Most analysis on Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) business this year is focused on installments in the Call of Duty series and what's next for the Overwatch franchise. Properties including Candy Crush Saga and World of Warcraft are often mentioned as well.
These games are undeniably important performance drivers, but the publisher also has a few titles that are flying under the radar that could make a difference. Read on for profiles of three overlooked video games that could move the needle for Activision Blizzard this year.
1. Diablo Immortal
Diablo Immortal didn't receive much fanfare when it was unveiled at Blizzard's annual software conference in November 2018. Hardcore fans of the Diablo franchise were eagerly anticipating a new series entry for PC and console platforms, and they voiced plenty of disapproval when Blizzard unveiled Immortal -- a scaled-down installment for mobile platforms. The publisher then went on to delight fans when it unveiled Diablo IV (a proper mainline sequel) at last year's conference, and there hasn't been much news about Immortal since.
Outside of a couple videos and some new screenshots from last year, Diablo Immortal has pretty much fallen off the map. However, comments from the game's co-developer, NetEase, suggest development on the game was actually completed in February 2019. The title is almost certainly still on the way.
It's possible that Activision Blizzard took stock of the negative fan reaction to Immortal and decided that it needed more development time to add additional content and polish. Diablo is a valuable property, and it makes sense that the company would want the series' first major mobile entry to live up to the franchise's pedigree. Even if additional work is being done on the title, a surprise release could be in the cards for this year.
Due to the coronavirus, Blizzard has canceled the Blizzcon conference it normally hosts in early November each year, but look out for a potential launch for Diablo Immortal somewhere in that time window. The mobile game may have gotten off to a rocky start with fans, but it still has the chance to be a big hit when it arrives.
2. Crash Bandicoot 4
Activision announced a new game in the Crash Bandicoot franchise in June. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is being developed by Toys For Bob, the internal Activision studio behind the Skylanders series and remakes of previous games in the Crash franchise.
The game is slated for launch on Oct. 2 and will debut on Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One platforms. Comments from Activision suggest that Crash 4 might also eventually land on PC and Nintendo's Switch console.
Crash Bandicoot isn't a top-tier franchise in the same vein as Call of Duty or Overwatch, but recent releases in the series significantly outperformed expectations and helped boost Activision Blizzard's sales and earnings. As of last February, 2017's Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy had sold more than 10 million copies. Last year's Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled also posted strong sales when it launched, although no official sales figures have been released.
As the first mainline franchise sequel since 2008, Crash 4 will be an important release for the series. While the recent remakes put up impressive sales and were received well by fans, this is the first time that Toys For Bob will deliver a completely original sequel for the property. The upcoming video game will also hit the market at $60, while the remakes from recent years debuted at $40. If Crash 4 can match N. Sane Trilogy's sales at a higher price point, it would be a significant win for Activision.
3. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2
The first two games in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series stand as the most successful and beloved extreme sports games of all time. Activision is remaking the first two titles in the series and bundling them together, and the upcoming release could ride a wave of nostalgia to strong sales.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 is set to launch on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on Sept. 4. It also wouldn't be surprising to see the game ported to Nintendo Switch or Sony and Microsoft's respective next-gen platforms, which are set to release in the fourth quarter.
If Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 winds up being a hit, it has the potential to reinvigorate the series -- much like remakes for other Activision Blizzard franchises including Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon have done. There are other highly regarded games in the Tony Hawk series that could get the remake treatment, and strong sales for the property could prompt Activision to release new original games in the series.