Even China isn't immune to the waning global popularity of Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) World of Warcraft.
NetEase.com (Nasdaq: NTES ) came through with better-than-expected quarterly results last night, despite seeing a sequential decline in its licensed World of Warcraft game.
This is actually a good thing for NetEase, since it's now able to prove that it can grow just fine with its proprietary releases. The recent success of last year's Tianxia III and Ghost -- along with the continued success of its older Fantasy Westward Journey, Westward Journey Online II, and Heroes of Tang Dynasty -- find the Beijing-based company posting another market-thumping report.
Net revenue climbed 28% to $333.5 million for the online gaming pioneer. Earnings clocked in at $1.09 a share, well ahead of last year's $0.87-a-share showing. Analysts were settling for a profit of $1.02 a share on $317.3 million in net revenue.
There's more to NetEase than just multiplayer fantasy games. NetEase's portal now has 97.6 million users of its micro-blogging platform. It's no Weibo, but it shows that NetEase can still draw a crowd of non-gamers. The company runs China's largest free email service with 450 million registered users, though stateside investors know how hard it is to monetize email accounts.
However, online gaming is still the key driver at NetEase, accounting for 85% of its quarterly revenue.
As an industry bellwether, NetEase's report should calm investors that were spooked by smaller rival Changyou.com (Nasdaq: CYOU ) last week. Changyou beat Wall Street targets, but provided a gloomy near-term outlook. NetEase doesn't provide guidance, but there's nothing in last night's report that suggests bumpy near-term performance.
We'll get a clearer picture of the industry when Shanda Games (Nasdaq: GAME ) reports next week. The final snapshot will develop when Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD ) checks in next month. Like Changyou, both Perfect World and Shanda Games are trading near their 52-week lows. NetEase, on the other hand, is a good pop away from hitting a fresh high.
If this is a game, NetEase is winning.
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