Helldivers 2 Launch Pushes PlayStation to Annual Sales High & Profit Growth in Fiscal Year 2023 Report

As earnings season marches on, I’ll wrap up this week with my final recap of the big three gaming manufacturers.

Sony, the largest of the group by sales, has reported its fiscal year 2023 results. In this piece, I’ll cover mostly the annual financials to give a broad perspective of where the PlayStation division has been recently and will be soon.

If any of the data is quarterly, I’ll point that out.

That said, here’s the big headlines from PlayStation’s portion:

  • Achieved record annual revenue above $29B.
  • Reported double-digit operating profit growth.
  • Biggest year of unit sales for a PlayStation device despite missing target.
  • Breakout success of Helldivers 2 across both console and PC.

Underlying the record top-line and profit performance was a boost in third party sales, including downloadable content, headlined by the likes of surprise hit Helldivers 2 from Arrowhead Game Studios and Insomniac Games with Spider-Man 2, the former highlighting the benefit of adopting PC and the sizeable upside of live service risk.

Additionally, yen depreciation had a tangible impact on annual growth, as I’ll illustrate shortly. This currency effect is amplified for Japanese companies operating globally.

Throughout this time frame, PlayStation 5 hardware closed the lifetime sales gap with its predecessor and passed another milestone on the global best-seller list. On the software side, unit sales increased while shifting towards a digital split.

“During the PlayStation 4 generation, we were able to significantly grow profits in this segment thanks to rapid digitalization and the expansion of network services,” management wrote.

“In the PlayStation 5 generation, which has capitalized on the established PlayStation 4 user base, the trend is hard to see due to the impact of stay-at-home demand and acquisition-related expenses, but, since the launch of the PlayStation 5, we have continued to achieve a high level of, and more stable, profit growth.”

Read on for more detail around Sony’s latest numbers and predictions for the next year!

The above slides show Sony’s Game & Network Services (G&NS) division results for the year overall.

  • Annual revenue increased 17% to $29.55B.
  • This included $1.9B of currency impact.
  • Operating profit rose 16% to $2.01B.
  • This includes $267M of currency impact.

I’d point your attention to the above gallery, namely the operating income chart I compiled which illustrates the Helldivers 2 effect, and more broadly shows what happens when Sony’s live service effort pays off. Quite literally.

Until the final quarter of its fiscal year, operating profit was trending down 25%. After January to March, the year ended up as a double-digit increase!

Moving on to products categories within G&NS, here are select annual revenue and growth stats:

  • Hardware was $8.39B, up 8%.
  • Add-On Content hit $7.5B, up 26%.
  • Digital Software at $5.89B, up 29%.
  • Network Services reached $3.78B, up 17%.

On the strength of newer launches and evergreen titles, Add-On Content surpassed Hardware in Q4 alone, though the latter became the leading segment for the full year as PlayStation 5 reached the middle of its life cycle (yes, already!).

Within the console side of the business, it was a banner year for shipments even if Sony’s forecast was too ambitious (as I wrote since they first posted it). Hardware results were:

  • PlayStation 5 shipped 4.5M units in the March quarter, down from 6.3M.
  • This led to a fiscal year shipment total of 20.9M, compared to 2022’s 19.1M.
  • Slightly below Sony’s 21M target, and well below its original guidance of 25M.
  • Still, it’s above PlayStation 4’s 20M in the same year, which was its best.

Check out the image below for a full comparison of the last two Sony console generations, showing that PlayStation 5’s current 59.3M lifetime was less than a million off PlayStation 4 at 60.2M, much closer than other points in their launch-aligned history.

As for the broader industry, PlayStation 5 officially surpassed the lifetime unit total of Microsoft’s Xbox One, which launched in 2013 and ended at 58M. The next milestone will be Nintendo Entertainment System at 61.91M, which I’d imagine it might have already reached as I write this.

Here’s further insight into how software did for the G&NS segment during fiscal 2023.

  • Unit sales reached 286.4M, up from 264.2M prior year.
  • Sony-made titles made up 39.7M of that, down from 43.5M.
  • Digital downloads comprised 70%, up from 67%.

The clear winners were a pair of sequels in October’s Spider-Man 2 and February’s Helldivers 2, the latter being PlayStation’s fastest-selling game ever amassing 2M units in 12 weeks. For context, 2022’s God of War Ragnarök sold 10M in 10 weeks.

Can’t forget about the likes of Blizzard’s Diablo IV and Capcom’s Street Fighter 6, plus the continued benefit of annualized sports and shooter titles, even on an off year with the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Then, to a lesser extent, there was contribution from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy titles. In recent investor materials, Square Enix pointed out Final Fantasy 16 and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, both PlayStation exclusives, missed expectations (what else is new). With Square’s move to multi-platform, the days of third-party exclusives are clearly dwindling.

We also heard a bit from Sony on engagement, driven a lot by evergreen titles that dictate the market leader’s success here. As I mention in recent Circana U.S. sales recaps, tons of people play console primarily for experiences including Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V.

Sony reported that Monthly Active Users (MAUs) across PlayStation Network ended the year at 118M. While that’s no longer an all time high, which was achieved the prior quarter with 123M, it was still up 10M year-on-year.

The final stretch of fiscal 2023 was a fantastic one for Sony, pushing it to all-time revenue and generating higher income when it seemed like the year might be a down one for profitability.

A surprise multi-platform hit and PC’s contribution bumped up that profit growth, along with an all-time year for hardware shipments plus ongoing engagement in various legacy games.

Sony has recently backed off its live service push, to focus more on fewer titles in the space. A game like Helldivers 2 proves that all it takes is a single game capturing the zeitgeist to drive financial growth and keep an audience coming back for more.

It doesn’t hurt to have a simultaneous PC launch, a platform with a notoriously passionate user base. (Better or worse.)

I’ll quickly look ahead to Sony’s expectations for the coming year. Here’s the PlayStation forecast:

  • Revenue will be down 2% to $29.1B.
  • Operating profit to increase 7% to $2.15B.
  • PlayStation 5 shipments of 19M, down almost 2 million.

“As we enter the second half of the console cycle, we expect the number of new PlayStation 5 units sold to gradually decline,” management wrote in its remarks.

“However, by steadily maintaining and expanding the consistently increasing number of active users and user engagement, while also strengthening control over business costs, we believe that we will be able to steadily increase sales and profits from the PS platform going forward.”

Overall, I’m guessing G&NS will achieve these goals, and perhaps even increase the console shipment guidance to 20M. I’m expecting a lot of consumers upgrading and new buyers for Grand Theft Auto VI, expected to launch in calendar 2025.

Executives also reiterated that its new sci-fi multiplayer IP Concord will be out in this same time frame, as it aggressively moves to improve margins and incorporate the PC market. Could there be others launching by the fiscal year end?

Speaking of executives, Sony announced the replacement for exiting PlayStation boss Jim Ryan. Or should I say replacements, and both are internal hires. Hermen Hulst (my prediction back when the Ryan news broke) and Hideaki Nishino be co-leaders, heading up new respective groups within Sony Interactive Entertainment.

With that done, this concludes my latest recap. I recommend checking out socials for more coverage of earnings season and everything across the games industry landscape. Thanks for reading, be well!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥144.4.

Sources: Circana, Company Investor Relations Websites, Sony Interactive Entertainment.

-Dom

Microsoft’s Quarterly Xbox Sales Increase Only Due to Activision Blizzard in Fiscal 2024 Q3 Report

The start of a new earnings season, complete with my usual calendar, means it’s time to start up recaps as well.

I’m going to try something new and tighten up these recap articles!

More concise, same great quality. I hope.

Today, that means covering Microsoft’s recent 2024 Q3 results. I’ll focus mostly on Xbox during this January to March time frame, where there was major sales growth solely due to the impact from Activision Blizzard, as other areas within gaming declined including things like content, subscription and hardware offerings.

Still, Xbox segment sales outpaced guidance, mainly due to out-performance of Call of Duty.

Microsoft’s gaming division also hit a major milestone this quarter. Feeling the boost from the acquisition being included for two quarters now, annualized Xbox sales reached $20 billion for the first time ever.

I mean, this is why Microsoft spent all that dough. Plus, executives expect this to continue in the immediate future, according to guidance I’ll highlight later in this article, as that annual sales number is likely to move above $21 billion to close the fiscal year.

Now I’ll move right into a rundown of the numbers and a look ahead into the future of a somewhat shaky time for Xbox’s output.

Here’s a quick summary of Microsoft’s quarterly gaming sales, as shown in the slides above.

  • Q3 revenue rose 51% to upwards of $5.45 billion.
  • This was above management’s, and my, expectations.
  • It’s an all-time Q3 record, and Xbox’s second best quarter ever.
  • Out of that percentage gain, 55% was due to ActiBlizz impact.
  • Implies all other areas like Xbox, Bethesda etc saw a decline of 4%.

These quarterly sales move gaming back to fourth place in terms of Microsoft’s major product categories, trailing Windows at $5.93 billion.

Expanding now to current annualized Xbox revenue to get a broader sense of the business:

  • Overall annual gaming revenue is $19.97 billion.
  • Compare that to $18.13 billion as of last quarter.
  • The chart in the above gallery shows these in context.

I’ve long written about how this was the strategy around Microsoft’s merger and acquisition activity, to push past the $20 billion per year mark and approach its largest peers, like Sony and even Tencent, especially by leveraging ongoing services and breaking more into mobile.

Which is why I don’t think Microsoft is done buying, even after spending so much on the world’s largest formerly third party publisher.

Similar to my earlier coverage of Xbox, I’ll mention that Microsoft gives limited visibility into the profitability, or lack thereof, of its gaming business. Two points on that:

  • The More Personal Computing (MPC) segment saw operating profit rise 16% to $4.92 billion.
  • The ActiBlizz deal boosted expenses, as its net impact in Q3 was an operating loss of $350 million.

This implies that Xbox, despite seeing a big top-line boost, was likely less profitable this quarter.

Here’s where I’ll highlight the underlying dynamics, by way of discussing product categories.

