Investors have been high on Activision Blizzard (ATVI -0.44%) in recent years. It sports a market cap of $48 billion, has 409 million people who play its games every month, and generates over $6 billion in revenue from a handful of titles every year.
Much of its financial prowess came after the merger with Blizzard Entertainment in 2008, but long before that, Activision had humble beginnings. It was founded in 1979 and rode the growth of the Atari game console in the early 1980s. But Activision struggled to survive after the Atari game system faded into obscurity.
To stay alive, Activision got into business software but was unsuccessful, and by 1991, the company was on the verge of collapse. Around that time, a 30-year old Robert Kotick and his business partner took control of Activision for less than $500,000.
Obviously, the stock has delivered big returns over the years, but how much would an early investment be worth today?
Not quite a millionaire stock, but close
Activision spent a few years trading on the over-the-counter market, but started trading on the NASDAQ small-cap exchange on Oct. 22, 1993. On a pre-split basis, the shares traded between about $9 to $15 per share during the fourth quarter of that year. There have been six stock dividends (which work like a stock split) since 2001. If you had bought one share in 1993, you would currently own 11.4075 shares of Activision Blizzard.
If you had bought $10,000 worth of Activision stock on the first day it started trading on the NASDAQ small-cap exchange, the investment would currently be worth $669,000.
It gets a little better when we consider dividends. Activision Blizzard paid its first dividend of $0.15 per share in 2010. The annual dividend payout has increased every year to reach a current payout of $0.41 a share. If you had reinvested those dividends, your overall investment would be worth $742,000 at the current quote.
The growth story is not over
The increasing dividend payments reflect management's confidence in the future.
CEO Bobby Kotick has the company well-positioned to capitalize on the fast-growing esports market, as well as the rising popularity of mobile games. In the fourth quarter, Activision Blizzard released Call of Duty: Mobile, which more than doubled the player base to 100 million.
Instead of pouring vast amounts of money into new intellectual property, and dealing with the risk that involves, the next phase of growth is going to center around making money from existing franchises through sales of extra content and advertising. The release of Call of Duty: Mobile shows the potential to capture a much wider gaming audience, and along with that comes more opportunity to grow profits.
If you missed out on buying this growth stock years ago, no worries. Activision Blizzard is sure to be around for a long time, paying dividends and growing in value for investors. The stock has nearly tripled in just the last five years. I personally own shares and believe the business should grow more valuable over time.