Activision Blizzard Q1 2012 Financial Results Conference Call – Transcript

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.

Michael Morhaime

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.

Activision Blizzard 2011 Q4 Conference Call – Mike Morhaime – Full Transcript

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.

Diablo III

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.

StarCraft II

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.

Blizzard DOTA

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.

Conclusion

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.

Gallery

Official Diablo III Beta Starts End of 2011 Q3

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.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2011 Conference Call Recording

Transcript

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.

Public Q&A

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.

Media

 

Diablo III Beta Begins Q3 2011

It’s official. During the Activision Blizzard Q1 2011 Financial Results conference call held today at 1:30pm PDT (4:30pm EST), Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime officially announced Diablo III beta testing will commence this upcoming Q3 2011. It was not specified if it’s a fiscal Q3, or otherwise. One could extrapolate Diablo III Beta might start in early July, after the Diablo II anniversary, which coincides with the Diablo III official announcement held in Paris at the 2008 Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals. Here is the quote from Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime during today’s Activision Blizzard Q1 2011 Financial Results conference call:

Morhaime: “On the Diablo III front, I’m pleased to report that we began internal company live testing last week. The game is looking great, and we are currently targeting a Q3 Launch for external beta testing. The development team is working hard to try and launch Diablo III this year. But I want to be clear that we do not have an official release date or window yet. As always we won’t compromise the quality of the game in order to hit a window.”

Note: Check back later today and tomorrow for the full transcript and recording sample.

Transcript

Morhaime: Blizzard Entertainment has come up with the most successful year ever in 2010 shipping two record-breaking games in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. As we drive deeper into 2011, we are looking to build off that momentum by providing even more epic experiences to our players; and we are also working hard on our exciting pipeline of new games.

On our financial side, we got $357 million dollars in revenue and $170 million dollars in operating income. We’re pleased with the growth in the Blizzard community over the past year, and expect to grow further with the upcoming launch of Diablo III.

Looking at the World of Warcraft side of business, we were pleased to see record sales on the Cataclysm launch in Unites States and Europe which helps drive global subscribership. During the first quarter of 2011, as players have eagerly consumed the new content, we have seen subscribership return to pre-launch levels in the last.

We finished the quarter with 11.4 million subscribers worldwide. Moving forward our objective is to continue delivering new content to players in all regions to further energize our community. Our partners at NetEase are continuing to drive toward launching World of Warcraft: cataclysm later this year, which should reinvigorate that community with some new exciting content.

For all our other regions, we recently launched the first content update for Cataclysm. This update includes new dungeons, special rewards for guilds, and a feature to help players find a guild to join. Player feedback has been positive and as a result we have seen an increase in player engagement and higher daily concurrency.

In addition, we have another major update already in testing that includes new raids and quests content, as well as an exciting new dungeon journal that will make raids and dungeons more approachable for all players.

I also have some news to share in regards to our [?] services. We recently launched several [?] for World of Warcraft players in China, allowing our chinese community access most of the services available to players in other regions.

We also launched a mobile guild chat system. This new feature allows subscribers of our Premium World of Warcraft Remote Service to chat with their guildmates through mobile devices.

Finally, we announced a new premium mount that will be offered in the Blizzard Store in a near future.

Moving on to StarCraft II, the first quarter was an eventful one for this franchise. In addition to releasing new ladder and costume map content for our players, we also launched the game in China. Already, the China region is one of our largest communities for StarCraft II in terms of concurrency, and [effort?] is up to a great start in the region.

We’ve signed with several partners to run StarCraft II Tournaments in China, as well as a Chinese broadcast partner to televise Korean GSL matches in Chinese. As we look to the future of StarCraft II, the development team is also hard at work on the first expansion: Heart of the Swarm. We’ll be showcasing that game to worldwide press later on this month.

On the Diablo III front, I’m pleased to report that we began internal company live testing last week. The game is looking great, and we are currently targeting a Q3 Launch for external beta testing. The development team is working hard to try and launch Diablo III this year. But I want to be clear that we do not have an official release date or window yet. As always we won’t compromise the quality of the game in order to hit a window.

Lastly, I want to talk a little bit about BlizzCon. Tickets will be going on sale later this month, and as in the past we expect it to sold out quickly. We also offer the show via internet stream and DirecTV Pay-Per-View to reach our players who can’t make it out to the show. Last year we had more than 95,000 paid viewers join us via DirecTV or the live internet stream.

As always, we look forward to sharing exciting news with our community at this year’s show.

Thrilled? Excited? So are we. Get your official Diablo III T-shirt to celebrate Diablo III Beta details finally coming your way.

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