First up is the larger of the two, Xbox Content & Services (Xbox C&S):

  • Q3 Xbox C&S revenue increased 62% to $5.03 billion.
  • Same as games revenue, this is also a Q3 record and second best ever.
  • ActiBlizz growth contribution was 61%, thus a 1% gain for everything else.

Then, on an annual basis:

  • Current annual Xbox C&S revenue is $16.86 billion, or 84% of the total.
  • That’s up from $14.86 billion last quarter, when it was 82% of the total.

On the flip side, Xbox Hardware had another tough time, without much to drive its fundamentals right now, as lower unit sales weren’t enough to offset gains from higher pricing:

  • Q3 Xbox Hardware revenue declined 31% to $350 million.
  • The lowest 3rd quarter dollar sales of the Xbox Series X|S generation.

Looking at the last 12 months:

  • At present, Xbox Hardware annual sales are $3.11 billion.
  • That’s down from $3.27 billion sequentially, and $3.37 billion last year.

Since Microsoft doesn’t tell us anything about lifetime Xbox Series X|S unit sales, I’ll keep up with my guesstimates.

  • I had the family at 29 million to 29.5 million last quarter.
  • It’s now likely hovering right around the 30 million milestone.
  • I forecast it moved 700K to 800K in the three months ending March.
  • Which lands it around 29.7 million to 30.3 million to date.

When it comes to supplemental stats like engagement, player counts etc, Xbox management didn’t have much to say.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella did note the following on the firm’s conference call:

  • Q3 records for “game streaming hours, console usage and monthly active devices.”
  • The first ActiBlizz title on Game Pass Diablo IV was one of the service’s biggest launches.
  • Players clocked over 10 million hours during its first 10 days.
  • This month, Xbox had 7 games among the Top 25 on the PlayStation store.

Which is a distinct lack of specifics, especially as it relates to Game Pass subscribers or total monthly active users, which unfortunately is a common theme here from management.

Before closing out, I’ll mention Microsoft’s overall results.

  • Company revenue jumped 17% to $61.9 billion.
  • Operating profit moved up 23% to $27.6 billion.
  • Microsoft Cloud sales increased 23% to $35.1 billion.

Slipping into the future, management provided guidance for the final quarter of fiscal year 2024.

Here are the expectations shared by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Amy Hood for Q4 gaming performance.

  • Total gaming revenue growth in the low to mid-40s.
  • 50 points of that via ActiBlizz impact.
  • Xbox C&S expected to grow in the high 50s.
  • 60 points there from ActiBlizz, thus implying everything else will be down 10%.
  • Xbox Hardware will “decline again.” Based on my math, it will be down 24%.

Using these to make certain assumptions, that translates to the following in dollar terms:

  • Total gaming revenue around $5 billion.
  • Xbox C&S revenue upwards of $4.55 billion.
  • Xbox Hardware hitting $450 million.

These feel right to me, with upside for content based on Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II launching in May, certain games like Sea of Thieves accessing additional audiences and a good effect from Amazon’s Fallout show (which is awesome).

Really, it’s going to go as ActiBlizz games go, notably as they are added to Game Pass.

If Xbox hits these targets, it would shatter a record for fiscal year sales, approaching $21.5 billion. For comparison, this number was at $15.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2023!

I hope you enjoyed the new format experiment, where I’m balancing analysis with word count to make it easier to follow and fun to read.

I’ll be back soon with more articles, and feel free to reach out on social media in the interim. Thanks for reading. Until next time, be well!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Xbox Wire.

-Dom

Earnings Calendar Apr & May 2024: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

I’m back, with a brand new season. Nope, I’m not referring to Spring, as it’s now here in the States. Though I’ll take the nicer weather, at least looking out my window while playing games.

It’s earnings season!

Which means I’m sharing what I like to call one of the most comprehensive lists of gaming, media and technology earnings dates on the internet. Now approaching 120 companies strong, it will give a sense of when companies are reporting, and where they are in their fiscal cycles. And when an exact date isn’t known yet, I try to estimate based on previous announcements.

As you’ll notice in the above image and the below Google Sheets link, the week of Monday, May 6th is going to have a lot action, including almost a dozen companies reporting on May 9th. Get ready, everyone.

In order to prepare for the next busy season, feel free to bookmark, save, share and post of course.

I also recommend keeping an eye out for my recaps both here and on social media. Plus, here’s three companies to watch over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Apr & May 2024: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Reddit, Inc: Tuesday, May 7th

After one of the biggest IPOs of the year, Reddit is poised to publish its first quarterly report as a public company when it shares fiscal year 2024 Q1 results. The “front page of the internet” saw its stock price jump in March, yet has cooled to settle below its listing price in April. Within its prospectus, the company boasted 73 million average daily active unique users and generated over $800 million in annual sales, however it’s also currently operating at a loss. I’m mostly curious to see if its business model will expand as the firm matures, and if executives expect to become profitable any time soon.

Capcom Co. Ltd: Monday, May 13th

I’ve been upbeat on Capcom for what seems like a decade now, and the Japanese publisher will report its latest annual results in a few weeks. Just today, the firm revised both sales and profit forecasts upwards, a rarity right before reporting. This signals management is even more optimistic as it’s on track for yet another year of growth, assuredly on the strength of March’s Dragon’s Dogma 2 shipping 2.5 million units right out of the gate. Between that and continued momentum for its Resident Evil and Street Fighter franchise sales, I’m guessing Capcom will beat even its updated guidance, then move into a year where we could see another flagship launch in Monster Hunter Wilds soon enough.

Ubisoft Entertainment SA: Wednesday, May 15th

It feels like Ubisoft, which also reports annual results in May, has been quiet lately even though it’s had a few releases and continues as the caretaker of a big intellectual property portfolio. It produced a couple commercial snoozers like Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora in December then February’s Skull & Bones. And while Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is amazing, it’s not a blockbuster. So I’m cautious on its latest results. However, I’m quite upbeat on its near-term future as its slate for the upcoming year starts to take shape with Star Wars Outlaws, a game I believe will sell well, officially announced for August while the impending Assassin’s Creed Codename Red could also be out in the next six months or so, a nice one-two punch as far as triple-A tent-poles go.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites.

-Dom

PlayStation Sees Record Sales Alongside Profit Declines & Lower Forecasts in Sony’s FY 2023 Q3 Report

It’s already my third major recap of this latest earnings season! Time flies when we’re having fun. And earnings season is the most fun.

Now it’s Sony’s turn. The Japanese consumer tech maker reported fiscal 2023 third quarter results recently and PlayStation set yet another revenue record.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. It’s time to go beyond the “all-time high” headlines to talk about why it’s a really intriguing report and time for Sony’s gaming division, including how profitability is taking a hit even as sales soar, its supplemental material shared some updated stats and executives have again adjusted future expectations.

It’s true Sony’s Gaming & Network Services (G&NS) recorded a best-ever quarterly revenue in the period ending December 2023. Around $10 billion! As it has done a lot recently, driven not just by organic growth due to add-on content and digital downloads, but also continued impact of a weakening yen that works in favor of companies that mainly operate globally.

On the flip side, quarterly operating profit moved down over 25% during the holiday period and is trending towards the worst annual profit of the PlayStation 5 era. There’s both macro and micro reasons for this, including interest rates and high costs alongside weaker internal output and worse hardware losses.

During October to December, Sony shipped 8.7 million PlayStation 5 consoles. While that’s the best single quarter for the console, well above last holiday’s 7.1 million, it’s a million fewer than PlayStation 4 did at the same time and missed estimates enough for them to substantially reduce annual guidance. It’s hard to believe PlayStation 5 is entering the middle phase of its life cycle now trailing its predecessor by a wider margin than even last quarter.

The major story on the software side continues to be Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, which swung above 10 million units sold-through to buyers this month after reaching the 5 million milestone back in October. It carried first-party, and also helped drive Monthly Active Users (MAUs) growth even as PlayStation Plus memberships fell.

These led to management again revising its forecast, this time downward for both revenue and hardware. They even provided a look ahead to next fiscal year, clearly signalling PlayStation 5 annual sales are peaking and will shrink in the back half of its life. As far as games and its tent-pole studios, there are no plans for “major franchise” first-party launches until at least April 2025.

Addressing concerns of profit margins during the company’s conference call, Sony’s President Hiroki Totoki cited at least two reasons: difficulty in cutting prices for hardware and needing to create better opportunities for first-party software on more platforms, including PC.

“How can we, given the situation, put our product lines together to make it affordable, without relying on steep discounts, to reasonably sell them to continue our commercial journey on a sustainable basis?” Totoki said. “I personally think that’s important, and there is an opportunity in that.”

Now into the full rundown of numbers and my current predictions. Buckle up!

Sony’s total revenue moved up 22% in the quarter, to a record amount of $26.19 billion. Operating profit reached $3.24 billion, up 10% and the second highest in its history. Growth here came mainly from Entertainment, Technology & Services (ET&S), Financial Services and G&NS.

Zooming into the gaming division, sales rose 16% to a record $10.1 billion driven by third-party software, downloadable content and exchange rate movement. To illustrate the last point, the impact from yen fluctuation alone was $531 million. This implies “true” dollar sales growth around 10%.

Operating income declined 26% to $602 million because of worsening hardware losses and lower internally-published game sales. Across this most recent three-month period, the PlayStation business represented nearly 40% of Sony’s sales yet under 20% of its profit.

Most product categories within G&NS saw higher quarterly sales, including Hardware up 8% to $3.3 billion or 33% of the total. Add-On Content rose 33% to $2.44 billion, accounting for a 24% slice. Digital Software jumped up 16% to almost $2 billion, at 20% of the total. Physical Software and Other Software both declined, 7% and 30% respectively.

Expanding to the latest annualized numbers gives us a broader sense of where the business is at right now. For revenue, it’s the best it’s ever been at $29.65 billion. Compare that to last year’s $22.62 billion. On the other hand, PlayStation currently has the lowest trailing 12-month profit since Fiscal 2017. It’s at $1.56 billion, compared to well over $2 billion a year back. The size of this deterioration is truly evident when you view the the second chart in the above gallery.

