion, Heart of the Swarm. The feedback we collected on the campaign and multiplayer content from this past BlizzCon has been invaluable. We will share more news about Heart of the Swarm in the coming months.
Finally, we continue development work on Blizzard DOTA, a new free-to-play online game which we showcased at the last BlizzCon. Blizzard DOTA is being created using the StarCraft II engine and is based on an online gaming style that’s become quite popular in recent years.
We believe Blizzard DOTA has unique design elements that will distinguish it from competitors. More importantly, our game will feature well-known heroes and characters from all Blizzard franchises in the game, giving it instant recognition and appeal among Blizzard gamers. As with Heart of the Swarm, we’re looking forward to sharing more news about Blizzard DOTA at a later date.
We expect 2012 to be a big year for Blizzard, with easily our strongest pipeline of games ever. With multiple titles expected to launch in 2012, we’re committed to bringing our players what they want most, new gaming experiences in all their favorite Blizzard universes. And I speak for everyone at Blizzard when I say that we all can’t wait to join them on Battle.net in the battlefields of Blizzard DOTA, Diablo III, Heart of the Swarm and Mists of Pandaria.
It is official! Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime announced at the Activision Blizzard Q2 2011 Financial Results Conference Call that Diablo III beta will begin at the end of Q3 2011. Likely before BlizzCon 2011 (Held on October 21-22 at the Anaheim Convention Center). The remaining window of Q3 for Diablo III beta testing to start is anywhere between August and September 30. October is not part of the third quarter.
We are very excited after the recent Diablo III Press Event. For those unfortunate, Blizzplanet will offer livestreams of Diablo III Beta, and will chat with players to respond questions and execute petitions live. We at Blizzplanet got plans to announce a Diablo III beta event that will make fans happy to be able to participate in as a community. Stay tuned.
This page will be updated soon with transcript. Check us back later.
Since the last call, we launched Cataclysm in China, and made some exciting announcements on both StarCraft II and Diablo III. I’ll go into a greater detail about those in a moment. First, I’d like to talk briefly about the financial side of the business.
For the first half of 2011, Blizzard is up year-over-year in net revenue as we’ve added Cataclysm and StarCraft II to our product mix and have brought value-added services live in China. In addition, we have increased our investments in service and product development in order to better serve our community and strengthen our business for the long term.
Moving on to StarCraft II, back in May, we’ve invited press from around the globe to get a first look at the upcoming expansion pack, Heart of the Swarm. We showcased a couple of levels from the game’s campaign, and we have seen a lot of positive feedback and coverage about the sneak peak. We look forward to sharing more information and news about Hear of the Swarm at the upcoming the GamesCom later this month, as well as at BlizzCon in October.
We also just released the Starter Edition of StarCraft II this week. The starter edition lets players play through a portion of the single player campaign, and they can also play unlimited multiplayer battles as the Terran race on a few different maps for free. Our hope is that the Starter Edition will encourage more gamers to try out StarCraft II, and they’ll eventually upgrade to the full edition.
On the World of Warcraft side, we experienced a slight decrease in subscribership during Q2, closing the quarter at 11.1 million subscribers worldwide. Since that time, we launched Cataclysm in China and have seen an increase in concurrency within the region. We’re very excited to have delivered the latest expansion to Chinese players, and we look forward to working with our local partner NetEase to continue improving the rate at which we are able to release new content to our players there.
In addition, to the China launch, we also just announced that we will be releasing a Portuguese version of World of Warcraft in Brazil later this year. Aside from promoting World of Warcraft in other regions, we’re taking other steps to bring more players into the community. With the new World of Warcraft Starter Edition, players are now able to play the game for free until Level 20 with no time restrictions. Since the launch of this program, we’ve seen a significant increase in new account creations, which we hope will allow us to continue attracting new players.
The World of Warcraft development team is also working on the next content update, which will include major new raid and dungeon content. We believe that this new end-game content will keep the game fresh for current players and provide compelling reasons for laps players to come back.
