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Call of Duty: Ghosts, part of the Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) portfolio of games, is currently the No. 1 most played next-generation console game on both Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Xbox One. Across all gaming platforms, there have been over 1 billion multiplayer matches played since the game's launch on Nov. 5. Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, said:
Around the globe, Call of Duty: Ghosts is leading the next generation. It's the #1 selling title at key retailers and it's also the most played game on Xbox One and PS4 globally.
The Call of Duty franchise has been an important one for Activision. The franchise has set a record with over 4 billion hours played online. This demonstrates Activision's success with user engagement. Activision continually generates revenue beyond the launch of new Call of Duty games by offering new expandable content year-round.
Activision Blizzard as an investment
Activision Blizzard reported revenue of $657 million in the third quarter of 2013, which is down from $751 million in the same quarter of last year. The company expected revenue to be lower than the previous year's same quarter due to last year's launch of the World of Warcraft expansion pack Mists of Pandaria and continual sales of Diablo III for PC.
Activision Publishing showed amazing growth and contributed to almost half of Activision Blizzard's overall revenue. Activision reported revenue of $320 million in the third quarter of 2013, which is a 14% increase from last year's third-quarter revenue of $280 million.
Activision Blizzard is a profitable company and reported earnings per share of $0.08 in the third quarter of 2013. The company reported that it is raising its outlook for the 2013 calendar year, with expectations of revenue at approximately $4.29 billion and earnings per share of $0.89.
As an investor, it's very promising to see Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts doing so well among retailers for next-generation consoles. It's also encouraging to see the company increase expectations for the remainder of 2013. Investors should keep tabs on future sales figures for Call of Duty: Ghosts as a metric for evaluating Activision's ability to expand revenue in the future.
Battlefield 4 plagued with bugs
DICE, an Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) game studio, released Battlefield 4 last month. The game is a direct competitor with Call of Duty: Ghosts. Players have reported multiple bugs in the game, including major bugs that cause players to be kicked from servers, game crashes, and an in-game "one-hit-kill" glitch. These issues have been plaguing users on all platforms, including the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
DICE is rolling out patches to fix the bugs in Battlefield 4. Unfortunately for PlayStation 4 owners, the patch release date on that system has been further delayed for additional testing.
DICE has put all future projects and expansions on hold until the current problems are fixed with Battlefield 4. The company has reassured users that fixing Battlefield 4 is its no. 1 priority. An EA representative told ign.com:
We know many of our players are frustrated, and we feel your pain. We will not stop until this is right.
The question is whether or not placing future projects on hold affects the bottom line. If developers are spending their time fixing bugs, then they are not working on revenue-generating activities such as launching new games and content expansions. This activity further delays revenue and increases expenses.
Investors should consider the repercussions of such major bugs in a high-profile game like Battlefield 4. Launching a game with such significant issues disappoints the fanbase and hurts both the "Battlefield" franchise reputation and the EA brand.
With a game like Battlefield 4, it is strategically important to build and cultivate a large fanbase for future upselling of content expansion packages. The continual sale of content is the long-term revenue generation strategy for these games.
Although Battlefield 4 has its issues, EA expects the game to help drive revenue for the company in the third quarter of the 2014 fiscal year. The company is reaffirming its projections for the year with expectations of revenue of $4 billion and raising expectations of earnings per share to $1.25.
As an investor, carefully monitor the situation with the bugs in Battlefield 4. The game is part of a vital franchise for EA and will generate ongoing revenue through both game sales and content expansions. It's important for DICE to find a way to repair the damage with its fanbase, since otherwise users might switch to competing games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts.
The bottom line
The gaming world is buzzing with new video games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4. The excitement surrounding these game titles has increased tenfold due to their launches on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Activision Blizzard and EA will likely generate expanding revenue over the coming quarters due the excitement over next-generation video games. Both companies have leading titles and game franchises that not only generate revenue through their initial sales, but also create recurring revenue through the sale of content expansions and other downloadable content.
Editor's note: This article has been amended to correctly reflect Call of Duty: Ghosts matches. Motley Fool apologizes for the error.
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