ActiBlizz Q1 2018 financial report: WoW is actually outperforming expectations – time for a fourth yacht or no?

Reporting on Activision-Blizzard’s endless piles of money is about as much fun as reporting on how fifty-bajillion-zillion people are playing fork knife. No, I said that wrong; it’s about as much fun as taking a fork and a knife to my own eyeballs. But hey, it’s tradition, so here goes: Bobby Kotick and the gang have announced new records, measured in said piles of money; the company acknowledges it was a quarter “without large content releases” that nevertheless produced enough piles of money to surpass its own guidance, leading it to raise its outlook for more piles of money for the year.

“For the quarter ended March 31, 2018, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were a Q1 record $1.97 billion, as compared with $1.73 billion for the first quarter of 2017. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were an all-time quarterly record $1.46 billion. GAAP operating margin was 30%. GAAP earnings per share were an all-time quarterly record $0.65, as compared with $0.56 for the first quarter of 2017. […] Activision Blizzard’s operating margin was 39% and earnings per diluted share were an all-time quarterly record $0.78, as compared with $0.72 for the first quarter of 2017. […] Operating cash flow was a Q1 record $529 million, up 29% year-over-year.”

One of the reasons these reports have gotten dull is the switchover a few years back to Blizz reporting merely monthly active users (MAUs) instead of more granular results (like sub numbers and concurrency numbers) for its online games. Blizzard itself claimed 38,000,000 MAUs this quarter thanks in part to… wait, what’s this? World of Warcraft getting a nod? This just got interesting after all.

World of Warcraft over-performed versus the prior expansion at this point in time, with higher engagement sequentially and strong community participation with in-game purchases. Preorders for the upcoming expansion, Battle for Azeroth, are ahead of plan. Hearthstone continues to reach and engage its large global audience through multiple efforts including a new promotional bundle, expansion, and player-versus-environment mode, Monster Hunts, which has had strong engagement. Overwatch continues to add new players, and engagement remains strong, with the most recent seasonal event, Retribution, having a higher participation rate than any prior event.” [Emphasis ours.]

Then again, is doing better than pre-Legion really a high bar?

Do note that the company is also still talking up “increased engagement” thanks to Overwatch League. There is no mention of Diablo or Heroes of the Storm, at least in the written report. Perhaps more tellingly, Destiny 2 is also not mentioned.

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13 Comments on "ActiBlizz Q1 2018 financial report: WoW is actually outperforming expectations – time for a fourth yacht or no?"

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IronSalamander8 .

I enjoy Legion overall. Not as much as Wrath but Wrath was the ‘golden age’ for my time in WoW so no surprise. I am looking forward to the changes to demonology in BfA and I didn’t play for a large chunk of Legions lifetime but I still give it a thumbs up.

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Ben Stone

Not surprising, it was the best expansion since Pandaria / WOTLK at a time when the rest of the MMO market is very weak.

I have only just recently noticed players starting to take a break before the next expansion, as compared to the mass exodus mid-expansion for Draenor. Legion kept people busy for pretty much the whole cycle. I expect most will return for the pre-patch too.

luxundae
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luxundae

That’s a bit of money. I realize that Bliz’s rep is built on having highly polished, approachable, mass market games, but I sort of wish they’d create a separate brand for smaller, more experimental indie stuff and throw a few tens of millions at it every few years just to see what they come up with. Steady funding for indie studios is hard to find…

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nomadmorlock9

I enjoyed legion at launch. The story was strong, however the lack of corrections to the Druid Class and the repetitive nature early on detractors for me. I see a lot of things moving in the right direction with the new expansion and have recently re-subbed due to this. Blizzard always makes a good game and I have hopes that they get the fun factor right with the upcoming re-vamps.

The lack of development of competition surely has an impact on where they go and I hope at this point they have learned enough from previous revisions of the game to be moving in the right direction.

Xijit
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Xijit

Here’s the real question

Is wow actually doing something good, or is it just that the rest of the entire MMO Market is collectively sucking ass

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David Goodman

Capitalizing on the mistakes of your competitors is itself doing something good. However, the rest of the MMO industry is doing perfectly fine as long as you don’t use WoW as the only benchmark for success.

We’re finally at a point where other MMOs coming out aren’t doing so trying to be “WoW killers” and apeing everything Blizzard does in terrible manners. I consider that a win for the industry. It’s just a shame it took so many electronic corpses before other developers realized that WoW was an anomaly that shouldn’t be mimicked.

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Bryan Turner

In other news today people were surprised to see the sun rise up in the east, expect further astonishment when the darkness comes with slightly cooler temperatures!

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Tandor

I don’t about anyone else, but I’d settle for 1% royalties.

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Hirku

Put a decimal point a space or two to the left and I’d still be ecstatic.

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Zora

Jeez of course there’s a surge in ingame purchases compared to the previous expansion, back then there were no “new” races to provide a boost to the race change service and the price is even higher now than it used to be.

Reports are always blurry but the line between useful data and marketing-driven sales pitch has been growing thinner through the years…

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Dreema

So Legion is performing better than WoD? Jeez what a shock. An expansion with four content patches has done better than an expansion with one that also happened to be the worst expansion of all time.

I bet no one saw that coming.

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Schmidt.Capela

Then again, is doing better than Legion really a high bar?

Actually, it’s more that Legion, in the pre-expansion content drought, is doing better than WoD did.

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Sorenthaz

My guess/hope is that was a typo. Legion IMO is probably the best expansion to date, even beating out WotLK. The amount of stuff it’s brought to the game is nuts, the story was great and full of goodies for every class, you got to feel like a badass hero, and stuff like World Quests and Mythic+ dungeons are great new additions that reward different playstyles and really do let folks play how they want to without feeling like they’re gimped if they aren’t hardcore raiding.