Before moving on to Diablo III, I want to thank our World of Warcraft community for their warm response to our recent charity pet, the Cenarion Hatchling. We pledged that Blizzard would donate 100% of the proceeds from sales of this pet through July 31 to help Japan relief efforts. Through this initiative and the generosity of our players, Blizzard will donate more than $1.9 million dollars to support ongoing earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan.
Many of you are already aware of the big news that we recently shared about Diablo III. Alongside the gold-based auction house, we will include an auction house within Diablo III that will allow players to trade items using real money. This auction house will be a secure and safe environment for players to trade their items over Battle.net. In the previous game, Diablo II, we did not offer such a feature, which resulted in many players turning to unscrupulous third-party services to purchase items. We felt that because players clearly wanted such a feature, it made sense for us to build it in the Diablo III so they could trade in a more convenient and secure manner than going through unauthorized third-party.
Players who participate in this optional system will be able to list items on the auction house for a flat fee, with another charge for completed transactions. When listing an item for sale, players will have the ability to direct the proceeds either through their e-balance which will remain on Battle.net, or to cash out through a third-party service. We have not disclosed specific fees, but we plan on keeping them nominal so that more players can participate in it, if they so choose. And so that players will opt to use our secure approved method of item trading and not churn to third parties.
We will also allow a limited number of free listings each week, so players can build up a balance without needing to deposit any funds to get started.
As for the upcoming beta, Diablo III is still on track to go into external beta testing later this quarter. And we are still working hard to ship the game before the end of the year. However, we’re not ready to commit to a release date at this time. What I can tell you is that the press who visited us last week played a near final version of the beta content and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We are very much looking forward to getting the beta into the hands of our players and collecting their feedback for the final phase of development.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to talk about BlizzCon, where we will hold exciting StarCraft II and World of Warcraft tournaments and share news about all of our franchises. Once again, this year we sold out the show in a matter of seconds. I’m also very pleased to note that this year’s BlizzCon will host the finals event for the Global StarCraft League (GSL), which is growing in viewership around the world. The GSL recently announced that they served more than 50 million videos-on-demand and live stream this year alone.
Another prominent eSports league, Major League Gaming, held a tournament in Anaheim this past weekend and served more than 30 million online streams of their eSports matches over 3 days. The interest in all of these leagues illustrates that eSports is becoming a truly global phenomenon, and it’s great to see StarCraft II at the center of all the activity.
The rest of 2011 and beyond is looking very exciting for Blizzard. We are making great progress on Diablo III, and the StarCraft II team is hard at work on the Heart of the Swarm. As always, we are continuing to make adjustments to our infrastructure to better support our massive community of players and keep pace on all the products in our pipeline.
Brian Karimzad (Analyst, Goldman Sachs): Hi, there. Mike, and I know you don’t intend to speak in the same superlatives as Eric does, but can you help us frame how you guys are thinking about the lifetime value of the Diablo III player versus maybe some of your other franchises, or maybe some of the stuff on the publishing side?
Mike Morhaime: What I would say is that Diablo III, at least in the West, is primarily going to operate off of a standard box revenue model, with the box and [expansions] to follow. The Auction House is really a big unknown for us. We really don’t have any predictions on how popular it will be, although we do expect it to be a pretty integral part of the game, and we also expect it to drive engagement and longevity in the life of Diablo III.
Edward Williams (Managing Director, BMO Capital Markets): Good afternoon. A couple of quick questions for you. Can you comment a little bit, Mike, on Cataclysm in China? What have you seen relative to what you’re targeting coming out of it? And can you also just talk a little bit about the subscriber levels? What you think is driving that number?
Mike Morhaime: Cataclysm just launched a couple of weeks ago in China. We have seen concurrency levels increase substantially. I think that there’s still big opportunities in China to continue growing there, especially as we focus more on the Tier 2 and 3 cities.
China represents, in terms of broadband penetration, there are more broadband users in China than any other country in the world, and it’s continuing to grow from there. So I think that presents a huge opportunity for us in the future. Especially as the Tier 2 and 3 gamers upgrade their systems to be able to support World of Warcraft.
In terms of subscriber growth around the world, what I would say is what we have seen is that subscribership tends to be seasonal and driven by content updates, and so as we’re heading further away from an expansion launch, it’s normal to see some declines, where the team is currently working on our largest content update since Cataclysm and that will hit later this year.
