Activision hikes outlook on high hopes for Call of Duty

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Nov 7, 2012 5:16pm EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) raised its 2012 outlook, expecting strong holiday sales of its latest title in the "Call of Duty" franchise, despite competition from Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) blockbuster "Halo 4."

The world's largest video game publisher now expects earnings per share of $1.10 in 2012, compared with 99 cents previously. It raised its revenue estimate to $4.8 billion from $4.63 billion. This beat Wall Street's view of $1.01 earnings per share and revenue of $4.68 billion.

The company's stock rose 3 percent to $11.45, from a close of $11.13 on Nasdaq.

Microsoft launched its sci-fi action-shooter "Halo 4" this week, exclusive to the Xbox. The title is expected to be a hit over the holidays.

"Microsoft did a very good job with Halo and fortunately it's only on a single platform," Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said in an interview.

Activision hopes to lead holiday sales with its action-shooter "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," which will be released for PCs and consoles such as Xbox and Nintendo's new Wii U across North America on Tuesday.

"We raised outlook for the year as we're confident 'Call Of Duty Black:Ops II' will likely be the most successful video game of the year," Kotick said.

The company reported higher earnings in the third quarter that also beat Wall Street's expectations.

The third quarter was driven by fantasy-action game "Diablo III." Its World of Warcraft franchise also enjoyed a boost in sales after the September release of its latest "Mists of Pandaria" expansion pack.

Revenue rose 12 percent to $841 million from $754 million a year ago. Adjusted for the deferral of digital revenue and other items, revenue rose about 20 percent to $751 million from $627 million a year ago, surpassing Wall Street's average forecast for $709.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income was up 53 percent to $226 million, or 20 cents per share, from $148 million, or 13 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

On a non-GAAP basis, it earned 11 cents a share, beating the average forecast for 8 cents.

(Reporting By Malathi Nayak. Editing by Andre Grenon)