Seeing as the “Big Three” have now all reported this season, it’s a good time to revisit our industry comparison. Using annual numbers, Sony’s massive $29.65 billion is tops across all players, above even Tencent’s $26 billion with the caveat that the Chinese internet conglomerate doesn’t report until next month. Microsoft’s $18.13 billion now includes Activision Blizzard, and Nintendo currently stacks up to roughly $13 billion.

Again I’ll mention that while Sony’s sales are soaring, PlayStation is not nearly as profitable as the likes of Nintendo which has more than twice as much operating profit (over $4 billion) on less than half the sales. And it’s not like this is a recent phenomenon. Even during Switch’s fourth fiscal year, a similar time period, Nintendo’s margins were better.

Want more stats? Well, either way, you’ll get them.

Taking the latest PlayStation 5 hardware shipments into account, its lifetime figure is now at 54.8 million. As you’ll see in the above launch-aligned chart, its predecessor was at 57.3 million at this time in the cycle. Not only that, the gap between the two is widening at the exact time when PlayStation 5 is hitting a plateau.

As for comparisons outside of Sony, the PlayStation 5 is steadily approaching the 58 million lifetime sales territory of Microsoft’s Xbox One and will likely surpass it by this fiscal year’s end in March. Next up will be Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) at almost 62 million, still a fair ways off.

Out of those 54.8 million shipped to market, Sony announced back in December that PlayStation 5 reached 50 million sold-through to consumers.

Unit sales for PlayStation software moved up slightly from 86.5 million this time last year to 89.7 million, an increase of 4%. The skew was much more towards those published externally, given that only 16.2 million or 18% were first-party games this time versus 24%, at 20.8 million, during last year’s fiscal Q3.

Most of first-party’s movement was due to Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man series, which has now surpassed a healthy 50 million units sold-through in aggregate, inclusive of sales from PC since the first entry back in 2018.

Engagement across PlayStation Network hit an impressive 123 million MAUs in the quarter ending December, an all-time high up from last year’s 112 million. The influx of active users, driven not just by Sony’s titles but also external free-to-play offerings like Fortnite, led to 13% more hours played across the ecosystem.

While the company hasn’t shared PlayStation Plus membership figures since the end of last fiscal year, management’s prepared remarks did point out that subscriptions declined since last year though service revenue did increase.

“Regarding network services, despite the impact of a slight year-on-year decrease in the number of PlayStation Plus subscribers, revenue increased 11% year-on-year,” the remarks said. “Mainly due to the impacts of a further shift to premium services and price revisions.”

Essentially, dollar sales from PlayStation Plus are going up for now because of users going to the premium tiers and the price increases the company has instituted. From my perspective, I would add that’s not necessarily sustainable and I see this as more of a temporary dynamic. It’s known that gaming subscription services are stagnating, and this is one such example.

Another area lacking in the report was any shipment figures for Sony’s latest product launch in PlayStation Portal, which hit market during November 2023. Anecdotally, it seems like supply was highly controlled. While we don’t know specifics, we can infer from category results. The segment called Others, which covers peripherals and PlayStation VR2, jumped up 60% to $698 million in Q3. While still a small slice at 7% of sales, that’s a sizeable bump I’d wager was caused directly by Portal.

When taking the full Q3 report into consideration, it shows PlayStation’s position as one of strength on the sales side, partially due to the yen, and an ongoing struggle for profit growth amidst ballooning development and hardware costs. Yes, there’s general inflation and interest rate impact. It’s also the case that rapid-paced triple-A game development and maintaining hardware pricing as a console ages is not sustainable.

The good news is that software demand and player engagement look healthy. It’s just harder to translate these things into higher margins, especially since attracting players to something like PlayStation Plus requires spending money on partnerships or launching first-party games simultaneously into the service, which Sony is not currently doing. At least management is expanding to platforms beyond console, thus spreading risk and boosting audience reach.

Before closing the books on another quarter, I’ll now looking ahead to the finale of Sony’s fiscal year ending March 2024 and beyond.

In a classic flip flop, after revising annual PlayStation revenue guidance up by 5% last quarter, it now backed that off and reduced it by that same amount. This still translates to an increase of 14% up to $29 billion, which would certainly be a record high and lead the industry. I believe this will happen.

Even with the double-digit decline for operating profit this quarter, management reiterated the annual profit guidance of $1.89 billion or up 7%. In order to get there, management said they are reviewing measures to improve profit. One of those could very well be more layoffs. This time, I’m skeptical and I don’t think it’s going to meet this target.

The holiday period was going to be a huge indicator all along for PlayStation 5 unit figures. Now that it missed, management revised annual guidance down from what I called an unrealistic goal of 25 million to now 21 million. This would still be a million above the PlayStation 4’s best year, and I don’t buy it. It’s at 16.4 million so far, leaving 4.6 million to ship between January and March to get there.

Back when Sony was signalling higher, my forecast was also higher. Now I’m at 19.5 million to 20 million, tops, if it can even replicate its predecessor’s success. the only way to get there is if Sony announces aggressive discounting as soon as possible, which again puts a strain on margins.

Finally, executives acknowledged that this will likely be the best year of PlayStation 5 sales, and it’s all downhill from here!

I know what you’re saying: What? Already?! Well, PlayStation 4 peaked in its fourth fiscal year, and PlayStation 5 will be entering its fifth financial year starting this April.

Software is where uncertainty continues, notably for internal studios. There’s no doubt Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 accomplished an incredible feat. That’s the outlier. Plus, the likes of Marvel’s Wolverine, a Ghost of Tsushima sequel and anything from Naughty Dog are at least a year away, if not multiple years.

While The Last of Us Part II Remastered launched on PC and Helldivers 2 is off to a fantastic start, partly because of Steam, Sony didn’t capitalize on the Palworld craze and has a sparse console calendar incoming. I do expect a live service title or two by March 2025, like Concord and Fairgame$, alongside select PC launches to hold software sales over until seeing heavy hitters again.

Development and marketing are as expensive as ever, and projects require increasingly longer timelines to complete. A steady cadence of blockbuster releases is tough if near impossible. That’s a huge part of why we see the current dynamics underlying Sony’s gaming business, and the team will have to navigate these treacherous waters.

As always, I very much appreciate you stopping by for my ongoing earnings coverage. Check in on social media for more and visit soon for future articles. Be well!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥143.1

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Sony Interactive Entertainment.

-Dom

Nintendo Nears 140 Million Switch Units Sold & Raises Annual Outlook Again in Steady Fiscal 2024 Q3 Report

Next up for this quarters’ recap series, as you clearly know from bookmarking my earnings calendar, is Nintendo. The gaming company that continues to delight audiences and defy expectations.

The Japanese console manufacturer and mega publisher reported figures for the nine months ending December 2023, the third quarter of its fiscal year ending March 2024. Which means I have plenty to break down including quarterly, nine month and trailing annual numbers. A little bit of everything!

Nintendo’s quarterly financial results were down slightly in Q3, however its 9-month figure remains trending upwards during this likely final full year of the Switch’s life cycle.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder was the big winner of the quarter, moving nearly 12 million units as the fastest-selling Super Mario title in series history. Over the April to December span, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom were doing heavy lifting along with additional content for its suite of legacy titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 3.

Nintendo shipped upwards of 6.9 million Switch units during the December quarter, and without official discounting at market. While down a bit since last year, that’s a healthy result for a console that saw its first holiday season back in 2017. This pushed lifetime shipments to nearly 140 million, steadily approaching the realm of all time behemoths like Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2.

“When we look at the sales situation so far this fiscal year against this backdrop, we believe that hardware sales have held stable since the first half and that the holiday season results were steady,” Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said in a Q&A.

“We want to maintain momentum in the business through a good balance of both first-time buyers and demand for multiple units. During the holiday season, we noted a particular rise in first-time buyers of our hardware, and we see this as a positive sign for the Nintendo Switch business going forward.”

All of this led management to raise full year guidance yet again, similar to last quarter, for a number of things: sales, profit, hardware and software, in addition to a dividend hike that will return more profits to shareholders. I’ll cover these in more detail in a later section.

Now to the question on everyone’s mind: Where’s that Switch Pro? (Oh no, not again.)

Really, check below as I’ll fully cover the company’s report then drop a set of predictions, including my latest forecast on when the Switch’s successor will be out. Let’s jump into it!

I’ll now dig into the above slides and below charts, which cover all of the numbers Nintendo released during its third quarter 2024 announcement.

Overall, the firm generated $4.18 billion in profit during the three months ending December 2023. That equates to a 6% decline. Operating profit dipped 3% to $1.29 billion.

Across the latest three quarters, net sales grew 8% to $9.74 billion while operating profit rose an impressive 13% to $3.24 billion.

These can be attributed to the yen’s continued weakness overseas, a higher proportion of Switch OLED model shipments compared to the broader family of devices plus add-on content for its more evergreen titles. Not to mention having one of 2023’s biggest movies based on a world-renowned brand, I might add.

Expanding to latest annualized figure, which ends up being the 2023 calendar year number, revenue moved up 7% to $12.53 billion. That’s the best calendar year revenue number for Nintendo since 2008! Operating income bumped up even more, settling at $4.09 billion or an increase of 10%.

These growth numbers are all fantastic for a company that will likely move into its next generation of consoles within the next six to twelve months, and highlights the smart move by executives to diversify into different areas like digital support, intellectual property (IP) adaptation, online services and post-launch content drops.

Moving onto product categories, Nintendo’s hardware and software each contributed exactly 50% during the third quarter. This split last year was 51% and 49%, in favor of hardware. Across the 9-month period, the software slice was larger at 55% of the total. At the same time last year, it was 54%. Not too much movement in either direction over the last couple years.

With respect to regional splits, the latest nine months continued a slight shift away from Japan and towards The United States and its neighbors. The Americas made up 44% of sales, up from 43%. Europe remained flat around 25%, while Japan declined from 24% to 21%.

The digital portion of Nintendo’s sales during Q1 to Q3 moved up a couple percentage points to 48%, fitting the industry trend towards downloads as opposed to retail buying. Digital came in around a quarter of the company’s revenue stream, growing 12% in the last nine months to $2.42 billion.