We are also doing things to continue driving growth like the recent Starter Edition for World of Warcraft, which lowers the barrier to trial by providing the first 20 levels free. We have seen an increase in new account creations from that. It’s still too early to tell on conversions to subscribership, but I really believe that, that is an important direction for us to continue lowering that barrier to trial and reaching new players around the world.
We’re also looking at new markets. We had great success in Russia. We think that Brazil is really an emerging market that has a lot of potential in terms of the number of broadband users. They’re a top 10 country. Their economy has performed very well compared to the rest of the world during the recession, and we already have some Brazilians playing in English, but we think the market can be a lot bigger in Portuguese.
I think that there are other countries we’re looking at beyond that as well, but I don’t have anything that I can talk about.
Edward Williams (Managing Director, BMO Capital Markets): How much of your subscriber base in China changed with regards to Tier 2 and Tier 3 over the course of the last couple of years? How significant has that become?
Mike Morhaime: That’s an area of growth for us, but we don’t break down those numbers, sorry.
Jeetil Patel (Deutsche Bank Securities): A couple of questions actually. First of all, on Diablo III, what’s the determinant on Diablo III coming out in 2011 versus 2012? Second, you’ve got 11.5 million subscribers, you did about $359 million of revenue which was up nicely versus a year ago. While subs are down, can you reconcile the incremental revenue from a product sales versus value added services standpoint? And I have a quick follow-up.
Mike Morhaime: In terms of the timing of the Diablo III release date, really, it’s just going to come down to there are a lot of moving parts in putting out a content release like Diablo III. We talked about new Auction House technology which has not been fully tested. We’re not yet in beta. And really, it’s just going to come down to when the game is ready for prime time. And so we’ll know more when we hit beta, and we’ll know more when we put some of these new systems into test. It’s a brand new infrastructure and with a lot of complex moving parts. In terms of the World of Warcraft business, clearly, coming off of the Cataclysm launch, we have a lot of momentum coming into 2011, and that has certainly helped the revenue numbers. I think that the value-added services, launching in China is certainly a factor. I think that those are probably the major factors driving revenue. We ended the year slightly up compared to last year. So we’re pretty happy with the result.
We’re increasing our investment in new projects that haven’t necessarily been announced. And we have increased the investment in customer service, but I would say, I think we’re at scale at this point. And there was — we did answer beta for StarCraft II last year during the quarter, which allowed us to capitalize development expenses, and I think that helped us out on the OpEx side on the comparison.
Eric Handler (Analyst, MKM Partners LLC): Is there any opportunity to use an Auction House type of services, or similar value-added services for StarCraft II that you have for Diablo and World of Warcraft?
Mike Morhaime: We really tried to design the features of these games to leverage the needs of the games themselves. Diablo III and previous Diablo games — as well — were very item-centric games with a lot of item trading, without a good mechanism really for doing that. And so, I guess the equivalent type of things for StarCraft II would be our map marketplace where players are able to create their own custom maps, and we do have plans to provide a marketplace where they’d be able to offer them up to other players for sale. Of course it’s very complex system that is still being designed. I think that some of the things we’re doing on the back end to support the Diablo III Auction House actually can be leveraged in StarCraft II to support that system which is great. On the World of Warcraft side, we really don’t have plans to do something similar. It’s a very different game, and it really isn’t designed with this type of item trading in mind.
Douglas Creutz (Vice President and Senior Research Analyst, Cowen & Company LLC): You guys had north of a 20% sequential revenue increase in Asia during the quarter. I know you launched StarCraft II in China and you also launched the added value-added services. I was wondering if you could kind of talk about, directionally, what was the biggest drivers of that revenue increase?
Mike Morhaime: The biggest drivers for that were the popularity of World of Warcraft, especially in China, and the launch of the value-added services.
Bob Kotick: I think one of the things we’re realizing though is that the success that we’ve had which is unique for Western publishers in China, we’ve learned so much about the opportunity that over the next 3 to 5 years, we’ll continue to see investment and real opportunity for us in places like China that are not really opportunities for many of our competitors.