February 8, 2018 / 9:14 PM / in 5 months

'Call of Duty' drives big holiday quarter for Activision Blizzard

(Reuters) - Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) beat analysts’ expectations for revenue in the final quarter of 2017, helped by robust Christmas buying of its blockbuster “Call of Duty” videogame and higher digital sales.

FILE PHOTO: Attendees walk pass a giant billboard promoting the new multiplayer action game "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" at the Activision booth during the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3, in Los Angeles, California June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian/File Photo

“Call of Duty: WWII”, which was released in November, had sales of more than $1 billion globally and was the best-selling console game of 2017 in North America.

The company, which is behind popular franchises such as “Destiny” and “Skylanders”, said total adjusted revenue rose to $2.65 billion from $2.45 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

Analysts had expected revenue of $2.55 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Activision Blizzard also released the PC version of another smash hit, “Destiny 2”, during the holiday shopping quarter. It was the year’s third best selling game, after “Call of Duty” and Take-Two Interactive’s (TTWO.O) “NBA 2K18,” according to research firm NPD Group.

“Call of Duty” was also the top selling game in December, the eighth consecutive December that a “Call of Duty” franchise release has topped the sales chart, according to NPD.

Activision forecast 2018 adjusted profit of $2.50 per share and revenue of $7.45 billion. Analysts are expecting a profit of $2.57 per share and revenue of $7.41 billion.

It forecast adjusted revenue of $1.28 billion and profit of 31 cents per share for the first quarter, however, which was below analysts’ average estimate of $1.43 billion and 43 cents.

“The back half of the year is where there is the big new release. The first half of the year is going to be more focused on continuing to deliver content across all franchises but not with any large content releases,” Chief Executive Bobby Kotick told Reuters.

By contrast, forecasts given last week by rival Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) for the first three months of 2018 were above analysts’ estimates.

Activision also reported a rise in revenue in the fourth quarter from its high-margin digital business. Adjusted revenue rose to $1.62 billion from $1.52 billion, adding up to around 70 percent of total revenue.

The company reported a net loss of $584 million, or 77 cents per share in the quarter, compared with a profit of $254 million or 33 cents per share, a year earlier.

The loss was driven largely by a one-time charge of $1.03 per share related to the new U.S. tax law.

Excluding items, the company earned 94 cents per share.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham

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