Here’s where Nintendo stacks up against the industry’s biggest players. First, yen weakness does have a positive impact on revenue in local currency for companies that mainly operate globally, like a Nintendo or Sony. However when converting from yen to U.S. dollar, it doesn’t appear as attractive because of the low rate. Sony, which reports gain next week, had PlayStation at $28 billion annually while Tencent stacked up to $26 billion. Microsoft’s integration of Activision Blizzard brought it to $18.13 billion this quarter, while Nintendo comes in under $13 billion. However, Nintendo’s operating margins are best in industry, even while developing a new hardware.

Focusing strictly on Switch hardware shipments, these totaled 6.9 million during October to December. Compare that to 8.23 million the prior year.

Which is excellent for a console that’s saturated its market as much as Switch has. For context, I estimated that Microsoft shipped 4 million max Xbox Series X|S this holiday. Sony moved 7.1 million PlayStation 5’s in the quarter ending December 2023.

That brought hardware units to 13.74 million during the first nine months of this fiscal year, down 8% from 14.91 million. Management noted this was mostly in-line with expectations for the time frame.

As has been the case for a couple years, the predominant model during this period was the Switch OLED. That version shipped 8.17 million between April and December, up 6% from 7.69 million. Next up was the base model at 3.4 million, down 25% from the prior year’s 5.22 million. Rounding out the list was Lite, which grew 9% year-on-year from 2 million to 2.18 million.

So, this all brings Switch lifetime sales to 139.36 million. Is there a legit chance it clears the Nintendo DS at 154.02 million to become the company’s best-selling device ever? The answer is: absolutely.

Switch is under 15 million away from Nintendo DS. If the company’s target holds this fiscal year, it would need 13 million more during the financial period beginning in April. I am betting that, by the end of March 2025, not only will Switch be Nintendo’s best-selling ever, it will surpass PlayStation 2 at 155 million to secure the top spot on the all-time top seller list. Even if Super Switch exists!

Back to the latest announcement, Nintendo did share some insight into hardware sell-through to consumers. Namely that it’s been steady for the console’s age, and that the OLED version saw increased demand, echoing the growth seen in shipments. And it wasn’t just first timers, there were plenty of people who double dipped or grabbed replacements, according to prepared remarks.

Now swapping over to Nintendo’s other bread-and-butter which is software sales, this is where the team has shined the entire back half of this generation with both new games and existing support.

For the holiday quarter, software unit shipments for Switch totaled 66.87 million. That’s down only 14%. Expanding to the April to December period, unit sales for software dipped 5% to 163.95 million. Considering the saturation and how many titles it’s already moved, that year-to-date figure showed great resilience.

The proportion of first party titles, those published by Nintendo, rose from 79% to 83% in the nine months ending December. That’s more than four out of every five games purchased in this period, namely due to flagship Zelda and Mario launches plus a mainline Pikmin.

How’s about yet another lifetime milestone for the Switch’s historic run? Just this quarter, lifetime unit sales on the platform surpassed 1.2 billion. The strength of its portfolio is unrivaled even compared to prior Nintendo generations, plus there’s the legacy library via Switch Online, broad attraction of franchises like Animal Crossing and third party offerings like Fortnite.

Speaking of big sellers, Switch now has 24 “million-seller” titles which shipped a million units or more in the latest nine months alone. Within that, 17 were first party and 7 were external publishers. Compare this to last year’s 27 overall, and it’s another example of the platform’s appeal.

The elephant in the room was Super Mario Bros. Wonder, not just shipping 11.96 million but also selling-through 10.7 million of those to consumers. For comparison to recent franchise titles in their respective first quarters: Super Mario Odyssey had 9.07 million in 2017, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe reached 2.5 million in 2019 and 2021’s Super Mario 3D World + Bower’s Fury saw 5.59 million. Keep in mind the lower install bases at this times, of course.

Elsewhere, new launch in Super Mario RPG Remake shipped 3.14 million since hitting market in November, another benefactor of the Switch effect. July’s Pikmin 4 also hit the 3 million milestone, moving up 720K units to 3.33 million.

After an incredible run since May, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom reached the 20 million milestone this quarter, settling at 20.28 million. While it’s slowed in recent months, it’s still a ridiculous feat to hit this sort of threshold in less than a year.

One one that seems to never slow down is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which zoomed past the frankly absurd 60 million milestone this quarter. After somehow shipping 3.57 million in the holiday quarter, it’s held pace at 60.58 million. That’s well above the second place on the platform in Animal Crossing: New Horizons at 44.79 million. I don’t know how Nintendo can top this latest Mario Kart entry, and I don’t envy the designers that have to make its follow-up.

The last statistic revolved around engagement, as Nintendo announced a record 122 million Annual Playing Users as of December, up from 114 million last year. While this isn’t as indicative of active players as something like monthly or daily active users, it does show that buyers at least login to their devices over the years. Separately, Nintendo didn’t share any updates on Switch Online subscribers, last reported at 38 million in September 2023.

Between a nice holiday quarter, the financial growth in the first nine months of fiscal 2024, the fastest-selling Super Mario ever, major milestones for its biggest franchises, diversifying into film and other media plus revitalizing classics to close the cycle, Nintendo’s latest run continued in this earnings report as Switch approaches its seventh birthday next month.

To say it’s exceeded all expectations, and continues to prove analysts wrong, is an understatement.

Before closing out, let’s look at that updated guidance and make a few predictions. Management revised a number of forecasts upward, including financial targets and unit sales expectations.

The firm now expects 3% more net sales and 2% better operating profit during the fiscal year ending March 2024. That translates to roughly $11.4 billion and $3.56 billion, respectively. This indicates Nintendo expects both of these to grow in the single digits, and I expect them to be achieved. If not exceeded by a decent margin.

On hardware, according to Furukawa commenting after the company’s announcement, the Switch will remain its “main business” through the end of March and into the new fiscal year. In fact, he called out internet rumors and asked people to “exercise good judgment” when hearing them.

Fitting with this sentiment, the company raised Switch unit guidance by 500K to 15.5 million. That implies the January to March quarter to have only 1.76 million shipped in order to reach this goal. Personally, I’ve been predicting the 16 million to 16.5 million range for this year. I see no reason to change that now, and I’m even leaning towards the upper end of this range.

The real question on everyone’s mind is the Super Switch! Mainly when, and how much. Executives are playing coy for now, as expected.

“We are unable to make any comments beyond saying that our company is constantly conducting research and development on new hardware and software,” Furukawa said.

There were some small hints in his latest Q&A series posted today. Furukawa pointed out the hybrid model is the “optimal way” to deliver Nintendo’s unique experiences. That all but confirms the successor will have both handheld and console functionality, consistent with recent speculation that’s pointed to a larger screen in portable mode.

I’ve written before that my forecast puts Super Switch in the fourth quarter this calendar year. I’ll also stick to this, expecting an initial announcement after Nintendo’s current financial year ends, so as to not jeopardize hitting that hardware target. This puts a reveal in April or May, then more details and presentations leading into launch around October.

Management also bumped up its software expectations by 3% for the full year, now guiding that Switch will have 190 million units shipped in that period alone. This feels on the money, with slight upside to beat it.

The current slate features one brand new title Prince Peach: Showtime!, a more niche title launching in March that I think will do alright yet not gangbusters. There’s also the remake of Mario vs Donkey Kong out next week. Between these and continued interest in Super Mario Bros. Wonder among others, I’m not worried about Nintendo reaching its more optimistic guidance.

Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess because Nintendo hasn’t shared much for its offerings beyond a pair of revitalized old games in Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, on the calendar for Summer 2024, and the pending Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake sometime this year. Metroid Prime 4 remains a mystery, the only title in its financial report listed as to be announced.

One title that probably won’t hit Switch anytime soon is Palworld, what with The Pokémon Company’s investigation into 2024’s biggest sales surprise so far for potential IP breach and asset usage. While I’m not sure that a legal battle will ensue, I’m sure it will remain on other platforms for the foreseeable future.

That does it for my latest earnings recap. I’ll be back soon with more coverage of the season and other topics as 2024 keeps it moving. Be well, all!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥143.22.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Video Games Chronicle.

-Dom

Microsoft Posts Record Xbox Revenue in Fiscal 2024 Q2 Mostly Due to Acquiring Activision Blizzard

As you well know because you’ve seen my handy earnings calendar for this season, Microsoft reported its 2024 second quarter results earlier this week.

Only executives and literally everyone, including when I wrote about this very topic last quarter and predicted the revenue amount, expected the software tech conglomerate to post record gaming sales almost entirely becasue Activision Blizzard numbers are now included since closing the deal in mid-October 2023.

That’s precisely what happened.

Still, as I’ll illustrate shortly, I’d argue massive growth isn’t the whole story. I’m more interested in isolating Xbox’s organic performance, comparing post-acquisition to the sum of both entities before it happened and trying to determine how annual numbers will shake out. In addition, I’ll review the acquisition’s notable hit to profitability for the time being due to its cost and integration.

Essentially: headlines, even mine, never tell the whole story!

There’s also a divide happening right now with Microsoft. Just as the company closed above $3 trillion in market value for the first time, it announced big layoffs in its gaming division. Around 1,900 people across Xbox, Activision Blizzard and Bethesda, or 8% of the gaming workforce, were let go. I know there’s various factors behind this, including macro ones like inflation and interest rates. Plus, stock market valuations are determined by a collective set of investors rather than a company’s management.

Still, the optics and timing are tricky. The fact that job loss after the deal due to redundant roles and function overlap was inevitable doesn’t make it any less painful for the people involved. Especially as the broader company reaches record valuations and reports gaudy numbers.

Moving into those numbers, Xbox revenue totaled over $7 billion in the quarter ending December 2023. That’s up 49%. Within that, Activision Blizzard was responsible for contributing $2 billion. This makes Gaming the third biggest contributor to all of Microsoft’s sales at 11% of the total compared to 9% last year, right now behind only Server and Office.

