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3 Drivers for Activision Blizzard's Growth Strategy

By Luis Sanchez CFA - Feb 4, 2020 at 7:46AM

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Activision has been on a roll for years, but the company still has a lot of untapped potential.

Activision Blizzard (ATVI -0.44%) is one of the world's largest video game companies, and it has experienced strong growth over the past decade thanks to its continued success releasing popular new titles as well as the growth of the video game industry overall.

Despite encountering some headwinds in 2018, there is good reason to believe Activision will continue to generate robust growth in the coming years.

1. Upcoming game releases

While 2019 turned out to be a lighter year for new titles, Activision's new game pipeline remains attractive. The company doesn't promote new releases until a game is within a year of hitting the market, but several titles are confirmed or rumored to be in development.

Game Title Game Type Release Year
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Massive multiplayer online Confirmed for 2020
Overwatch 2 Fantasy shooter Expected for 2020 or 2021
Diablo IV Role-playing game Expected for 2022
Call of Duty Shooter Generally released every year
Tony Hawk Pro Skater Skateboarding sports game Rumored to be in development

Date source: Activision news reports and industry news publications.

Activision's big-budget titles will take years to develop and typically produce revenue in the hundreds of millions or more. The company's latest release -- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare -- grossed over $1 billion in sales in its first few months on the market. Activision will leverage these popular franchises with huge fan followings while also also employing a large marketing budget to ensure gamers are aware of each and every release.

2. Mobile game adaptations

One of the fastest-growing subcategories of the gaming industry is mobile. Research firm Newzoo estimates that the market for mobile games was $68.5 billion in 2019. Historically, major developers like Activision have focused on console or PC platforms, but that is changing quickly.

In 2016, Activision acquired King Digital, the maker of Candy Crush, jump-starting its entry in mobile games. More recently, the company released a mobile version of Call of Duty. During the latest earnings call, CEO Bobby Kotick noted:

Call of Duty: Mobile is experiencing one of the industry's most successful launches ever. In extending Call of Duty to the largest and fastest growing platform, we've more than tripled the franchise's reach with over 100 million downloads in the first month alone. The game reached the top of the install charts in over 150 countries and regions, reflecting Call of Duty's global stature, and monetization is off to a strong start with the game entering the top 10 grossing charts in over a 100 countries and regions.

The success of this title proves that Activision has a significant opportunity adapting its most popular franchises for the medium. This lays the groundwork for other games like Overwatch and Starcraft to eventually make their way to smartphones and tablets. The company has already announced that a mobile version of Diablo is on its way.

An at-home desk with a large gaming computer monitor glowing in the dark

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Esports

It may seem far-fetched, but there is a large and growing audience of video game spectators. Estimates peg the current global audience for esports at nearly 500 million, and where there is a large audience of engaged fans, there is an opportunity to make money.

Activision Blizzard has been one of the most active esports companies. In 2016, it purchased esports broadcasting company Major League Gaming and established the Overwatch League, which aired its championship finals on ABC and ESPN.

Building off the momentum of the Overwatch League, Activision is getting ready to launch a Call of Duty league and has already sold the rights for 12 teams, with each one fetching tens of millions of dollars. There are plenty of ways to monetize esports, from advertising and merchandise to additional game sales. What's clear is that the company is just getting started in its esports efforts and believes the business will be a major growth driver in the coming years.

A lot to look forward to

Activision has been a good tech stock to its shareholders over the past decade, and given the growth opportunities that lie ahead, that will likely still be the case going forward. Investors should monitor the company's new releases for mobile and the new consoles coming later this year. Growth from esports could be a surprise kicker that makes the stock even more attractive.

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