Activision Blizzard Q1 2015 Conference Call Transcript

During the Activision Blizzard Q1 2015 financial report conference call, it was announced that World of Warcraft subscriptions are down to 7.1 million.

  • Activision Publishing’s Destiny and Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone®: Heroes of Warcraft™ combined now have more than 50 million registered players and nearly $1 billion in non‐GAAP revenues life‐to‐date.

  • Blizzard Entertainment had the largest Q1 online player community in its history, up a double digit percentage year over year despite no major launches in the quarter. As expected and consistent with our experience following prior expansions, we saw a decline in the World of Warcraft subscriber number. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million. World of Warcraft’s revenue performance at constant FX has been more stable, driven by continued strong uptake on value added services, and price increases in select regions, which partially offset subscriber declines, particularly in the East. World of Warcraft remains the No. 1 subscription‐based MMORPG in the world.

  • Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Storm™, which has had over 11 million beta sign‐ups, entered closed beta in January. The Founder’s Pack, released in the quarter for $39.99, granted immediate access to the beta, along with a selection of heroes, skins and more.

  • Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft had steady engagement and revenues quarter over quarter, despite no new content releases this quarter. This was driven by sustained pickup of the Goblins vs Gnomes™ expansion content, which was released in the previous quarter.

  • On March 31, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment kicked off closed beta testing for StarCraft® II: Legacy of the Void™, the third installment of the company’s real‐time strategy sequel. Legacy of the Void will be a standalone product that doesn’t require any prior releases, so it will be easier than ever for players to get into the game and experience all of the latest content.

  • On April 2, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment released Blackrock Mountain, the second Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Adventure. Additionally, on April 14, the game was released on iOS® and Android™ mobile phones. The smartphone release helped propel the franchise to over 30 million registered players and the #1 download spot for mobile games in more than 25 countries.

  • On April 7, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment launched the WoW Token System, which enables World of Warcraft players to exchange game‐time Tokens, purchased at $20, to other players for in‐game gold. This serves the dual purpose of enabling players to pay for their subscriptions with their gold and providing players with a secure method for purchasing gold in‐game.

  • On April 23, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase, Inc. announced that Sanctuary’s gates have been thrown open to all Chinese heroes, as open beta testing for Blizzard Entertainmentʹs award‐winning action role‐playing game Diablo® III: Reaper of Souls™ has gone live in China. Approximately 3 million people signed up to play the beta in China, and the game has already sold 1 million units across two offerings: the Premium Package for approximately $32 (RMB198) and the Digital Deluxe Package for approximately $64 (RMB388).
  • On June 2, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment expects to launch Heroes of the Storm after an open beta testing period commencing May 19. The release follows on the heels of the epic finale of the Heroes of the Dorm™ collegiate eSports tournament, which was aired live during primetime on April 26 on ESPN2, the network’s first‐ever live telecast of a collegiate eSports event. Students from more than 460 schools across the U.S. and Canada competed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition and other prizes.

  • Blizzard Entertainment expects to begin beta testing for Overwatch™ in fall 2015.

  • Blizzard Entertainment announced that its ninth BlizzCon® will be returning to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7. Tickets went on sale in two batches in April and quickly sold out.

This is a partial transcript of the conference focusing on the Blizzard Entertainment portion. Some of the speakers in this portion are: Dennis M. Durkin (Chief Financial Officer), Mike Morhaime (Blizzard CEO), Bob Kotick (Activision Blizzard CEO), and Thomas Tippl (Chief Operating Officer).

Activision Blizzard Q1 2015 Conference Call Transcript

Fighting the Good Fight: A look at 6.2, World of Warcraft’s present state, and what the future may hold [SPOILERS ABOUND!]

A sickly green mars the formerly star-crossed skies of Draenor. A planet that once housed an indescribable primordial beauty now finds itself besieged to an extent never before witnessed. Savage, free beasts that used to roam this alien planet’s expansive lands find themselves twisted into malformed shadows of their former visage. Indigenous trees that could previously sweep you up in their widespread presence now burn as fuel for the Fel. On top of all this, the throne of command and power formerly possessed by Draenor’s original usurpers, the Iron Horde, has become uprooted, deformed, and guided by new management.

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This mental image of oncoming destruction is something we hopefully have to look forward to sooner rather than later. Welcome to 6.2, the upcoming content patch for World of Warcraft and an update that holds more weight than just being another patch to tally up with all the rest. Gul’dan has wrought control of the once mighty Iron Horde, morphing them into the Fel monstrosities he had always envisioned as their fate. In seizing control of Draenor’s formerly largest threat, Gul’dan has ushered onto the would-be Outlands, a fate far worse than anything the Iron Horde could’ve ever accomplished. By Gul’dan’s hand, the Burning Legion in full force has finally arrived on Draenor. Their way of entry and base of operations lays across the former seat of power for the Iron Horde: Tanaan Jungle. With 6.2, the end may be nigh for Draenor not just in a story sense, but a content perspective as well.

Why the WoW Token is the best thing to happen to WoW in years

Yep, I just went outright and said it.

Since Blizzard announced its intentions to allow players to purchase game-time with in-game money, there’s been a plethora of discussion revolving around one thought: how will this new WoW Token affect World of Warcraft?