It’s pretty clear what’s underlying this: Buying a massive third party publisher and integrating it within content and services figures. Even so, there was some organic Xbox growth in Q2. Under 6% to be semi-exact. I was also impressed that hardware was able to deliver solid performance during the holiday season, even if boosted by discounting.

“With our acquisition, we’ve added hundreds of millions of gamers to our ecosystem, as we execute on our ambition to reach more gamers on more platforms,” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella. “Great content is key to our growth, and across our portfolio, I’ve never been more excited about our lineup of upcoming games.”

Pretty standard corporate speak from Nadella, and I’d argue Xbox’s line-up this entire generation has been anything but exciting. In fact, management quotes around gaming on the earnings call were generally tame. The team did offer select insights that I’ll cover later, namely on cloud streaming and engagement across platforms including mobile, the latter of which hit record highs after the integration of Activision Blizzard players.

Read on to learn what the numbers truly look like, some estimates from me around a combined historical comparison, my guesses for hardware unit sales and then predictions going forward into 2024.

First thing to note when checking the above slides is Xbox, Bethesda and now Activision Blizzard are all accounted for within Microsoft’s broader More Personal Computing (MPC) segment.

Quarterly gaming revenue rose 49% in the three months ending December, up to an all-time high of $7.11 billion. This was exactly within the firm’s guidance.

What drove it? Well I’ll break that into two categories: Activision Blizzard and pre-acquisition Xbox. Here is where we talk the deal’s impact, which actually cost upwards of $75 billion based on the latest filing. During the second quarter, it contributed $2.1 billion to gaming division sales.

Essentially, Activision Blizzard was responsible for 30% of Microsoft’s second quarter gaming business at the top-line. Still, as I’ll get to in a second, its inclusion put major downward pressure on profit.

Separating that out, the $5 billion “organic” Xbox sales implied a growth rate of 5.7%. Much less than the headline suggests, right. Still, it’s certainly noteworthy for the important holiday time frame, notably while facing what executives called a “tough console market.”

Moving to the latest year, which happens to cover the 2023 calendar months, gaming revenue expanded 17% to rise above $18 billion for the first time ever. This particular figure, mapped out over time in one of the below charts, will only grow over time as more quarters take the acquisition into account.

I’ve also provided a new chart measuring Estimated Combined Gaming Revenue that, full disclosure, pulls in a few different assumptions to form a rough estimate of how annual figures compare when adding in Activision Blizzard’s historical revenue. I’ve summed up the two pre-deal entities going back for a few fiscal years then subtracted $2 billion per year in assumed overlapped sales.

What results is where I think Microsoft gaming sales could be when a year of Activision is considered: almost $22 billion, up a bit from the $21.6 billion a year back. That’s an upward trajectory of 1% as opposed to the 17% I just referenced. Good, yet nowhere near as wild as the headlines indicate.

While Microsoft is the first of the bigger gaming companies to report, I like to gather up a comparison to peers and update throughout the season in my articles. Sony’s latest annual PlayStations sales tracked towards a whopping $28 billion, with notable impact from the yen’s depreciation. Tencent was around $26 billion. This is where the current combined Xbox and Activision Blizzard slots, at $18.13 billion. Nintendo’s latest hit $13 billion. My usual caveat is that Nintendo is operating at higher profitability than at least PlayStation, and likely Xbox as well.

Speaking of profit, Microsoft gave us a bit more than usual this quarter! Partially because it had to illustrate the impact from Activision Blizzard, but I’ll take it. For the MPC group, operating profit jumped up 29% to $4.29 billion. Half of the “gross margin dollars” profit metric, a figure that moved up 34% in Q2, was contributed by Activision Blizzard as it helped up operating expenses at a higher rate of 38%. Focusing strictly on Activision Blizzard, its net impact was $437 million in operating income because of those higher costs. There’s also some accounting nitty gritty that I won’t include, for the sake of brevity.

What does this all mean? Well, record sales were mostly due to Activision Blizzard no longer being a 3rd party partner and becoming first party, however there was single-digit organic Xbox growth during the holiday season. Profit for the segment that includes gaming will take a short-term profit hit while integrating costs and following through with the deal’s financial accounting.

Here’s a quick dive into the two Xbox sub-areas, called Xbox Content & Services (i.e. software and subscriptions) and Xbox Hardware.

For October to December, the vastly larger Content & Services jumped up nearly 70% when measured by revenue. The first figure was above guidance, while the second technically under-performed at least based on what I calculated because Microsoft rarely, if ever, issues formal hardware forecasts.

The reason I say “nearly 70%” is because how Microsoft reported its numbers actually indicates that Content & Services moved up 68% to $5.69 billion, another best ever number, rather than the 61% in its announcement. From what other analysts and I can tell, Microsoft seems to have excluded Activision Blizzard’s eSports sales, for whatever reason.

This leads to my estimate of $16.5 billion for Content & Services over the last 12 month. That itself is above the $15.56 billion for all of Xbox in 2022 Q2. Separately, Hardware generated $3.27 billion in the latest annual period, slightly below the last couple years.

When hearing this numbers and looking at these charts, I’ve assumed all Activision Blizzard revenue is caught in the Content & Services pipeline because it doesn’t have anything to do with console manufacturing.

Underlying the best-ever figures for the software side was another all-time high, this time for engagement. Nadella noted that, now that Activision Blizzard players are included, Microsoft’s gaming division boasts 200 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) on mobile devices. Prior to this, Xbox’s figure overall was 120 million. Activision had 92 million in September, while Blizzard was 26 million and King totaled 238 million.

Nadella also alluded to a double-digit jump in cloud gaming hours streamed, moving up 44% in the quarter. We don’t have specifics on the actual number of hours played by its active users, only the growth rate. Plus, unfortunately, there’s still no word on Xbox Game Pass subscribers. The last update was 25 million a couple years back, and I estimated recently that it’s likely approaching 30 million though has not eclipsed it. I hope Microsoft offers a new figure this year. Yet I’m not holding my breath.

Xbox’s Hardware segment had a solid holiday, even if the result ended up below my expectations.

Console dollar sales moved up 3% in Q2, to above $1.4 billion. This was spurred on by holiday discounting for the Xbox Series X|S family, and the appeal of something like Bethesda’s Starfield. In terms of number of consoles shipped to market, I believe it slightly increased although those units sold at a lower average selling price.

“In our consumer business, the PC and advertising markets were generally in line with our expectations,” said Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Amy Hood. “PC market volumes continued to stabilize at pre-pandemic levels. The gaming console market was a bit smaller.”

It’s a curious statement. Just because it was challenging doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. Any growth right now for Xbox console revenue, even in the lower single digits, is a positive sign. Echoing my past sentiment, and it’s something gamers need to get accustomed to, is that Xbox’s strategy has officially shifted away from consoles and towards offering services on various devices.

During the last year, Hardware reached $3.27 billion. That’s down 9% from the same time in 2022, though above pre-pandemic figures. Again, this tracks with the general theme.

Since Microsoft doesn’t provide global unit sales like peers do, I have no choice but to guesstimate where they stand. For the holiday quarter alone, I backed into 3.5 million to 4 million shipments for Xbox Series X|S. This would be in-line with last year, albeit below the roughly 4.5 to 5 million that its Xbox One predecessor was doing during its prime.

I put Xbox Series X|S lifetime at 25.5 million or so prior to this latest three month report. Which was below the 26 million of Xbox One. Adding on my estimated holiday shipments for the family, I believe Xbox Series X|S stands currently at 29 million to 29.5 million units lifetime since November 2020. Thus, it remains tracking below Xbox One by upwards of a couple million.

For comparison, Sony’s PlayStation 5 was the best-selling console in key regions during 2023, including the United States as I covered recently. The console reached 50 million units sold to consumers in December 2023, and the shipment figure will be even higher when Sony reports in a couple weeks.

Overall at Microsoft during Q2, revenue jumped 18% to $62 billion. Operating profit rose 33% to $27 billion. Microsoft Cloud grew 24% to 33.7 billion. Executives provided some color around how the Activision Blizzard deal affected the full firm’s financials.

“At a company level, Activision Blizzard contributed approximately 4 points to revenue growth, was a 2 point drag on adjusted operating income growth, and a negative 5 cent impact to earnings per share. This impact includes $1.1 billion from purchase accounting adjustments, integration, and transaction-related costs such as severance-related charges related to last week’s announcement.”

That’s referencing last week’s Xbox group layoff announcement, which came after a year of more than ten thousand people losing their jobs at the broader company.

To wrap up the latest quarter, it’s important to look behind the absurd 49% growth and big figures due to integrating Activision Blizzard. There has to be consideration for what numbers look like when combining the two historically, plus the notable downside profit effect for the time being. Not to mention the painful layoffs that happened mostly because of the deal taking place.

In terms of dynamics and future of the Xbox division, these don’t necessarily change with the latest new acquisition. The numbers are bigger, and the portfolio certainly has more brands especially on the mobile side with the unsung King division, while various challenges remain especially on the hardware front plus with industry-wide service stagnation and general costs rising.

I’m also lamenting the lack of details into Activision Blizzard’s underlying financials. We’ll never see them ever again. Pour one out, fellow business nerds and data transparency advocates.

Here I’ll take the chance to look ahead to the third quarter, and make some predictions on the immediate future of Xbox.

Management expects Xbox division sales growth “in the low 40s,” so between 40% and 44%. Out of that, management signaled 45 points would be due to Activision Blizzard. Yes, this means that Microsoft is saying its non-Activision Blizzard Xbox sales will likely decline in this current quarter.

Assuming say 42% growth, that puts Xbox sales at $5.12 billion in the three months ending March 2024. Which, you guessed it, would be a Q3 record. I believe this will be met, though on the lower end.

For Xbox Content & Services, Hood said to anticipate growth “in the low to mid-50s” i.e. around 50% to 57%. Most, if not all of that, will be Activision Blizzard causing a net impact of 50 points or 50%.

Let’s say it gets to 54%, that would elevate Content & Services to $4.77 billion in Q3. Again, I expect that to be achieved, and I think there’s a good chance it hits the upper end.

