What: Video game publisher Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) saw its stock jump 13% higher during the month of October, according to S&P Capital IQ data. Shares are now up 75% year-to-date, making it the third best performer in the entire S&P 500.
So what: A general rise in the market can explain some of Activision's October gains. Major stock indexes rose by 8% last month, lifting most individual companies in the process. Yet the publisher's shares also marched higher in anticipation of the company's third quarter earnings report that published on Nov. 2.
The owner of hit franchises like Call of Duty, Destiny, and World of Warcraft had boosted its sales and profit outlook in both of its prior quarterly announcements this year. And investors were hoping for another surprisingly strong showing this time around.
They weren't disappointed. Activision's $1 billion sales quarter beat management's $900 million guidance as its base of gamers swelled 27% higher. At the same time, those users are spending significantly more time engaging with the company's games: Playing hours rose 23%.
Meanwhile, Activision's sales through digital channels jumped up 25% from the prior year, leading to an improvement in operating margin to 24% of sales, compared to 22% last year. Like clockwork, the company raised its 2015 sales and profit forecast for the third time in a row.
Now what: Not even two weeks in, November has already brought a flood of important news for Activision shareholders. In addition to third quarter results, the company announced the $6 billion purchase of casual gaming giant King Digital that management hopes will open up huge market opportunities. The combined entity will boast half a billion monthly active users, compared to 150 million for competitor Electronic Arts.
And Activision's tent-pole Call of Duty franchise looks as strong as ever. The Nov. 6 launch of Black Ops III generated $550 million of sales during its opening weekend. But the better news for investors is that user engagement numbers point to the title generating steady digital sales this year. "So far, people are playing Black Ops III for more hours per player than any Call of Duty game on record," Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said in a press release.
Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.