Activision Shoots ‘Em Up On Strong ‘Destiny’ Debut As ‘Call Of Duty’ Arrives

It was a very good day for videogame giant Activision Blizzard, which reported record (non-GAAP) revenues and earnings per share thanks to new franchise Destiny and the long-running World Of Warcraft. The big numbers came just as Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare, the next iteration of its blockbuster franchise, hits retailers with its prospects buoyed by strong reviews, reduced competition and a featured role from Kevin Spacey.

Destiny Activision game shotThe numbers were announced after the stock market closed today, and sent after-hours trading sharply up after a day when the stock lost 1.72 percent to close at $19.95 per share.

All told, the company reported a record $1.17 billion in (non-GAAP) net revenues and earnings per share of 23 cents, far above guidance the company provided in August, before the arrival of its new sci-fi shooter hybrid Destiny, developed by famed game studio Bungie. That title ended up selling $325 million into retail in its first week and now will release an expansion called The Dark Below in December that should generate more revenue from ardent fans. The use of non-GAAP numbers is because of the industry’s practice of spreading revenues and costs from subscription titles such as World Of Warcraft across the duration of the subscription.

Analysts weren’t quite as thrilled by the company’s forward guidance for its holiday quarter, normally the biggest of the year, though it was raising its outlook on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. CEO Bobby Kotick touted the launch of several new titles or extensions of franchises, including Call Of Duty Online and Blizzard’s Heroes Of Te Storm. 

Activision SVP Corporate Communications Maryanne Lataif said the company likely won’t release initial sales figures for Call Of Duty for another week or so. Last year’s version of the franchise, created by a different game studio, was Call Of Duty Ghosts, and sold a record $1 billion into retail in its first five days on shelves. That was despite grumpy reviews about the title’s lack of innovation and stout competition from Electronic Arts’s nearly-as-big and somewhat similar franchise, Battlefield 4. 

Irons Kevin SpaceyThis year’s CoD won’t face that sort of competition, as EA pushed Battlefield: Hardline into 2015. And unlike Ghosts, Advanced Warfare is getting generally high marks from critics as it reinvents the franchise and pushes it into the future both in its story line and its gameplay innovations.

The game’s relatively lengthy campaign version features Spacey, playing an even more diabolical manipulator than the Frank Underwood character in House Of CardsExcept where in the Netflix drama his politician merely played first-person shooters to unwind, Spacey’s Jonathan Irons is the CEO of Atlas, a cross between Blackwater and SkyNet, a multinational military contractor and government stand-in. Players take the role of a prosthetically enhanced, exoskeleton-aided soldier who was a friend and squad mate of Irons’ son, a soldier killed in the line of duty.

And it’s not just Spacey’s voice in the game. There’s also his quite realistic (on a Sony PlayStation 4, at least) image in the game. It’s slightly unnerving but compelling in its own way, and a first for the series to have a name actor in such a notable role.

Here’s the launch trailer Activision posted a couple of weeks ago for Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare, showing some of the gameplay, and featuring Spacey in full world-manipulator mode:

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