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Companies of E3 2017: What We Know & What They Should Show

 

 

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is fast-approaching, with the pre-E3 festivities and conferences kicking off this weekend and the show officially running from June 13th to 15th. Organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and set in its usual location of Los Angeles, CA, E3 is basically a cherished holiday for gamers, tech fans, enthusiast media and industry folks alike.

 

Now that we’ve “set the stage,” if you will, here’s a list of many companies that we know will be there, what we know about them and what they should show in a perfect world. Some are hosting press conferences. Others will be taking part in various streams or interviews with media members. Then even more will be packing the show-floor to demo or host exhibits featuring new games. No jokes, this is the most exciting time of year for video games and we should expect a ton of new announcements, trailers, gameplay videos and, as always, surprises.

 

 

Saturday, June 10th

Electronic Arts $EA: EA Play, 3pm ET

 

Saturday marks the unofficial start of the festivities, as Electronic Arts hosts its second annual EA Play conference in Hollywood, CA. Starting in the afternoon and running through Tuesday, June 12th, this is mainly a fan event which is a theme of late for many companies.

 

What We Know: In advance, EA has posted a list of games to expect at its event. These of course include its Star Wars and sports titles: Star Wars Battlefront II, FIFA 18, Madden NFL 18, NBA Live 18, EA SPORTS FIFA on Switch in addition to other titles including another entry in its racing series, Need for Speed Payback,  then others like The Sims 4 and some mobile offerings. Note that extra content for its hit shooter Battlefield 1 will also be shown.

 

What It Should Show: Of course both fans and investors would love to hear more about its OTHER Star Wars projects, of which there are two more in development that were revealed at last year’s show. Visceral Games and EA Motive are working on an action adventure game, which has some serious development muscle behind it with industry vets Amy Hennig and Jade Raymond running the studios respectively. Then, Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment’s project is a mysterious 3rd person action game set in a completely different timeline than the company’s other titles.

 

But to be honest, EA’s lineup is super “safe” right now, so I think it should also show off some of its other more interesting future games. Mass Effect Andromeda developer BioWare teased a brand new game recently and I think this is the time to reveal more after the mixed reaction to the latest Mass Effect installment. Then there’s the EA Originals line of smaller titles, which includes studio Hazelight’s unannounced project, Fe by Zoink Games then Sea of Solitude by Berlin’s Jo-Mei Games. I even fully expect another EA Original title to be announced, maybe even Unravel 2?

 

Lastly, might be a long shot based on my last note about BioWare, but I think EA should go even further and give us a glimpse of the studio’s next Dragon Age game. The publisher needs a fantasy RPG to round out its lineup, otherwise it honestly may be the most predictable (some would say “boring”) of all the companies this year.

 

 

Sunday, June 11th

 

Microsoft $MSFT: Live E3 Briefing, 5pm ET

 

What We Know: Isn’t it obvious? In its most important E3 to date, Microsoft will finally reveal Project Scorpio. The upgraded, “most powerful console ever” iteration of the Xbox One was announced at last year’s show and ever since it’s been shrouded in secrecy except for an overview of its specs from Digital Foundry. Microsoft has to show us what it looks like, tell us when it’s coming out, share its price and, most importantly, tell us about some of its freakin’ games! A shiny new piece of hardware is well and good, but without software there’s no way the company can close the gap with Sony’s PlayStation 4 shipments (now standing at 60 million units).

 

What It Should Show: In a conference that will run longer than its usual hour and a half according to head of Xbox Phil Spencer, Microsoft absolutely NEEDS to show us the games that it’s been so quiet about recently. We know a new mainline Forza racing game is in development of course, but it’s time we hear more about titles like Crackdown 3 (which I fully expect to launch alongside Scorpio), Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, Cuphead and Below. And we need to hear about its new 3rd party partnerships, because right now it’s basically just Middle-Earth Shadow of War published by Warner Bros that we know is coming to Scorpio.

 

The Xbox team is pushing to cultivate developer relationships with Project Scorpio, and they need to prove it by showing us some surprises or at least confirming some rumors. There will be “something” Halo related during its show, though not likely to be Halo 6, but also what about the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest rumored to be called Ori and the Will of the Wisps? What about utilizing the Fable license again? Maybe Shadow of the Tomb Raider if the relationship with Square Enix is still going? How about a surprise or two or even more, maybe an RPG to round out its portfolio or a story-based single-player experience to rival a huge Sony hit like The Last of Us? Project Scorpio will only be as good as the games it can offer, and it’s not enough to lean solely on major 3rd party titles because is competitor already has a much larger install base of people playing those exact games.

 

Last quick note is that Microsoft said it will not show anything Virtual Reality-related, unfortunately. So those rumors about a collaboration with Oculus Rift are on hold for now.

