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More Analysts Turning Bullish on Activision Blizzard Stock

By Danny Vena – Sep 16, 2019 at 3:53PM

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After a difficult year, the tide of public opinion is finally turning in the game publisher's favor.

Activision Blizzard (ATVI -0.04%) is starting to get some love in recent weeks after what has been a difficult year. Tough competition from industry stalwarts and the emergence of free-to-play mobile games had Activision stock on the ropes, driving its shares down more than 50% at some points over the past 52 weeks.

But that renewed interest is making the stock a compelling value for would-be investors looking for a bargain.

As I highlighted just last week, the company's release schedule for the remainder of this year and the enthusiastic reception to World of Warcraft: Classic among gamers, led a number of analysts to conclude that the future looks bright for the company.

Two more analysts hopped on the bandwagon Monday, laying out a bullish case for Activision Blizzard's future.

A tank driving in an urban area with soldiers flanking in a screenshot from Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

Image source: Activision Blizzard.

The WoW factor

The record-breaking release of World of Warcraft: Classic late last month has given the company an unexpected boost. The release coincided with the 15th anniversary of the game's debut. World of Warcraft fans young and old flocked to the game, overwhelming servers and causing player backlogs that lasted for hours. The game set opening-day records on video game streaming site Twitch, attracting more than 6 million viewers within 24 hours, with more than 1.1 million watching the proceedings at its peak. 

Nomura Instinet analyst Andrew Marok joined the Activision love fest last Thursday, upgrading the stock to buy from neutral (hold), citing the better-than-expected showing of World of Warcraft: Classic as a reason for investors to get on board. "Last month's launch of World of Warcraft: Classic has driven strong, above-expectations engagement in the franchise," Marok wrote in a note to clients.

"This provides a much more favorable backdrop heading into November's BlizzCon, which we expect will see the reveal of a World of Warcraft expansion for 2020 release and at least one of Diablo 4 (more likely) or Overwatch 2, which are both in development," Marok wrote. The analyst also cited the initial positive reception of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, which was released in beta Thursday, as another reason to be bullish on the stock.

Lining up for Call of Duty

Marok wasn't the only enthusiast. Jefferies analyst Alex Giaimo raised his price target on Activision to $65, up from $56. After conducting a survey of more than 600 gamers to assess engagement and gauge their interest in the upcoming schedule of releases, Giaimo said Activision Blizzard remains a top pick in the game publishing space.

One of the biggest takeaways from the research was that 36% of respondents said they plan to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, when it's released on Oct. 25 -- making it the most-wanted game ahead of the important holiday shopping season. 

Initial reports are trickling in and so far Call of Duty looks to be another hit. Widely read gaming news site Kotaku called the Gunfight mode in the Alpha version "fast-paced and addictive." 

Animated characters battling a dragon in a screenshot from World of Warcraft Classic.

Image source: Activision.

A little perspective is what's needed

With all the analysts joining Activision's corner in recent weeks, you'd be tempted to think that there had been a significant change in the company's fortunes -- but that simply isn't the case. While gamers' reactions to World of Warcraft: Classic and the early strong response to Call of Duty are noteworthy, that isn't all that's at play here.

What's more likely is that negative investor sentiment had simply gone too far, causing the company to lose half of its market cap. Now, with the slightest bit of good news, analysts are piling on -- for fear of being left behind.

Long-term investors who have stayed the course during Activision's dark days of to this point in 2019 have known all along that brighter days were ahead.

Danny Vena owns shares of Activision Blizzard and has the following options: long January 2021 $22.50 calls on Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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