Growth is up across the board since last year, with the largest success coming from Call of Duty, citing the combination of premium Modern Warfare and free to play Warzone content expanding the community and driving engagement. The Black Ops: Cold War trailer revealed to Warzone players was also cited as a “true virtual water cooler moment” of engagement, noting how going direct to the players proved more effective marketing than any paid media network, which could be indicative of an evolving marketing strategy driven by the huge reach of Activision’s player base.
Blizzard Entertainment is reported to have the largest team ever working on ensuring Shadowlands meets player expectations, and the next year will purportedly follow the expansion launch with more content for the franchise than ever before. Specifically mentioning a determination to deliver more frequent major content for both retail and Classic could be a hint toward Burning Crusades development, as Classic is already nearing its final phase with the release of Naxxramas, and there wouldn’t be much else to develop otherwise. Other franchises will also be looking to emulate the success in expanding Call of Duty, although interestingly, the six key franchises were identified as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Diablo – notably excluding StarCraft for the time being.
CEO Bobby Kotick also praised the work of employees who have successfully transitioned to a work from home model amidst the pandemic, while also mentioning the hundreds of Orange County employees recently evacuated due to wildfires. Despite these setbacks however, the continuing outlook is extremely positive: few entertainment franchises generate over 1 billion dollars in annual net bookings, while Activision Blizzard now enjoying three of them between Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush.
“Our teams continue to execute our growth plans with excellence during incredibly challenging circumstances. We are on a path to deliver sustained longterm growth across our fully-owned franchises. With confidence in our ability to continue to execute, we are raising our outlook for the year and remain enthusiastic for our growth prospects next year.”
– Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone monthly active users (MAUs) tripled to over 111 million since last year, with over 7 times as many hours played across console and PC combined.
- Modern Warfare first year premium sales are the highest in franchise history, with 2/3 of units sold digitally.
- Call of Duty console and PC in-game net bookings were four times higher.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War will release on November 13 into the largest and most engaged community at the time of
launch in franchise history.
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 launched to fantastic reviews and became the fastest title in the series to reach over 1 million units sold, highlighting increased opportunity for classic franchises.
- World of Warcraft is holding stable since last year, with Blizzard total at 30 million monthly active users (MAUs).
- Shadowlands presales well ahead of any prior expansion, with franchise engagement at its highest level at this stage ahead of an expansion release in a decade.
- Hearthstone hours played have grown since last year, with Battlegrounds seeing sustained strong engagement since its release last November.
- Duels and Madness at the Darkmoon Faire will release in November, alongside a new in-game
- Overwatch is sustaining 10M MAUs in the quarter, over four years since launch.
- The October Grand Finals were the most-watched event in the Overwatch League’s history.
- Diablo Immortal has passed internal company play testing and will soon enter external regional testing.
- 249 million monthly active users (MAUs) in the third quarter.
- Now starting to see the benefits of last year’s initiatives with a healthier payer base that is responding positively to compelling new features and live operations.
- Candy Crush was once again the top grossing franchise in the U.S. app
- Greater frequency of in-game content has also led to net bookings growth in Farm Heroes and Bubble Witch.
- Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! will be coming to to mobile in Spring 2021, with very strong fan reception at around 10M pre-registrations.
Most of the Q&A portion focused on Call of Duty, specifically Warzone as an important piece of the franchise, as it engages the entire community with the premium games. Additional clarification that upcoming Black Ops Cold War progression will build upon the success and work similarly to Modern Warfare, so all the new Black Ops unlocks will be useable in Warzone, the same way it worked with Modern Warfare. Players can also continue to use Modern Warfare content in Warzone, and will be able to switch between Black Ops or Modern Warfare loadouts. Finally, players can expect a ton of free post-launch content as they continue to incentivize and expand mobile development.
Little was said regarding Blizzard Entertainment or Shadowlands specifically, although President J. Allen Brack spoke on how the Shadowlands delay was made in order to ensure the quality of the game would match expectations and that community feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The quality of the game is the top concern and really strong player engagement and expansion presales. That said, Warcraft as a huge franchise in which which WoW is only a part of, and their team is always exploring how to express Warcraft with new experiences and see a lot of opportunity for growth in 2020 and beyond. This vague statement doesn’t tell us much except that there may be plans for future Warcraft content which is not explicitly a part of the MMO, whether that will take the form of supplementary books and comics, a new mobile title, or otherwise will remain to be seen.
Much of the report follows the success of Call of Duty, driven in no small part by mobile development, and while Activision is keeping an eye on all platforms, they are invested in capitalizing on the biggest platform there is right now: mobile development, with its billions of capable devices. Blizzard previously mentioned development of mobile titles for all franchises, and this would seem to reaffirm that commitment.