 

 

Bethesda Softworks: #B3 Showcase, 12 am ET (Monday)

 

What We Know: Private publisher Bethesda has been providing the industry with some gems lately, think new entries in DOOM, Wolfenstein and Dishonored series plus recent release Prey, and I expect its hot streak to continue at this year’s conference. In the above image, it showed off its plan for E3 called “Bethesdaland,” which reveals a lot about what will be at its showcase and on the show floor. Expect to see Elder Scrolls Online/Elder Scrolls Legends, Quake Champions, Fallout 4 VR, then new content for games that are already out: Dishonored 2, Prey plus DOOM 2016 (perhaps a VR mode for that one?).

 

What It Should Show: You’ll notice that Bethesdaland has a couple of areas under construction. In these spots and at its event/show floor exhibit, I think it should absolutely (finally) reveal Wolfenstein The New Colossus. Gamers have been waiting a year since the title was initially teased. So assuming that’s the first area, what about the other one? Realistically, it’s probably something like Evil Within 2. Or maybe related to Skyrim for Nintendo Switch, which was shown off in the initial trailer for the hybrid console?

 

Super long-shot for this conference is the big rumor circulating: a sci-fi, open world project rumored to be called Starfield. It sounds like the type of thing that would fit nicely in the company’s portfolio. We also know that Bethesda Game Studio is working on a couple projects, but I assume those are not far enough along in development to show here.

 

 

Devolver Digital: Press Conference & All-Night Event, 1 am ET (Monday)

 

What We Know: Well, we know that independent game and film publisher Devolver Digital is having an event overnight. But nothing “official” has been announced in terms of exactly which games will be, except that there won’t be any brand new reveals. Though Japanese developer Suda 51 will be!

 

What It Should Should: Some titles that it should likely show are The Swords of Ditto, Crossing Souls, Minit, Ape Out, Eitr and Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour. Admittedly, I don’t know much about these except for Crossing Souls, made by Spanish developer Fourattic.

 

 

Monday, June 12th

 

Ubisoft $UBI: Press Conference, 4 pm ET

 

What We Know: French gaming firm Ubisoft is known for its unique and energized stage shows, though this year it might be toned down a bit with internal developers hosting rather than comedian Aisha Tyler. Still, in the above video, Ubi and its CEO Yves Guillemot have confirmed we will see South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Far Cry 5 in particular. Technically, that’s all we “know” for sure but in reality..

 

What It Should Show: .. We probably already know most of its show. I’m fairly confident that based on recent leaks, we can guess the “Conference Exclusives” and “New IP Saved for Conference” referenced in the video. One of them has to be Assassin’s Creed Origins, all but confirmed to be the official title of a new game in the series set in Ancient Egypt. Another should be social racing game The Crew 2. And that new IP? I’d wager it’s the Nintendo crossover called Mario x Rabbids Kingdom Battle. There’s also a good chance it features next year’s Just Dance title, or some new content for this year’s version.

 

If it’s not those titles, then what if Ubi goes ahead and treats us to the new triple AAA online multiplayer game it mentioned in its last earnings call? Or the space simulation game, code-name Pioneer, with a trailer in Watch Dogs 2? Or a brand new smaller or indie type of game from UbiArt engine? Or even a Splinter Cell title (however unlikely)? Ultimate long-shot is that it announces some sort of brand new project exclusive to Nintendo Switch, but that’s probably not feasible at this point in the hardware’s life cycle.

 

 

Sony $SNE: PlayStation Live from E3, 9pm ET

 

What We Know: Closing out the last day before E3 technically begins is current console market leader Sony with its PlayStation Live event. And we know it’s had some heavy-hitting conferences lately, despite some of the games featured being early in development or delayed when all is said and done. Be that as it may, Sony shows a ton of games at its show from both internal studios and external partners, so we know games like God of War, Uncharted The Lost Legacy, Spider-Man, Days Gone and Grand Turismo Sport will be shown off. Not to mention those 3rd party games where Sony has established marketing deals, including (my most-anticipated game of all time) Destiny 2, Call of Duty WWII, Far Cry 5, Star Wars Battlefront II and fighting game Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

 

What It Should Show: Knowing that Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding project will not be making an appearance, that leaves Sony’s biggest game remaining that I believe it should absolutely show as The Last of Us 2. I know it’s early in development. I know creator Naughty Dog’s leadership team has said it takes a lot of effort to create teasers. I know that the studio is showing off its upcoming Uncharted game already. But wouldn’t a Sony show feel empty now that everyone knows TLoU2 is a real thing instead of a pipe dream? It would at least to me.

 

Otherwise, Sony should really show off what studio Sucker Punch has been working on all these years after PS4 launch title Infamous Second Son. Then round out its show or exhibits with Knack 2 (yes, really), Detroit: Become Human, Housemarq’s in-development title Matterfall, Media Molecule’s Dreams (if it still exists) and Michel Ancel’s WiLD (if it also still exists). Sony also said recently that it has some news surrounding unannounced Japanese games, which have done well for the platform lately. Separately, if Sony is serious about PlayStation VR, it should really show people why they should pony up hundreds of dollars to buy one. The device has been “virtually” non-existent at its last couple of press events. (Apologies, it was too tempting.)

 

Lastly, is it finally time for From Software to reveal Bloodborne 2? Might be wishful thinking, but crazier things have happened at E3.

