Activision Blizzard is one of the world's biggest independent games software developers, and owner of two of the industry's biggest franchises: World Of Warcraft, Skylanders and above all Call of Duty, the military shooter that has been the overall #1 gaming franchise for over a decade. Other key franchises include StarCraft, Diablo and Heartstone. Yet performance at all the established gaming companies has been buffeted by the fast-changing nature of the marketplace since 2010. The business was formed in 2008 by the merger of US company Activision with the software arm of French media and entertainment group Vivendi. Still intent on consolidating its existing assets, it was caught slightly by surprise by the sudden explosion of social media gaming, and especially mobile games. In 2015, it arranged to plug the sizeable hole in its portfolio with the acquisition of King Digital, makers of Candy Crush, Farm Heroes and others, for $5.9bn. More recently the similarly explosive growth of Fortnite - which quickly eclipsed its own online universe World of Warcraft - has left another dent in performance. It responded with a similarly themed challenger, Overwatch, but it still trails Fortnite's immense global popularity. Bobby Kotick is group CEO. Buoyed by stay-at-home gamers during the Covid pandemic, Activision's revenues hit a new high of $8.1bn for 2020, with net income of $2.2bn. More than 82% of sales now come from digital channels, as opposed to sales of physical product, and revenue is generated not just by game downloads and subscriptions but also the purchase of in-game add-on content and equipment. However, performance is increasingly dominated by the group's three lead franchises - Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush - whose combined sales now account for more than three-quarters of the group total (up from just over two-thirds in 2019 and over half in 2018). All other games combined contributed less than a quarter of revenues. The group maintains three separate development studios of Activision, Blizzard and King. Activision is the biggest by some margin, largely as a result of the continuing popularity of Call of Duty. That division contributed almost half of revenues (and over half of profits) for 2020, compared to $2.2bn from King and $1.9bn from Blizzard. The number of monthly active users of Activision's combined games portfolio at the end of 2020 were 397m, of whom 240m were players of King's mobile games. Blizzard's MAU figure hit a new low at the end of the year of 29m, while Activision's hit a high of 128m.
Capsule checked 5th April 2021
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Historical profile information for Activision Blizzard
Marketer Moves 2nd April 2021: New chief marketing officer at Activision Blizzard. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Sep 2019: Pelle Sjoenell stepped down as global chief creative officer of BBH to take the same position at gaming giant Activision Blizzard, overseeing games such as Call of Duty and Candy Crush. He is replaced as BBH CCO by Joakim "Jab" Borgstrom, previously creative chief at the agency's Singapore office.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Feb 2017: Gaming giant Activision Blizzard took the markets almost entirely by surprise with significantly better than expected figures for the holiday period. Retail research had suggested a sharp decline in sales for the latest installment of Activision's top-selling Call Of Duty franchise. However bricks-and-mortar losses were offset by a huge jump in digital downloads, not just of COD but also other titles, especially online multiplayer environment Overwatch. The company also enjoyed a big boost from recently acquired King Digital, makers of Candy Crush. That pushed quarterly revenues over $2bn for the first time, raising the full-year figure to $6.61bn, up an astonishing 42% year-on-year. Net income was up 8% to $966m. The unexpectedly strong performance caused Activision's share price to surge by almost 20% to a new high, before slipping back slightly.
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Dec 2016: There were clear signs that the mammoth success of Activision's Call of Duty gaming franchise has peaked. Early figures for latest release Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare, released last month, weighed in almost 50% below the year ago figures for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. The full report has yet to be released, but that decline was flagged by two market analysts with access to early numbers from researcher NPD. Those figures apply only to sales of physical units, as opposed to digital downloads, but it's still a huge fall. Competition from rival games has been especially intense this season, so it's hard to tell so far whether the lower sales are the result of gamers' fatigue with the CoD franchise, or merely the effect of multiple similar releases.
Adbrands Weekly Update 27th Oct 2016: Ads of the Week: "Screw This, Let's Go To Space". Here's superstar swimmer Michael Phelps as you truly have never seen him before, ramping up his commercial presence still further in his post-pool retirement. Christmas is coming so it must be time for another Call Of Duty iteration from Activision, and 72andSunny obliges us with the accompanying high-octane teaser, combining live action with game footage. As always, it's deliriously entertaining. It's been a terrible year, so "Screw this, let's go to space."
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Nov 2015: Ads of the Week: "Seize Glory". Another week, another Call Of Duty trailer from 72andSunny, and there are no burgers in sight in this one. Last week brought us a bizarre joint promo between Call Of Duty and fast-feeder Carl's Jr (on our Facebook page, natch). This one is considerably more awesome. Even noobs who have never gone anywhere near a previous version of the game will be itching to get their hands on this. And Cara Delevingne is definitely a whole league - and paygrade - higher than Carl's Jr's Charlotte McKinney.
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