Can Activision Stand Out in the Crowd?

Leading game publisher Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) announced on Friday that for the fourth consecutive year its release of Call of Duty has “delivered the biggest entertainment launch of the year” with over $500 million in sales worldwide in just 24 hours. At $50 a pop, that’s 10 million copies. A frivolous comparison, but interesting none the less: the iPhone 5 beat just 2 million pre-orders in 24 hours.Call of Duty

The company’s announcement points out that the Call of Duty franchise life-to-date sales beat box office receipts for both “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars.” Activision’s stock came up over 4 percent in afternoon trading on the news, and while the company deservedly pats itself on the back for a solid launch, it issued some concerned statements about the sales environment heading into the future.

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“Given the challenged macro-economic environment, we remain cautious about the balance of 2012 and 2013,” said CEO Bobby Kotick in the statement.

Of all the game publishers, Activision has a particular history of success. On top of Call of Duty it is the company behind World of Warcraft and StarCraft, which is due for a new installment in March 2013.

Despite losing nearly 10 percent of its share value this year to date, the company is an example of what real, sustainable revenue streams look like in an industry that has struggled over the past few years. On the other side of the isle, companies like Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) and Glu Mobile (NASDAQ:GLUU) have been plagued with systemic losses. The gaming industry is largely built off a model that is designed to produce blockbusters. When it fails to produce one, it fails to produce earnings.

This lack of compelling titles could be behind the 38 percent year-to-date loss for Glu Mobile, which recently announced it will be closing an office and cutting staff. Zynga has lost over 76 percent of its share value this year as well as a huge number of executives, who seem to be bailing before the ship sinks.

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