 

 

Tuesday, June 13th

 

Nintendo $NTDOY: Nintendo Spotlight E3 2017, 12pm ET

Nintendo Treehouse Live, Tuesday, June 13th, 12:30 pm ET & Wednesday, June 14th, 1pm ET

 

What We Know: On the morning of the first official day of E3, Nintendo will have a half-hour long recorded “Spotlight” event. During this show, we know for sure that (my second-most anticipated game of all time) Super Mario Odyssey will be heavily featured. It’s a given that Nintendo’s event and show-floor exhibit will be centered around its most iconic character returning in a 3D platforming game later this year. It even appears Nintendo is creating a real-life version of the location New Donk City featured in the original Odyssey trailer. We also know that the company will be delving deeper into Switch games releasing this year, which are ARMS, Splatoon 2 and Pokken Tournament. In fact, Nintendo is hosting tournaments for all three of three games at E3.

 

What It Should Show: Stuff for Switch, then some more, then even MORE. This is prime time for its hot new console. The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild DLC. Fire Emblem Warriors. Super Smash Bros (if a version is coming to Switch). Xenoblade 2. The aforementioned Mario x Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Capcom’s Monster Hunter XX, releasing in Japan during August. Platinum Games’ unannounced title. Skyrim for Switch. FIFA for Switch. Anything for Switch that is new and fresh and keeps its sales momentum going strong. Maybe even news on its online service, voice chat phone app, classic games lineup or, gasp, Virtual Console.

 

Oh, there will be a 3DS and maybe even a mobile presence as well, but the focus HAS to be on Switch’s software and services.

 

 

The Show Floor!

Los Angeles Convention Center, Tuesday, June 13th to Thursday, June 15th

 

Finally, after all that, the show itself will take place across three long but fun days! See the map above for exact locations of big company booths, or the floor plan link here from the ESA which gives every location throughout the convention center.

 

Here’s a quick, general run-down of companies that will have some sort of presence:

 

Activision Blizzard $ATVI

What We Know: Destiny 2, Call of Duty WWII multiplayer reveal, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.

 

What It Should Show: Future Overwatch or Hearthstone plans. Maybe Call of Duty mobile. Next Skylanders. But really, exactly what it’s showing will be sweet!

 

Bandai Namco

What We Know: Code Vein, its vampire RPG Souls-like, which looks very cool.

 

What It Should Show: Is there any future for the Dark Souls series in light of a new game like Code Vein? Is it making any Switch games? Or just bringing classic games to the platform? Also, more information on Ni No Kuni II.

 

Capcom

What We Know: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

 

What It Should Show: Street Fighter “surprises.” Monster Hunter XX for Nintendo Switch should be there, would be nice to even get a release date for the Western version.

 

Sega/Atlus

What We Know: We actually know everything that Sega and Atlus will have on the show floor this year. Total War: Warhammer 2, Total War: Arena, Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces, Yakuza 6, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Then some Nintendo 3DS titles: Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux.

 

What It Should Show: Whatever it shows of Sonic Mania, it should show more, because it could be the best Sonic game in years.

 

Square Enix

What We Know: Per its blog, Square will have “developer interviews, announcements, gameplay sessions” and more. These include content for games including Final Fantasy (both new and old), Agents of Mayhem, F1 2017, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Lost Sphear, Flame vs Blaze, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and even a concert featuring NieR.

 

What It Should Show: Shadow of the Tomb Raider? The next installment of Life is Strange.

 

Take-Two Interactive $TTWO

What We Know: Take-Two has already said it’s not showing any brand new games, so basically its existing franchises will be there: NBA2K 18 (probably even its Nintendo Switch version), WWE 2K18. Definitely some Mafia III extra content. GTA Online in some fashion.

 

What It Should Show: Red Dead Redemption 2. Borderlands 3. But these won’t. Don’t even get your hopes up.

 

THQ Nordic

What We Know: That the renamed studio will be on the show floor showing its games, both present and future. Presumably..

 

What It Should Show: Darksiders 3, Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Aquanox Deep Descent, Victor Vran.

 

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

What We Know: Five games will be on display from its studios. These are Middle-Earth Shadow of War, Injustice 2, LEGO Dimensions, LEGO Worlds, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2.

 

What It Should Show: I mean, the obvious answer is what the next Batman game looks like especially now that Rocksteady is no longer the development studio. But that doesn’t seem likely given WB has already told us what it’s showing.

 

 

Miscellaneous

 

E3 Coliseum: Tuesday, June 13th to Wednesday, June 14th

 

What We Know: E3 Coliseum is a really cool event at LA Live organized by The Game Awards’ Geoff Keighley, featuring interviews, demos and panels. Games featured include God of War, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Spider-Man, Sea of Thieves, Mortal Kombat, Far Cry 5 and Call of Duty WWII but more interestingly, the people that make them. I’m looking forward to a number of these, namely the conversation with Bungie, creators of Destiny, plus of course legendary Japanese developer Hideo Kojima himself will be making an appearance (of course!).

