Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) winning streak is intact. The video game publisher this week announced quarterly results that -- for the seventh consecutive time -- beat management's guidance. The business continues to benefit from gamers' growing demand for digitally delivered content, and Activision's deep portfolio of intellectual property helped it set records for audience size, engagement, and player spending.
Let's take a closer look at the third-quarter results.
Reaching more players
The overall gamer base fell for the second straight quarter, dipping to 384 million active players from 407 million three months ago. Look beyond that headline number, though, and you'll see healthy audience metrics.
The Activision side of the business notched a record 49 million monthly active users with help from the Destiny 2 launch. That title is currently the best-selling console game for the year, and the base will only grow from there now that Activision launched it on the PC through its digital platform.
Blizzard set an audience record, too, with growth in the Overwatch and Hearthstone franchises pushing its base up to 42 million players. The King Digital segment shed 21 million casual gamers, which accounts for the overall dip in Activision's base. However, the remaining users were far more active and spent more money within games like Candy Crush.
Boosting engagement and spending
In fact, engagement was up across most of Activision's core franchises. Gamers are spending more time playing Destiny 2 than they did in the original, for example, and they're buying subscription services with more frequency. King Digital achieved higher game time, as well, and a new expansion produced the same result for the Hearthstone franchise.
Altogether, the average gamer spent 50 minutes per day engaging with Activision Blizzard games, which is a record for the company that management says puts it in the same league as some of the most addictive online platforms in the world.
The improving audience and engagement metrics powered impressive operating results. Activision's $1.9 billion of revenue trounced management's guidance of $1.7 billion and translated into record operating income. Profitability was surprisingly strong, with operating margin coming in at 30% of sales compared to the 28% that executives had forecast. "In [the third quarter] we demonstrated that meaningful results can come from content investments, both large and small," CEO Bobby Kotick said in a press release.
A brightening outlook
Kotick and his team are aiming to accelerate that process in the months ahead. The new Call of Duty release might not outsell its predecessors, but its higher rate of digital delivery, coupled with extra content launches, should keep the overall franchise marching higher in terms of overall player spending.
Relatively new properties promise to lift results, too, including a new Overwatch competition that's aimed at taking advantage of the global popularity of e-sports. "We have great momentum," Kotick told investors, "as we approach the end of the year."
Executives backed up that braggadocio with hard numbers. They now see 2017 sales hitting $6.7 billion compared to the $6.4 billion they predicted back in early August. The earnings target also got an upgrade, rising from $1.94 per share to $2.08 per share.
The boost means Activision has now raised its top- and bottom-line forecasts in each of the first three quarters of the year, with its final chance to beat its outlook now depending on how well the Call of Duty and Destiny franchises perform over the holiday season.