Finally, management actually provided Hardware guidance! Well, somewhat. They think it will decline. That will certainly be the case if the other numbers hold. As in, console sales could be down by as much as 30%. Based on how they presented numbers this time, I’m guessing around a 5% to 10% decline for console in Q2 which would equate to around $450 million to $480 million.

The early year release slate for Xbox is a tad light, so I’m thinking evergreen titles and the Call of Duty effect being first party will drive the business to hitting these forecasts. In terms of new games, Sega’s Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth hit a million units yesterday. Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League formally launches today, and I’m skeptical on its commercial upside, just like I am for Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones this month. There’s titles like Tekken 8 from Bandai Namco, which I’m quite upbeat on, and Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma 2 in March that should attract a cult following.

Will these be the biggest software contributors of the quarter? Nope. It’s Palworld, the surprise console exclusive that’s garnering a lot of attention from consumers and pundits alike. It’s much more than the “Pokémon with Guns” moniker, and has been a near unprecedented sales success. So far, Pocket Pair’s latest reached more than 19 million players, 7 million of those on Xbox alone. It’s the largest third party launch in Game Pass history, beating out 2022’s High on Life, and instantly shot to the top of the service’s most-played chart. I’m on record saying it will end the year as one of the platform’s biggest titles. Frankly, it’s absurd and I love it.

That ends the first massive recap of the latest season. Follow me on social for coverage in between articles, and check back soon for more here at the site. Be well!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: Circana, Company Investor Relations Websites, Pocket Pair, Sega.

-Dom

Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2024: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Here we go, the first earnings seasons of 2024!

I want to acknowledge my anticipation while also tempering excitement, mainly due to the difficult situation for people working across all industries right now where many people are finding themselves out of work.

It’s been an especially tough time within gaming, media and technology, the exact sectors I cover here at the site. I’m again sending my best to everyone impacted by layoffs and I hope you’ll bounce back soon. Don’t give up on your dream just because of a company’s decision!

That said, we’re here to cover companies and the dates on which they report their latest results. I’ve gathered up my usual quarterly list, now including well over a hundred companies. I do my best to track down individual dates however, as you’ll see, not everything is available at the time of publishing so I’ll give a range based on historical timing.

Note that the dates themselves are added according to each company’s announcement in their local time zone. Say a Japanese company announces results on a Wednesday, it might still be Tuesday in your location.

I recommend saving as a bookmark, copying the image and visiting the link below to track everything during a busy time for tracking trends and performance. Plus, read on for three companies worth watching over the coming weeks. Thanks for stopping by!

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Jan & Feb 2024: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Microsoft Corp (MSFT): Tuesday, January 30th

It made the list last quarter, and it’s here this time around because when Microsoft reports its third quarter fiscal 2023 results later today, it will be the first operating period where numbers will account for Activision Blizzard. After laying off tens of thousands last year and starting 2024 with almost 2K jobs lost in the Xbox department, Microsoft has also hit a $3 trillion market capitalization and expects massive double-digit growth for gaming due to the integration. There’s a clear dichotomy between its job situation and ongoing hardware issues, losing in key markets to competitors, compared to expected revenue growth and consumer sentiment on its future slate of titles. I believe its results will fall within forecasts, and that gap between labor and performance will continue, albeit without visibility into profit dynamics or Activision Blizzard’s underlying financials, which is a pity.

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (WBD): Mid February

It was a banner year for Warner Bros’ gaming division, now boasting four billion dollar franchises including Harry Potter, on the strength of last year’s best-selling Hogwarts Legacy, and Mortal Kombat in addition to Game of Thrones and the DC universe. I’m expecting a potential record result when it reports fiscal year 2023 results in mid February, as its gaming success will supplement its various media and content businesses. I also remain incredibly curious about how Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League will start on the commercial side and if we’ll hear anything from executives after a gloomy marketing period and a shaky early access start this week.

Embracer Group (EMBRAC B): Thursday, February 15th

One of the biggest and most disappointing stories in the games industry has been Embracer Group’s over-expansion and restructuring, now resulting in job loss for thousands of employees. The Swedish firm, which reports third quarter 2023 results soon, has shuttered games and laid off people as recently as yesterday with news of a killed Deus Ex project and layoffs at Eidos Montreal. CEO Lars and the executive team is in the midst of a restructuring program that began when it lost a deal where Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games was going to invest $2 billion, resulting in massive debt and a bloated list of operating groups. I expect we might hear about a divestiture or intellectual property sale around the time of its earnings report, and almost certainly more closures and cancellations unfortunately.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites.

-Dom

PlayStation Hits Its Best Second Quarter Sales Ever as PS5 & Third Party Games Lift Sony’s FY 2023 Q2 Report

No rest for the writer!

Today continues an especially busy stretch of this latest earnings season, as Sony Corp just reported its fiscal 2023 second quarter results today out of Japan.

During this three months ending September, both the firm overall and the PlayStation division experienced revenue growth. And while profitability declined at the company level, the amount earned by Sony’s gaming business moved up double digits.

In fact, PlayStation just generated its best ever Q2 revenue in history.

That marks multiple record-breaking quarters in a row for Sony’s Game & Network Services (G&NS) segment, since Q1 hit its own all-time high as I covered a few months back. This past second quarter saw sales zip past $6 billion for the first time, jumping up more than 30% since last year.

Plus, unlike back in June, PlayStation has bounced back to profit growth this time. I’d argue this is even more substantial than record revenue because it accounts for expenses and really gets to the core of its ongoing health amidst a most turbulent of industries.

Underlying momentum was a higher PlayStation 5 contribution alongside better third party and add-on content performance. On the profit side, signs point to the Bungie acquisition costs being fully recognized, since there’s no longer a mention of the deal. Caveat being, similar to Nintendo, we can’t forget about the yen’s weakness on results for these kinds of Japanese companies that have a ton of overseas sales.

One major component is how PlayStation 5 shipped 4.9 million units between July and September, notably more than this time last year and the corresponding quarter for PlayStation 4. This figure was within management’s forecast, pushing lifetime PlayStation 5 sales to 46.6 million and closing the gap with its predecessor when launch-aligned, as I’ll dig into later.

As for the group’s forecast, executives increased guidance for annual gaming revenue across fiscal 2023 while maintaining guidance for operating income and PlayStation 5 hardware shipments at 25 million, which would be the single best year ever for the brand’s console output.

“We recognize selling more than 25 million PlayStation 5 units this fiscal year remains a challenging goal,” said Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Hiroki Totoki when talking to the media. “It will depend on how sales do in the year-end holiday season. We won’t pursue expanding the PlayStation 5 installment base alone, but will keep profitability in mind.”

Scroll down for a swing through the numbers then a set of my own predictions alongside Sony’s future forecasts.

Total revenue for Sony as a whole rose 3% to $19.6 billion, with the biggest growth contribution from G&NS, Sony Pictures and Music, offset by declines in other areas. However, operating profit at the group level declined 24% to $1.82 billion. This was led by quarterly declines for Financial Services, Imaging & Sensing Solutions and Entertainment, Technology & Services segments.

Focusing strictly on PlayStation during the three months ending September, revenue jumped up 32% to $6.6 billion. That’s an entire third of Sony’s overall business. It’s what I call a massive all-time number, considering last year’s $5 billion or so was also a Q2 record at the time.

A crucial note both in the broader context and at the PlayStation level is the specific impact of currency movement. Out of the $1.6 billion growth, upwards of $410 million is strictly because of foreign exchange rate changes. This helps understand how much of the trajectory is organic, compared to an economic market force like yen weakness.

Reversing its fortune compared to a decline in Q1, operating profit for G&NS moved up an impressive 16% to $340 million. That’s 19% of Sony’s group total. Affecting the plus side were both third party content sales and currency movement, plus there’s no longer any mention of certain acquisition costs that were dragging down profitability. I believe the $3.6 billion purchase of Bungie has been fully recognized now and will no longer affect the bottom line. On the downside, management cited how hardware has produced increased losses, I’d imagine due to higher manufacturing costs.

Checking out product category splits, which are shown in the last graph above, Hardware sales grew a whopping 60% since last year and contributed 30% of PlayStation’s total. The next largest segment at 23% of the pie was Add-On Content, moving up 18% in dollar value. Digital Software produced 39% growth, settling at 21% of the total. In fact, the only product type to decline was Physical Software, down a modest 4%.

Annual PlayStation revenue is tracking towards $28 billion. As you can see in the gallery above, on the revenue graph, this is well above the highest it’s ever been, over a billion more than last quarter. Essentially, if this keeps up, Sony’s gaming unit will have its best year of sales ever. On the other hand, annualized operating profit is at $1.75 billion, which compares more to the late days of the PlayStation 4 life cycle. Still great in a historical context, just not as strong as the past three years or so.

As of this week, the “big three” console manufactures have all reported their latest results. The sole remaining biggest player is Tencent, which will be later this month. Right now for comparison purposes, Sony’s $28 billion is tops for the industry. Even if backing out currency impact, it’s well in the lead. Tencent generated $25 billion as of last quarter, and Microsoft’s Xbox segment saw almost $16 billion (though that’s before accounting for anything from Activision Blizzard). Nintendo’s at $13 billion, albeit with more than twice as much annualized operating profit than PlayStation: $4.2 billion compared to $1.75 billion, respectively.

Heads up: enhanced launch-aligned PlayStation console sales chart is live!

This fancy visual aid gives more context to PlayStation 5’s improving shipment numbers. The console’s 4.9 million units sold-in last quarter is an increase of 48% compared to the 3.3 million in Q2 last year. Plus, it’s 26% higher than the PlayStation 4’s 3.9 million in the corresponding second quarter of fiscal 2016.

It’s the fourth quarter since PlayStation 5’s release in November 2020 that it moved more than 4 million units in a quarter, and one of those was that launch period.

Which means that PlayStation 5, at 46.6 million lifetime, has reversed course and narrowed the gap against its predecessor this quarter. It’s presently only a million units away from reaching PlayStation 4, boosting its trajectory since the supply challenges of yesteryear.

This latest lifetime figure means it’s also passed another gaming device on the all-time best-sellers list. That would be Nintendo’s 1980 handheld the Game & Watch, of course, which ended its tenure at 43.4 million. Next up will be Nintendo’s classic Super NES, which sold 49.1 million globally.