 

There you have it. Thanks if you made it this far, or are using this as a reference to see when each company is having its event. And to those attending the show, have fun and know I’m quite jealous. Am I missing anything that you think should be shown by one of these companies? What are you most anticipating at this year’s show? It’s an exciting time, I’ll have more comments on Twitter and some sort of post mortem once the dust settles as well.

 

Sources: ESA, Company Websites/YouTube, NeoGAF, Geoff Keighley, Gamasutra

 

-Dom

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Bungie Reveals Destiny Sequel Via Images On Social Media

 

Hi folks!

 

As you’ll notice, this is going to be a bit of a different post in that it’s mostly news. I just am excited to share that game developer Bungie, the Washington-based studio behind early games in the Halo franchise, has posted the above image on its Twitter account. This tweet officially announces the sequel to its 2014’s shared-world shooter Destiny, simply entitled: Destiny 2. Like the original, it will be published by Activision Blizzard $ATVI.

 

Two more images below were posted almost simultaneously on Destiny’s Facebook page, showing a variation on the above image then a more detailed look at the bottom half of the area featured in the other two shots.

 

 

 

 

Humor me for a moment, as these are exciting times. Astute Destiny fans will notice that these imagines actually tell us a bit more than it may seem at first glance. The Last City is depicted as being on fire and burning to the ground, assumingly from some sort of attack from an enemy faction. In the original game, The Last City is the only remaining area populated by humans but it was in-tact and not under siege. I can only presume that the player character will be the one responsible for defending The Last City from these evil-doers, or maybe bringing the fight to them in order to take revenge in the name of humanity!

 

These photos also show the Traveler, that mysterious spherical body above The Last City, is essentially unharmed at least for now and it still resides above The Last City in its usual spot. Many in the Destiny universe revere the Traveler as being a “protector” over the last inhabited city on Earth, and it seems humanity desperately needs both it and the player to defend it in the upcoming sequel.

 

 

As for more details on the game itself, no further information from Activision Blizzard or Bungie was shared. So we don’t know anything formally yet on release date, new content, trailers etc. But the indication from the leaked poster above, which surfaced last week after being allegedly leaked by a GameStop Italy employee, is that that Destiny 2 will release on Friday, September 8th later this year. This would be almost exactly 3 years after the original, and for big fans like me, a perfect opportunity for Bungie to expand on the universe it established in the first game while also enhancing all of its aspects including narrative, exploration and of course, my favorite part, its “raids” which are six-person mega-missions that usually feature puzzles, unique enemies and big bosses to overcome.

 

 

 

Lastly, another interesting part of the timing in that it’s right before Bungie kicks off the last live event in the original game’s life span: Age of Triumph. This event is basically the ultimate fan service, where the developer is offering some new quests, bringing older content up-to-date then offering new, remixed versions of gear from the early days of the game which is something players have been requesting for a while. Age of Triumph begins tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28th.

 

What about you? Did you play the original, and if so what was your final verdict on it? Are you excited for Destiny 2 or will you be passing on the game? Feel free to leave a comment, or reach out on Twitter with your thoughts.

 

Sources: Bungie, Activision, Lega Network

 

-Dom

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2016 Year-In-Review: Top 3 Impactful Deals of the Year

During this Year-In-Review post, I wanted to acknowledge some of the merger and acquisition activity impacting the sectors I cover.

 

The following are three of the most “impactful” deals of 2016, which will lead the involved companies into growth areas for 2017 and beyond. Two of them revolve around mobile gaming companies and the last involves a major wireless firm with a media conglomerate in one of the largest mergers announced last year.

 

In chronological order, here are three of the deals that impacted gaming, media and technology markets in 2016:

 

 

February: Activision Blizzard completes its purchase of King Digital Entertainment PLC for $5.9 billion, allowing the major game and software publisher exposure to the ever-growing mobile market via the Candy Crush series in particular.

 

 

June: Chinese tech giant Tencent announced it is set to purchase Supercell for $8.6 billion, further strengthening its mobile dominance and expanding to markets outside of Asia with the Clash of Clans franchise among others.

 

 

October: AT&T agrees to purchase Time Warner Inc for a monumental $85.4 billion, establishing the wireless giant as a gargantuan media conglomerate with not only ownership of physical and digital distribution channels but content creators themselves such as CNN, HBO and Warner Bros.

 

Sources: King Digital Entertainment PLC, Supercell, Time Warner Inc, Wall Street Journal

 

-Dom

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2016 Year-In-Review: Top 5 Influential Gaming Companies of the Year

Back again with another 2016 Year-In-Review post!

This time, let’s keep it a bit free form. I wanted to post about some of the companies that have influenced my gaming habits this year, or those that have had significant impact on the industry as a whole.

So, in alphabetical order, here are five of the most influential companies in gaming for 2016 and a quick note about each. Which companies, developers or publishers influenced your habits this year?

 

 

Activision Blizzard, Inc.

Annual Revenue: $4.6 billion

Major public publisher produced some of the year’s most recognizable and top-selling games, including Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, World of Warcraft: Legion expansion and newcomer Overwatch.

