'Call of Duty' Franchise Drives Player Engagement Through Third Quarter for Activision Blizzard

Call of Duty Modern Warfare - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Activision

Performance was strong across audience reach, engagement and player investment, with the action shooter games continuing to boost revenue.

Video game publisher Activision Blizzard posted third-quarter financial results on Thursday, with results that were better than expected across major console and mobile titles and leading with the flagship Call of Duty franchise.

Net revenue reached $1.95 billion for the period ending September 30, as compared to $1.28 billion for the third quarter of last year. Performance was strong across the three strategic growth drivers — audience reach, engagement and player investment — with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its free-to-play online counterpart Warzone, which launched in March amid stay-at-home mandates, seeing an increase in monthly active users and growth in users who upgraded to the full Modern Warfare game after the experience of Warzone. In addition, Modern Warfare's sales first-year premium sales are the highest in the history of the first-person shooter games.

"Our teams continue to execute our growth plans with excellence during incredibly challenging circumstances," said Bobby Kotick, chief executive officer of Activision Blizzard, in a statement. "We are on a path to deliver sustained long- term 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."

Call of Duty: Mobile also reached a higher engagement than the prior quarter as the highest grossing new game in the U.S. app stores since its launch last October.

From developer King, the free-to-play Candy Crush match-3 puzzle game was once again the top-grossing franchise in the U.S. App Store, where it caters to a predominantly female audience. Elsewhere, The Farm Heroes and Bubble Witch franchise grew net bookings year-over-year as in-game content was delivered on a regular schedule.

Anticipation for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War remains high for its release on Nov. 13, as the game is entering the largest and most engaged audience that the title has ever seen. The game will support cross-platform play and be available on the next-gen consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Activision is also launching another major releases in coming weeks, the World of Warcraft expansion Shadowlands on Nov. 23.

Looking ahead, net bookings are expected to hit $2.73 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020 and $8.10 billion for the year.