image source: Activision Blizzard.

Shares of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) soared as much as 10.4% higher in after-hours action, following the release of strong fourth-quarter results.

The video game publisher saw non-GAAP earnings inching up 1% year over year, to $0.79 per share. Analysts expected far worse, and would have settled for $0.73 per share. On the top line, non-GAAP sales fell 13%, to $2.3 billion. Wall Street targets were set at $2.2 billion.

Looking ahead, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick expects his company to bounce back from the recent downward trends. "As we look to 2014 and beyond, we have the strongest and most diverse pipeline of games in our history," Kotick said in a prepared statement. "In 2014, we expect these releases to enable us to grow non-GAAP revenues year over year and generate record non-GAAP earnings per share."

In the seasonally weak first quarter of 2014, Activision sees non-GAAP earnings of roughly $0.09 per share on about $675 million in adjusted revenue.

The company is bolstering its portfolio of high-concept PC and console games with a number of free-to-play titles. "We believe these games have great global potential. Free-to-play as a business model has now achieved scale, both in the West and in China," Kotick said.

The company also announced a $0.20 annual dividend per share in this report. That's a 5.3% boost from last year's $0.19 payout.