 

 

Bethesda Softworks (Subsidiary of ZeniMax Media)

Annual Revenue: $89.2 million (Parent Company)

Independent, private publisher responsible for various notable titles in 2016, in particular: id Software’s DOOM and Arkane Studios’ Dishonored 2.

 

 

Electronic Arts

Annual Revenue: $4.4 billion

Along with its usual annual sports titles, which it continues to support with “Ultimate Team” fantasy-type modes, EA produced a pair of notable FPS games: the resurgent title in the Battlefield series, Battlefield 1, and critical darling Titanfall 2.

 

 

Sony Corp

Annual Revenue: $72.1 billion

Sony manufactures what continues to be the highest-selling console this generation, the PlayStation 4, which saw an upgraded “Pro” version in 2016 plus the firm launched its foray into virtual reality with the PlayStation VR headset.

 

 

The Pokémon Company & Niantic, Inc.

Annual Revenue: NA

TPC and Niantic were responsible for the year’s biggest gaming phenomenon in Pokémon GO, not to mention the former published two new entries in the Pokemon handheld franchise late in 2016 in Pokémon Sun and Moon.

 

 

-Dom

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Analysis of Destiny’s Release Timeline, And How Will Rise of Iron Fare?

destiny-cover

 

Publisher Activision-Blizzard ($ATVI) released its shared-world space shooter Destiny back in September 2014, and the game has been on an interesting timeline ever since.

Developed by Bungie, best known for creating the early games in the Halo series, the genre-bending title started strong out of the gate by racking up around $325 million in sales (sold-through to consumers) in its first week. It overcame a well-documented difficult development cycle and mixed critical reception to become one of the most financially successful launches in the history of gaming.

In the two years since, it has garnered both praise and critique from critics and gamers alike for its mix of online elements, top-rate FPS mechanics and (most recently) cosmetic micro-transations in which players can buy in-game items for real-world dollars. Also, Activision has offered incremental paid expansions in the form of “content drops” by the names of The Dark Below, House of Wolves, The Taken King and finally Rise of Iron which is slated for release tomorrow.

 

dstny_roi_horizontal

 

Each of these expansions built on (lots would say improved) the original game as Bungie updated its economy and systems plus offered new missions and raids (multi-person, complex quests with big rewards), but also costs consumers money as gamers were charged an additional fee on top of the base game. Whether you are a fan of this trajectory or not, the game has amassed a huge following with around 30 million registered users who spend an average of 3 hours playing even years later.

To track its progress individually and overall within Activision as a whole, below I’ll offer a handful of indicators. First is an overview of the firm’s stock price since Destiny’s original release two years back. You’ll see its price in September 2014 was $23.73, and it’s now grown to around $44 per share this week. During this time, the publisher’s market value has increased by $10.9 billion.

 

activision-blizzard-stock-price-20160916

 

It’s true that there are a variety of factors that go into a firm’s share price, among them the broader economy, performance of additional products (Activision-Blizzard also publishes popular games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Overwatch), mergers such as the acquisition of King Digital and general investor sentiment, but Destiny is a key part of the publisher’s portfolio especially when it comes to generating recurring revenue. The content packs I mentioned before create a revenue stream similar to a subscription-based title like WoW, as opposed to say Overwatch where new characters and maps are offered for free and the only additional revenue comes from cosmetic items.

 

Speaking of recurring revenue, Activision as a business unit within the overall company has found a way to generate ongoing sales via its continued updates for Destiny. A snapshot below shows the unit’s revenue numbers alongside each corresponding Destiny release. General theme is that other than the year-end holidays, a Destiny release over the past two years has meant slightly more revenue than “non-Destiny” quarters. Again, caveat is that the publisher produces other games, of course, but it’s interesting to see sales aligned with an estimate time frame of when each expansion came out.

 

activision-revenue-destiny-timeline-final

 

Lastly, I’ve tracked results in the U.S. games market of the title and its expansions according to the NPD Group, a data provider for the games industry. Upon release, it was the #1 selling game in September 2014 followed by #5 in October 2014. During some of its expansions, it reemerged in the Top 10 especially during Destiny: The Taken King, as this was billed as the largest expansion yet and had the most content. Note that this only tracks the U.S. physical games market prior to a couple months back, but it gives a good sense for how games perform at release and with updated content throughout their life cycles. Destiny is one of the few titles in recent memory that has been a Top Ten regular on-and-off since late 2014.

 

destiny-npd-trend

 

With Destiny: Rise of Iron expansion planned for release tomorrow, how will it fare? Can it again capture lapsed players (including myself) and provide revenue stability? When it comes to Rise of Iron, its content is more aligned more with The Taken King than some of the smaller ones, as it offers multiple missions and the first brand new raid activity in a year. With that comes a higher price tag ($29.99) than the smaller releases of course, but this also provides upside for its sales potential.

 

In the absence of a sequel to Destiny, which isn’t expected until next year, and a release date prior to the big blockbuster releases in the same genre like Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I think that Rise of Iron will perform about as well as The Taken King, with a Top 5 showing in NPD for September and Top 10 for October, and sales momentum into the 3rd quarter plus holidays that will support Activision’s segment revenue. However, I do not expect Rise of Iron to have the legs of The Taken King, as the aforementioned blockbuster titles will take gamers away and then early 2017 titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn should overshadow it.