One statistic that Sony didn’t update was console sell-thru to consumers. Probably because it usually waits until a big milestone in order to do so. Earlier this year, the PlayStation 5 reached 40 million sold-thru as of July 16th. I’d bet it’s a bit higher now, maybe in the 45 million range, especially ahead of a system-seller like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. I don’t see a reason demand would have fallen off.

Digging more into the supplemental stats present in PlayStation’s presentation, full game software unit sales stood at 67.6 million in Q2, up from 62.5 million last year. However, due to a lighter calendar, the proportion of first-party published games was lower, making up 7% of that total as opposed to 11% a year back.

Digital versions accounted for 67% of PlayStation game sales, up from 63% in September 2022. This means that 2 out of every 3 premium games purchased for Sony’s platforms were downloadable.

As for player engagement, Monthly Active Users (MAUs) across all of PlayStation Network totaled 107 million as of September month-end. While this is down a million from the June quarter, it’s up 5 million since last year’s Q2. Management also said that total hours played moved up 4% in the latest three months.

Here is where I’ll continue to lament the loss of PlayStation Plus membership numbers, which Sony stopped reporting earlier this year. It will forever, at least for the foreseeable future, remain cemented at 47.4 million as of March 2023.

It’s been a historic run lately for Sony’s top-line gaming numbers, pumping out multiple quarter’s worth of record revenue and generating more than $6 billion in second quarter sales for the first time. PlayStation is the premier industry player by revenue right now, even if backing out the impact from the yen’s depreciation.

Profitability has certainly been more questionable, partially because of temporary factors like studio investments, acquisition expenses and hardware manufacturing costs. Still, it achieved a double-digit income boost in Q2 on hardware units ramp up and software support from external partners like Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive with their respective sports titles, plus something like Diablo IV from Blizzard Entertainment and the Warner Brothers Mortal Kombat 1.

Which is why it’s even more painful to hear about layoffs at various PlayStation studios, including Media Molecule, Visual Arts and Bungie. There continues to be a disconnect between executives and everyone else. It’s not just at Sony, this is just one of the more glaring examples especially as its profitability gets back on track.

Impossible as it is to follow that up, I’ll take a look now at the company’s forecast and make some quick predictions.

The firm revised its fiscal year 2024 PlayStation revenue upwards by 5%. Management now thinks gaming sales will surpass $30 billion when the 12 months end in March 2024, in what would be an astonishing finish and record-breaking result. It then reiterated operating profit guidance of $1.87 billion.

In order to hit the 25 million PlayStation 5 hardware unit target, it still needs to ship almost 17 million units across the next two quarters. 16.8 million to be exact. Even with new PlayStation 5 slim models and the PlayStation Portal, this remains a staggering target that will require an absurd holiday number then a miraculous January to March. For context, the largest holiday season ever for PlayStation 4 was 9.7 million in fiscal 2016, and its largest March quarter was 3.1 million right after launch.

Yea, I’m still not a believer. In that overly ambitious forecast or the over-priced peripheral that is the PlayStation Portal. I’ll keep my same prediction as back in August: 24 million to 24.5 million, leaning more towards the lower end.

With respect to software, note that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launched after the three months covered here. Still, Sony shared a sales update for Insomniac Games’ latest open world adventure, selling-thru 5 million copies to consumers after 11 days. It had previously started with the best first 24 hours in PlayStation history, at 2.5 million copies. It’s since fallen behind God of War: Ragnarök at 5.1 million in 3 days, nearly a year ago to the day. The Last of Us: Part 2 moved 4 million copies during its opening 3 days back in June 2020.

All in all, it’s a fantastic launch for Peter Parker and Miles Morales considering the size of the PlayStation 5 install base, clearly bolstering the company’s expectations for the back half of this year.

The final bit of relevant news from Sony’s earnings was a comment around its live service strategy, moving into next fiscal year and beyond. As reported by Video Games Chronicle, CFO Hiroki Totoki mentioned that out of its previously-planned 12 live service titles originally scheduled for launch by end of Fiscal 2025, only half of them are on target. Considering how much time and money Sony is putting into this effort, moving them out is a big deal for its financial future and resource allocation. Personally, I remain skeptical that all of them well actually hit market at any point.

Whew. Well, that’s a wild week of coverage coming to a close. I hope you enjoyed this latest recap. Thanks much for hanging around during this season. I’ll have more coverage here and on social media as another eventful year approaches its inevitable end. Take care!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥144.4.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Yahoo Finance, Video Games Chronicle.

-Dom

Nintendo Achieves Best 1st Half Sales of Switch Era & Raises Financial & Software Forecasts in 2024 Q2 Report

It’s a busy week here at the site and on socials, partly because the earnings calendar is packed. So, there’s no time to waste, I’ll get right into the topic at hand.

Nintendo reported its second quarter of its fiscal 2024 yesterday, which showcased a fantastic first six months. With sales rising more than 20%, this time frame ended up being the single biggest first half of a fiscal year for revenue since the Switch launched back in 2017.

With a couple of caveats. As always.

First, the results were mostly driven by the record first quarter that I wrote about in August. When focusing strictly on the April to June period, revenue and operating profit declined 4% and 20%, respectively due to a relatively light launch schedule and lower quarterly Switch hardware output than a year ago.

Beyond these dynamics, Japan is currently seeing its worst local currency depreciation in decades. Which is always worth mentioning in this context, and Nintendo specifically cites the yen movement in its report, because it has a notable effect on Japanese companies that operate globally.

Echoing this, Switch hardware unit shipments totaled 2.93 million in the quarter. That’s off 10% from the 3.25 million this time last year. Still, it pushed Switch lifetime shipments to 132.46 million, making it only the third gaming hardware ever to pass the 130 million mark.

In terms of new games, Pikmin 4 was Switch’s big title during the quarter, and has shipped 2.61 million copies since June. This amount means it’s already the highest-selling game in the franchise to date. Add it to the list of titles impacted by the Switch effect, which often boosts new titles in existing series to all-time sales records.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom also contributed to software and continued its monumental run, now approaching the 20 million unit milestone in just its second quarter. The latest mainline Zelda is a smash hit, already at almost two-thirds of 2017’s classic Breath of the Wild lifetime sales!

In what I’d argue is the most important part of the report, and something I predicted would happen during my Q1 article, Nintendo raised most of its guidance for the full financial year. Management now expects higher revenue, operating profit, software unit shipments and will pay a higher dividend to shareholders. The only thing it didn’t raise was Switch hardware shipments, which it “only” reiterated at the current level of expectation.

“For hardware, by continuing to convey the appeal of Nintendo Switch, we try not only to put one system in every home, but several in every home, or even one for every person,” the company said related to its forecast. “Another objective is to continually release new offerings so more consumers
keep playing Nintendo Switch even longer and we can maximize hardware sales.”

Here’s quick bonus for something that happened after this financial period: Nintendo announced today that Super Mario Bros. Wonder sold-thru 4.3 million units to consumers during two weeks on sale. This makes it the fastest-selling Super Mario title, at least since the firm began tracking this stat in 2004. No wonder execs are more optimistic after yet another historic Switch launch.

Just like Drill Mario would, I’m now going to dig deeper into the numbers.

I’ll first address its quarterly earnings then expand to the 1st half and annualized figures for greater context on how Nintendo’s business is faring over time.

For the second quarter alone, revenue came in at $2.38 billion or 4% lower than a year back. Operating profit dropped 20% to $670 million. Which checks out, due to the big release of this period being Pikmin 4 plus Switch has almost achieved hardware saturation in its likely last year.

Taking the full six months into account, Nintendo achieved $5.65 billion in sales and $1.99 billion in operating income, increases of 21% and 27% respectively. That sales number is above even Switch’s best year in 2020, and operating profit is not far off from that year’s high either.

While this is certainly bumped up by out-performance of Tears of the Kingdom and the Super Mario Bros. Movie, slightly higher hardware units and early upside from Pikmin 4, there’s also the element of yen depreciation. While currency movement is usually more temporary, Japan’s currency weakness has been ongoing for many quarters now.

Taking a look into product categories, Nintendo’s hardware business accounted for around 41% of sales during both the first quarter and six months. That’s relatively constant since last year, when it was at 40%. Software accounted for the remaining 59% this time around, where it was 60% last year. A system-seller like Zelda plus certain bundles continue to prop up console sales this late in the cycle.

From a regional perspective, sales shifted out of Japan and into other territories. Both the Americas and Europe stayed the same since last year, contributing 44% and 23%, respectively. Japan declined from 24% to 21%, while what Nintendo classifies as Other jumped up from 9% to 12%.

Both digital and Intellectual Property (IP) related sales experienced the most growth during Nintendo’s first fiscal half, even if these areas still don’t represent a major portion of sales. Digital revenue output moved up 16%, and accounted for exactly half of the company’s Q2 dollar sales, virtually the same as the 51% a year ago. The mobile and IP-related category more than doubled, jumping 133%. Growth came more so from the IP side than mobile, as The Super Mario Bros. Movie stands at over $1.36 billion in box office earnings.

Combining the last four quarters, the company’s trailing 12-month revenue is currently at $13 billion. While down slightly since last quarter’s $13.12 billion, it’s up 6% year-on-year. Annualized operating profit is tracking towards $4.2 billion, down only slightly compared to both Q1 and last year’s second quarter.

If the revenue number holds, and the firm hits its latest target, Nintendo could achieve the highest annual sales since Wii’s massive popularity in 2008, even with the Switch hanging on during its twilight years.

Pulling a similar passage from my last Microsoft write-up, I’d like to compare industry peers to get a sense of where all of them stand right now. Sony, which reports results tomorrow, had PlayStation revenue upwards of $27.8 billion at last count. Tencent came in next at $25 billion, then Microsoft generated $15.78 billion before the Activision Blizzard deal closed. This is where Nintendo slots, at $13 billion. One thing to note is that Nintendo is more profitable than Sony, which is the only firm out of these four that reports profit numbers for gaming, and I’d imagine it has better margins than Microsoft’s Xbox business with its big investments and product expenses lately.

