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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
While KING classifies according to individual countries:
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:
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)