 

Do you think that Destiny: Rise of Iron will sell as well as Destiny: The Taken King or somehow the original game? Are you a lapsed player than plans on jumping back into the game this week? I’m interested to hear! Shoot me a note or comment here.

 

Sources: Activision-Blizzard, Bungie, NASDAQ, NPD Group

 

-Dom

 

 

 

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Bottom Line: What is Activision Blizzard’s Actual Business Mix After KING Acquisition?

KING-NYSE

 

Now that Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) today has reported its first quarterly earnings since its acquisition of King Digital Entertainment PLC (KING) in February, how does its business mix actually look now and does this indicate potential upside going forward?

I predicted a few weeks back that based on KING’s financials, the combined firm’s Mobile segment would now comprise approximately a third of revenue, operating income and distribution channels (latter of which is the means by which customers purchase its products). This would mean that after Activision Publishing, Inc., the firm’s interactive entertainment and games segment that produces titles like Call of Duty and Skylanders, its new KING unit would be the next-largest contributor to overall business. Note that KING is the maker of mobile games like Candy Crush and Farm Heroes. I wasn’t exactly right about this, yet, but keep reading below to see details.

Additionally, I noted that the post-acquisition geographical breakdown would be interesting to see as the two companies presented these classifications differently. After looking at operating units, we will peek at what locales are driving the firm’s new business structure as well.

The results are in for this past quarter, and revenue plus income figures across its units are as follows:

 

ATVI Segmented Revenue & Income 2016Q1

 

For context, I have tabled these actual numbers against my predictions and earlier years below. Note that the earlier figures are fiscal, and they account for KING’s earlier financials inserted alongside ATVI’s original businesses, so focus on the percentages instead of the totals as a comparison:

 

ATVI Actual Revenue & Income 2016Q1 Table

 

You’ll see that my estimates were a bit high, at least for now, as actual revenue contribution by KING is 23% while it accounts for almost 27% of income. I still think that over the next three quarters, this could increase to a third of ATVI’s overall business as mobile grows and Blizzard potentially stagnates. Unless Blizzard’s online FPS Overwatch (releasing 5/24) performs extremely well, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Now I will present the same exact values as charts showing the percent of each in the context of the overall business. Again, everything prior to 2016Q1 is an illustration using KING’s financials inserted, as was done above:

 

ATVI Actual Revenue 2016Q1 Chart

ATVI Actual Income 2016Q1 Chart

 

The next shot is an overview of Distribution Channels from the earnings report. Quick reminder that this is how consumers purchase content and services provided by ATVI:

 

ATVI Distribution Channels 2016Q1

 

Below are these actual distribution numbers compared with  earlier fiscal numbers. Basically, these are as expected though I believe Mobile is now included in Digital which accounts for the bump:

 

ATVI Actual Distribution Channels 2016Q1 Table

One more perspective which I did not have in my earlier article is revenue by platform. I think it’s especially relevant now after KING’s contribution. You’ll see console is still the dominant platform at 53% of sales:

ATVI Revenue by Platform 2016Q1

 

As for geographical profile, a quick snapshot shows that North America is still the main contributor followed by Europe:

 

ATVI Geographical Segments 2016Q1

 

My last comparison across years, this time for percentages from different geographies:

 

ATVI Actual Geographical Segments 2016Q1 Chart

 

What these figures tell me overall is that despite KING/Mobile still being a smaller contributor than I initially anticipated, I still think it’s a key strategy going forward as its upside is more than Blizzard’s. Digital is already the main means by which consumers purchase the publisher’s games and services, so its diversification into Mobile as an additional revenue source and channel is a natural progression of its business model as a broad software publisher. This is especially relevant given my expected future decline of Blizzard subscriptions and traditional physical retail sales of ATVI’s games and software. And based on its stock price movement since the acquisition’s February close, where its shares are up more than 10%, investors seem mostly positive on this move as well.

 

ATVI Google Finance

 

In my opinion, the $5.9 billion bet on an expansion into mobile via KING is a crucial one despite its high cost. At the current rate of earnings (around $270 million per year, given this quarter’s performance), the breakeven on its KING investment is something like 22 years. However, this is conservatively assuming mobile does not grow; I think it will, which will move up that breakeven point. It will still be well worth it in the long-run. as the company diversifies its revenue streams and continues to finance more traditional projects such as console games (for instance new Call of Duty, Destiny titles) and full-price or subscription-based Blizzard entries (Overwatch, potentially new World of Warcraft content) to keep its core fanbase intact.

(Note that I do not know about any new Call of Duty, Destiny, Overwatch or World of Warcraft content other than what’s already been publicly announced. I’m just stating that new projects can be financed through sales of mobile games now that KING is assimilated into the ATVI structure.)

Do you agree that a foray into mobile was essential for ATVI, or should it have built organically from within and focused on core business such as console and subscription-based gaming platforms?