I mentioned a bit about Nintendo’s hardware results up front, I’ll now get into a more detailed breakdown of this product category.

The second quarter saw those 2.93 million Switch shipped to market, compared to 3.25 million a year ago. This tracks, notably after just how many units moved during the prior quarter, including a desirable special edition for Zelda.

Now, during the first six months of fiscal 2024, Switch sales moved up 2% to 6.84 million. While not quite at the highs of the Switch’s glory days in 2020 to 2022, it is above earlier shipments figures before 2019 during the corresponding time frame.

This shows the utter resilience of Nintendo’s hardware appeal, and making games that translate well from console to handheld. Plus, it highlights how the move to an OLED model replacing the base model drives people to picking up multiple devices for themselves or household members.

Out of those 6.84 million for the first half, 4.69 million were OLED versions. That makes up 69% of the total, and it’s 32% higher than last year’s figure. In fact, it’s the only model to grow over this time frame, considering the base model dropped 44% to 1.25 million units and Switch Lite moved down a more modest 2% to 900K.

This continues to life the lifetime Switch hardware figure, now standing at that 132.46 million. Which is still wild to write, mainly because of how it’s outpaced all expectations. Even mine and Nintendo’s itself. Thing is, while it’s secured a Top 3 spot on the all-time best-selling console list, I don’t see it moving up any further assuming Super Switch is out within the next 12 months. There’s still a 21.56 million gap between Switch and Nintendo DS at 154.02 million.

Then again, the Switch has exceeded all expectations thus far. It might surprise me.

One additional item that I found disappointing from Nintendo’s report is there wasn’t any further detail on console sell-thru to consumers, which it has recently added to its explanatory material. This is likely because it’s trending downward. Still, I’d rather the more data, the better. Maybe next time.

I’ll now take a similar look at the current software dynamic for Nintendo, the segment that makes up the majority of its business right now.

Overall Switch software unit sales in the quarter totaled 44.87 million, down 14% from 54 million. On the flip side, 1st half game sales rose 2% from 95.41 million to 97.08 million. It helps to have one of the highest-rated titles of all time launched in this period in Tears of the Kingdom.

These results drove lifetime software sales for Switch to pass yet another major milestone, this time surpassing 1.1 billion copies sold. It’s now upwards of 1.13 billion, an astonishing result. For perspective, the DS and Wii never reached a billion, even with the former selling many more hardware units. The sheer number of games that Switch owners buy, especially first party, is higher than any Nintendo device in history.

Speaking of big sellers, the number of games that have shipped over a million units during the current fiscal year jumped up a sizeable amount. There were only two back in Q1, just Tears of the Kingdom and the ever-present Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The Q2 number was 16. Out of these, 12 were published by Nintendo while 4 were produced by third parties.

Chief among them being Pikmin 4, hitting that all-time high for a Pikmin franchise game of 2.61 million units in a single quarter. The previous record holder was Pikmin 3 Deluxe, another Switch title that has moved 2.4 million copies since October 2020.

I will point out that while the latest title has the best lifetime unit sales already, it currently has a lower attach rate than its predecessor partially because of just how many Switch have flooded the market. Pikmin 3 sold 1.28 million, or 9% of Wii U console sales, while Pikmin 4 stands at a 2% attach rate. For the time being.

Separately, it’s hard to overstate the pure magnitude of Tears of the Kingdom. The title sold another million units in the quarter ending September, bringing lifetime sales to 19.5 million. It’s not often that a game approaches 20 million units in a couple quarters. Thus, the title held its position as the 9th best-selling Switch title and will easily surpass Super Mario Party‘s 19.66 million next quarter.

I can’t write about Nintendo earnings and not mention Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the game that never stops selling. It sold more copies than the brand new Zelda title last quarter, moving over a million and a half in Q2 alone. This game is almost a decade old, people! After this latest boost, the Switch version has officially passed 57 million sold to date.

Elsewhere in terms of new milestones, 2022’s Nintendo Switch Sports scored a new mark, passing 10 million to settle at 10.77 million.

While Nintendo usually reports on shipped numbers, it did share some insight into sell-thru to consumers. In addition to the aforementioned record launch for Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Pikmin 4 has sold-thru 2.5 million units globally as of last week, the largest start in series history.

As for engagement and player stats, Nintendo hit us with an update on Switch Online memberships and (its made-up stat of) Annual Playing Users, both of which are growing at this time as the user base expands. Switch Online subscribers now stand at 38 million, up from 36 million as of September 2022. Annual Playing Users, which is the number of people who have played a single game on Switch in the last 12 months, moved up to 117 million. It was 116 million in Q1, and 108 million last year.

Even considering the latest quarter trending down a bit, Nintendo bucked the trend of an aging console during the first half of fiscal 2024, turning it into a historic one for top-line sales compared to all others since the Switch first launched. It certainly helped to have a blockbuster movie to supplement traditional revenue streams, capitalizing on the quality of its big brand identities.

For a console manufacturer, this highlights the need to diversify. Especially when deep into a hardware cycle at a time when investment is ramping up for the next big device and its corresponding launch lineup.

Nintendo has mixed success in the past leveraging IP in various types of media. The last few months show it’s possible, between theme parks and film, proving there’s major upside as long as they instill that magic that has defined the company for generations and appeal to a multi-generational audience. Cross-media is a core factor behind what’s becoming a banner year for the publisher. And now with the announcement of a live-action Zelda flick in development, it will shape the company’s future income as well.

Here’s where I’ll look at that updated forecast, moving into the pivotal back half of the 2024 fiscal period.

Executives increased annual guidance for overall revenue by 9% to $11.2 billion. Operating profit guidance rose 11%, now expecting $3.55 billion. Additionally, it now expects to sell 185 million units of software during the full year, 3% higher than its initial forecast.

I honestly think the financial targets are still too conservative, based on the annualized numbers I referenced earlier. I think management will slightly increase revenue and profit estimates in its next report.

The firm also confirmed annual Switch hardware unit sales guidance at 15 million. That means between the holiday quarter and the first calendar year quarter, it needs to move 8.16 million more units. For context, last year’s December quarter alone saw sales of 8.23 million. While the Switch is a year older, I believe Super Mario Bros. Wonder among other title launches, a new Red Mario OLED model and a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bundle can produce enough sales to beat the current estimate.

Even though I’m bullish, I’m slightly less upbeat than I was three months ago. I will slightly reduce my target, now expecting between 16 million to 16.5 million in the year ending March 2024.

2023 has been a huge year for Nintendo’s first-party lineup, across mainline Zelda and Mario titles alone, and I believe it has a decent supplemental slate for the holidays that can lead to financial targets being beat. Detective Pikachu Returns, WarioWare: Move It!, a remake of Super Mario RPG plus more content for Mario Kart and Pokémon titles will act as a second helping to the ongoing main courses of Zelda and Mario.

As for what’s ahead in 2024 and beyond, notably for the console transition, I’ll address those in a future article. For now, that does it for Nintendo’s latest quarter. Stay tuned this week for Sony’s results, and hop over to the earnings calendar to track everything this season.

Thanks for reading! Take care, all.

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥140.96.

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Investor Relations Websites.

-Dom

Earnings Calendar Oct & Nov 2023: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Here it is, the final earnings season of 2023!

Which means it’s time for my usual quarterly post outlining earnings dates for companies all across gaming, media and technology.

It’s been a tricky year to cover these sectors. There’s a divergence between labor and product output. Companies are laying people off, dealing with a contraction since the pandemic when money was more free-flowing. On the flip side, many product releases have been massive and of high quality, especially in the AAA games space.

I recommend using this calendar to track everything as the numbers come out and pundits react. I’ve highlighted three companies below, from the list of over a hundred I might add, that are worth keeping an eye on when they next report.

There’s also the usual Google Sheets link containing a spreadsheet for easy usage and quick access to respective investor sites.

Check the site again soon and follow me on social media to see more coverage of earnings season. Be well everyone.

Working Casual Earnings Calendar Oct & Nov 2023: Gaming, Media & Tech Companies

Microsoft Corp (MSFT): Tuesday, October 24th

It’s done! As of earlier this month, Microsoft officially owns Activision Blizzard. The consumer software conglomerate reported September quarter earnings moments ago, so I’m still digesting the news and will have a more thorough deep dive at the site this week. Suffice to say it was an outstanding quarter at the top-line for the Xbox division, achieving its highest first fiscal quarter revenue ever on sales growth that came in above guidance on the strength of Starfield and Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service. Even as console sales declined, which signals a clear shift this generation away from reliance on that portion of the business. Check out my article for more, including a full reaction and detailed forecasts.

Sega Sammy (6460): Wednesday, November 8th

The big news out of Sega recently was its restructuring of European consumer operations, which resulted in the cancellation of Creative Assembly’s multiplayer title Hyenas even after its beta phase, a somewhat rare occurrence in an industry where projects are becoming much more expensive and companies want to see a return on their big investments. The Japanese publisher also killed multiple unnamed projects and has laid off people at Creative Assembly. It’s still unclear if Hyenas was part of the firm’s “super game” initiative, as there’s been conflicting reports. Either way, I can’t say I’m upbeat on this latest quarter or its general outlook. I’ll be looking for any sort of update on that growth plan, the Like a Dragon franchise, early indicators on this month’s Sonic Superstars, expectations for Football Manager and anything around its ongoing platform partnerships.

Starbreeze Studios AB (STAR): Thursday, November 16th

It’s been a while since I highlighted Starbreeze in this context, if ever. The Swedish developer and publisher was on shaky ground for a while, propped up by external deals and a dedicated yet impatient Payday franchise audience. Finally, just last month, it launched Payday 3 as its first major title in a while. Throughout the heist game’s first weekend, it stole the attention of over a million players despite having technical issues and an iffy online infrastructure. I expect really big upside when the company reports next month. It’s also publishing first-person shooter RyseUp Studio’s Roboquest next month, and while I don’t see it having a lot of commercial upside or impact on its financials, it’s good that the company is diversifying rather than continuing its reliance on a singular brand.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites.

-Dom