Quarterly earnings reports are a good way to gauge how a business is doing, but the conference call can give real insights into what's working, what's not, and what the future looks like. At a company like Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI), the conference call is a time for investors to get a peek into what kind of initiatives are next on the company's growth plans.
Here's a look at the six things I thought were most noteworthy from Activision Blizzard's third quarter 2017 conference call. (transcript via Seeking Alpha)
1. Engagement is everything
The best metric to watch at Activision Blizzard each quarter is engagement. The company reports monthly active users, but often times includes metrics about time spent playing games on the conference call. President and COO Coddy Johnson put it this way:
The company set a new milestone for daily time spent per user at over 50 minutes, placing us on par with Facebook's time per day, which is over 50 minutes across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.
It's amazing that Activision Blizzard users are nearly as engaged in the platform as Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) entire business. Talk about a sticky product for consumers.
2. Monetizing engagement
The challenge has always been making money off the highly engaged consumers. King's business, in particular, could be boom and bust depending on the game. But Activision Blizzard has made content to bring consumers back and spending money. Johnson said:
And we saw this from King with Candy Crush where continuous ongoing feature and content updates allowed this franchise to have its largest quarter since 2013 and return to the number one position in the U.S. app store. King's Q3 performance is worth underscoring for a moment. They reclaimed their number one mobile publishers spot in the U.S., they grew revenues for the third sequential quarter to the highest level seen in 10 quarters, and they achieved record mobile gross bookings.
Owning gaming on mobile devices will be key for Activision Blizzard and King's success is a sign the company is getting the strategy right.
3. Call of Duty is coming
Even ahead of the Call of Duty: World War II launch, Johnson said that engagement for the game was extremely high:
The Call of Duty franchise had a record Q3 MAUs providing even more momentum around tomorrow's highly anticipated release of Call of Duty: World War II.
Soon after this conference call, management announced that Call of Duty: World War II generated over half a billion dollars in sales during its opening weekend. It's on pace to be the best selling game of the year, likely driving another great quarter for Activision Blizzard.
4. The video game business has changed
One of the biggest changes in video games over the past decade has been a move from console game sales to in-game purchasing. Activision Blizzard has made that transition seamlessly with Coddy Johnson saying:
In-game services, features and content continue to be a recurring driver for our business resulting in a Q3 record of over $1 billion for in-game purchases and record year-to-date performance.
That's over half of the $1.62 billion in revenue for the quarter, showing just how far in-game purchases have come.
5. A new stream of revenue
In-game advertising has long been a dream for video game developers since it's a revenue source that doesn't take away from other sales or even in-game content. Coddy Johnson said it may even improve the payer experience:
In advertising, King made progress this quarter in testing and product refinement. Player test continue to show that advertising can improve the player experience and provide advertisers with the premium performance. King is actively building out advertising capabilities around sales, serving and targeting. And during 2018, King expects to ramp inventory with a deliberate and methodical rollout of ad product types, user cohorts and other.
Look for this to be an initiative that drives higher revenue per user at a high margin.
6. esports are already getting sponsors
The Overwatch League launches early in 2018 and already has two big sponsors. CEO Bobby Kotick said:
This morning, we announced large Overwatch League sponsorship deals with both Hewlett-Packard and Intel. And these are two great examples of forward-thinking initiatives by two important companies that will help us deliver a great experience for the community and invest in the future of the League.
If esports leagues are going to be successful long-term, sponsors will play a big role in the business. The fact that two big sponsors have signed on before any games have been played could be a sign that more sponsors are waiting in the wings.
Like advertising in-game, esports is another added revenue generator that will increase game engagement without taking resources away from the development of new games. Leading in esports is another point of differentiation for Activision Blizzard and could lead to a new level of growth.