Sources: Activision Blizzard, Inc., Google Finance

-Dom

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Bottom Line: How Will King Digital Acquisition Impact Activision Blizzard’s Business Mix?

Activision-Blizzard-logoKing Logo (PRNewsFoto/King Digital Entertainment plc)

 

Bottom Line: Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) derived most of its overall sales and income from its Activition publishing arm prior to its recent acquisition of King Digital Entertainment PLC (KING) in February 2016, while its dominant distribution segment was digital channels and its operations were mainly in North America. Now that the deal is complete, what will be the impact on the business mix of ATVI from both an operational and geographical perspective?

Before the deal, ATVI had two main operating businesses, both well-known as industry leaders in their specific areas, and an additional catch-all category:

Activision Publishing, Inc.: Publishing interactive entertainment software products and downloadable content. Major brands include Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Destiny and Skylanders.

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.: Publishing real-time strategy games, role-playing games and online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category. Major brands include World of Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft and Hearthstone.

Other: Activision Blizzard Media Networks, Activision Blizzard Studios, Activision Blizzard Distribution & Corporate Items.

ATVI Segmented Revenue

 

You’ll see the Activision Publishing arm has been responsible for the most revenue and income for the past three years. This past year it comprised 58% of revenue ($2.7 billion) and 59% of income ($868 million), while Blizzard Entertainment constitutes 34% ($1.57 billion) and 38% ($561 million) respectively. A decline in revenue and income for Blizzard Entertainment was mostly due to bigger releases in 2014 and lower subscriber base for World of Warcraft this past year.

Taking into account KING’s latest statements, my forward-looking estimates for revenue and income including an additional business unit named “King Digital”:

King Digital Entertainment PLC: Developing and publishing mobile games and interactive entertainment, including free-to-play titles and social applications. Major brands include Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue and Bubble Witch.

KING Revenue

Estimated Revenue Income Post Acquisition 2

 

Using KING’s latest annual figures and aligning them with the other segments within ATVI overall, you’ll see KING could contribute around 33% of sales ($2.26 billion) and 34% of income ($768 million). This indicates that it would move into the second position in terms of contribution, right after Activision Publishing, meaning that ATVI’s mobile business will eclipse its publishing of Blizzard titles and game types. I expect this to fully continue in the future with the increase in popularity of mobile and casual gaming plus the decline in World of Warcraft subscriptions, unless Blizzard releases a new game within one or more of its established franchises.

Digging further, let’s see revenue by distribution channel which is a breakdown of how consumers are purchasing ATVI’s content. The channels before the deal are:

Retail Channels: Physical distribution of games via brick-and-morter and online retail outlets.

Digital Online Channels: Digitally-distributed games and subscriptions, licensing royalties, value-added services, downloadable content (DLC) and related microtransactions.

Other: Same items as above.

 ATVI Distribution Channels

And again, my estimates for after using recent KING reports using a grouping called “Mobile Channels.”

Mobile Channels: Games, services and subscriptions distributed via mobile phones, tablets and other devices.

Estimated Distribution Channels Post Acquisition

 

The trend here first is that last year, Digital Online Channels overtook Retail Channels as the leading distribution type, indicating a more widespread trend toward consumers opting to buy their software digitally. Digital Online Channels contributed 57% of revenue ($2.63 billion). If we insert KING’s revenue under the new Mobile Channels classification, then I estimate it will be the second overall distribution source at 33% of revenue ($2.26 billion). This would be a large shift away from Retail for ATVI, a bet that consumers want to consume their games digitally whether it’s on console, computers or mobile devices.

Lastly, I’ll show a quick glance at which regions are driving ATVI’s business. This is trickier to display as the companies report their geographical breakdowns differently. Before the deal, ATVI reported broad regions:

ATVI Geographic Revenue

While KING classifies according to individual countries:

KING Geographic Revenue

Which leads to a rough estimate, and definitely not a perfect one, because I have to follow KING’s reporting that lumps all countries outside of these three into Rest of World:

Estimated Geographic Revenue Post Acquisition 2

 

Still, it does the job to show that North America will continue to be the driving force behind business operations as half the firm’s sales over the past few years are from this locale.

The highlight overall is that ATVI’s $5.9 billion bet in acquiring KING is a significant shift in the company’s business mix, as its mobile business will overtake Blizzard Entertainment from a games revenue perspective and also will contribute more to revenue than the firm’s retail offerings. Geographic mix for now looks to be unchanged, but that also depends on expansion into new markets and what constitutes the Rest of World classification. By these estimates, it will take around 3 years for ATVI to recoup the almost $6 billion sales price in revenue and even sooner if mobile grows at a faster rate than the firm’s more traditional businesses.

Sources: Activision Blizzard, Inc., King Digital Entertainment PLC, United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)

-Dom

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Quick Thoughts: How Much Did The Division Actually Sell Day One?

The Division Concept Art

 

Quick Thoughts: Ubisoft Entertainment SA (UBI) announced via its UbiBlog that Tom Clancy’s The Division has broken sales records internally as being the best-selling game in the firm’s history. Based on this, how much in dollars did the game actually sell to consumers? My estimate is below. Would you agree?

After Tom Clancy’s The Division’s release this week on Tues, 3/8, publisher UBI has coyly proclaimed that the third-person online RPG had sold more on its first day than any other game in the publisher’s 30-year history. We saw a similar type of announcement with its last fast-selling title, the open-world hacking game Watch Dogs, in 2014.

Frustratingly, in both cases UBI didn’t initially reveal any sort of sales figures in copies or dollars. I will note it ended up that Watch Dogs sold 4 million copies in its first week, but no dollar amount was ever publicized. First I’ll try to put some perspective around this situation and then I’ll make my best estimate (which, full disclaimer, is completely a personal guess).

As for day-one sales, below are closest estimates in dollars of notable launches based on publisher announcements and industry data.

 

Video Game Day-One Sales Chart

 

Couple important items to note: Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013) sold $1 billion to retailers (sold-in) as opposed to consumers (sold-through). Also, Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015) figures are for the first 72-hour period. Like everything in life, there’s caveats and exceptions and it’s difficult to get a perfect comparison. Ultimately I’ve charted these both for illustration purposes rather than trying to prove that Call of Duty: Ghosts was the best-selling game ever upon launch.

In addition to the titles above, I mentioned Watch Dogs before. If we try to wrap a dollar amount on its first-week sales, let’s take its 4 million worldwide copies multiplied by the standard $60 price tag which would come to $240 million. Note that this is across the span of a full week, so assuming it was front-loaded on launch day, around $150 million or 2.5 million copies that one day. Again, for comparison purposes.

 

Watch Dogs Art

 

So if The Division has sold more than Watch Dogs on launch day, how much did it actually sell? I don’t think that it has eclipsed any of the other names on the chart above, otherwise UBI would have come out and projected that accordingly. Which means to me, it falls somewhere between $150 million and $310 million of both Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) and Grand Theft Auto IV (2008). I’ll bet it ends up being somewhere near the lower band of that range, so my estimate is that The Division may have sold $210 million upon its launch implying around 3.5 million copies, give or take.

Am I overestimating the success of this new franchise? Are my assumptions above completely crazy or perfectly genius? Do you think that The Division sold more than some of the titles in the chart above? Feel free to let me know either way, but until we hear concrete figures from UBI itself, we get to have fun and make bold predictions on our own!

Sources: Ubisoft Entertainment SA, Activision Blizzard, Inc., Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., Bethesda Softworks, NPD

-Dom

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Quick Thoughts: Can The Division Replicate Destiny’s Success as a Shared-World Shooter?

Quick Thoughts: Simply put, can Tom Clancy’s The Division become as successful as its competitor Destiny, which made a record $500 million during its initial launch and was reported by Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI) to be the top-selling new IP in North America and Europe in 2014?

 

Tom_Clancy's_The_Division

 

As noted in my previous article, publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA (UBI) is releasing its biggest title of the year, Tom Clancy’s The Division, soon on March 8th. The shared-world, online shooter with RPG elements set in a frigid Manhattan is the firm’s biggest bet this year as it’s a brand new IP for which the firm expects it to “be one of the largest launches of a new brand in the history of the video game industry,” per CEO Yves Guillemot. And without an Assasin’s Creed title this year, and Watch Dogs 2 yet to be confirmed, The Division is the premier part of UBI’s calendar year portfolio.

Which leads me to my comparison to Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI)’s hugely-popular online shooter Destiny. Stats from the firm’s reporting show the aforementioned record launch and even over a year later, the game has over 25 million registered users which have around 3 billion hours. It has yet to be seen if this success can be sustained through the decade-long plan that ATVI is rumored to have for the franchise, but with net revenues increasing last year to $4.6 billion (compared with $4.4 prior year), Destiny is a main contributing factor to the firm’s continued success as one of the world’s largest publishers.

 

ATVI 2015 Revenues

 

Going back to The Division, UBI hasn’t divulged their internal sales forecasts for the title in particular however they have released guidance of increased sales during final quarter of 2015-16 and relatively healthy full-year sales in 2016-17. From a consumer perspective, the game will scratch the same itch as Destiny from an RPG loot and leveling perspective however the key is its mechanics and narrative content, the latter of which was the main knock on Destiny when it first came out.

Based on this, it’s a fresh new IP that’s quite ambitious, so my personal take is if it delivers enough content between its story missions, side quests and “Dark Zone” PvP concept (which is an area many have compared to survival games where players can decide to either work together or fight against one another to collect the game’s best gear), I think that The Division can certainly compete with Destiny and even steal a portion of the games user base as ATVI hasn’t released new content since September 2015’s Taken King expansion. And ATVI announced that a sequel to Destiny won’t be out this year, which leaves the door open even further.

Whether it will generate $500 million in day-one sales or achieve 25 million users in its first year, that has yet to be seen, but the game is one of the year’s most intriguing releases.

 

Destiny Cover

Sources: Activision Blizzard Inc 4th Quarter & Full Year Financial Results 2015, Ubisoft 3rd Quarter 2015-16 Earnings, Xbox One UK.com

-Dom