The initial reaction has been rather for the change, albeit with some resistance from other commentators. Most opposing commentators have been stating that Blizzard selling gold can only end in a “Pay-to-Win” scenario. A “Pay-to-Win” scenario is exactly how it sounds: you pay with real money to succeed in the game. This practice has been adopted by quite a few online games, including Rift, Diablo 3 (specifically and only when the Real Money Auction House existed), and H1Z1. These games have (or in Diablo 3’s case, had) given players the means of progressing without doing any actual work. When the player reaches the maximum level or endgame content, they could simply go to any of these shops and purchase the best gear and items for their character.

It’s a frightening thought, and it’s a fear that seems to permeate World of Warcraft’s outlook by some presently.

Well, I say you’re all wrong.

First off, can someone explain to me how this is “Pay-to Win” in the slightest? I see no gear being sold. I see no items that offer an advantage over other players being sold.

With WoW’s in-game currency revolving almost entirely around Gold, a vast amount of players save gold, upon gold, upon more gold. In my time playing, I still know a guy who has collected close to 9 million across all of his characters and no matter how he approaches the game, he can’t spend it all.

To have such a surplus, wouldn’t it make sense to have some sort of system to alleviate this and positively change their approach to the game? All that effort after all those years, all that gold compiled.. and it doesn’t pay off at all really.

Sure, you can buy the best cosmetics and mounts in game, but what else is plausible? You can buy pieces of gear that will simply become replaced when you raid, and that’s about it. This surplus situation boils down to having nothing to spend it on, all while still having to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Basically, you’re rich in the game, but you’re not rich in real life. And while real life continues to happen and you pay monthly fee after monthly fee, the totals add up and you’re sitting there with millions of gold and nothing to spend it on.

Let’s look at this change from another perspective: meet Joe, the Average WoW player.

Joe’s loved WoW since he was 12. He’s adored every moment in the game, meeting each with laughs, or screams, or even rage. All of this though, for all the good and bad, it combines into his own wonderful experience with the game.

Despite all this, Joe’s facing problems. No, I don’t mean a boss not dropping the specific piece of loot you want, or some in-game guild drama; I mean real life problems.

This average WoW player loves the game. Sure, he’s not the best at it; he’s mediocre in every sense of the word. But, truly, he loves WoW. Meanwhile and outside of Azeroth’s virtual existence, Joe is having financial issues. He wants to keep playing the game he loves, the game that may have even inspired him to do wondrous things in the world, but he can’t continue as long as his financial means are poor.

Joe comes to one final conclusion: either give up WoW and don’t face financial collapse, or keep playing and cut back further on your financial standing (which, obviously, is the worse decision in my opinion).

“Why the WoW Token is the best thing to happen to WoW in years.”

That’s where the WoW Token alleviates this. The effort players pour into WoW every day, every other day, once a week… pays off in-game AND real life.

Everyone, and I mean everyone is in some ways Joe. You want to play the game, you want to enjoy yourself, you want to socialize with your friends and guild and conquer every challenge that entices you.. but you can’t, purely due to a tacked on fee.

I say this because the game acts as an outlet for more of its playerbase than I believe anyone will admit. When I personally used to seriously raid, the nights we’d progress and eventually down a boss were exhilarating. It made me feel like I accomplished something while everything else in life was moving rather slow. The game acted as a stress reliever and something that I, and many others I would bet, prided myself on.

The game itself is hard to put down, specifically when it’s used as an outlet for one’s frustrations. I know from first hand experience, and I’ve come to know others over my years who have felt the same.

Outside of this reasoning though, I am so for this change because of its moral implications. Blizzard has stated constantly over the years its disdain for Gold Farmers to the point they’ve even sued a Gold Farming company. Over the years we’ve also learnt more about the actual machinations within Gold Farming industries; their entire culture and workplace is toxic and horrible. Many of the Gold Farmers we know today are in fact prisoners to the game others, like myself, enjoy.

With Blizzard more-so overlooking the way Game Time and Gold itself is distributed, it helps to eliminate an entire industry based around borderline slavery and slimy practices. I fail to see how that’s bad. Furthermore, with Blizzard allowing the in-game economy to decide for the worth of a WoW Token, it allows a plethora of players who I personally know to play the game freely without questioning their choice to fund their World of Warcraft subscription over living essentials.

This is a change I welcome with open arms, and I hope those still carrying pitchforks will lower them a tad bit after gaining such perspective.

The game isn’t going Pay-to-Win; it’s adopting a practice that has been becoming much more common as the years have passed.

The game is still the same; it’s not suddenly forcing you to buy a Token. You can freely pay for your subscription month to month per usual.

If anything, the game just had some new life breathed into it. All the players who haven’t touched WoW in years due to its subscription fee will have means to access it without that pay wall we all experience month to month.

And because of this change, I already have a few long time friends who wouldn’t touch the game because they couldn’t pay for it coming back.

So, if you’re still sitting there trying to come up with every X, Y, and Z reason to counter the WoW Token’s existence, I sit here and ask you this:

Is the Token the real problem, or is it you?

Activision Blizzard Q4 2014 Transcript

Activision Blizzard Q4 2014 financial report conference call was held today at 1:30pm PST. Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime reported the latest updates on all current and upcoming games. Overwatch and StarCraft: Legacy of the Void beta testing have no ETA, but he confirmed these will start in 2015.

In addition, Team 5 is working on more Hearthstone content. So far 9 million players have signed up for Heroes of the Storm beta.

Highlights

  • At BlizzCon® on November 7, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment announced a new intellectual property, Overwatch™ — a highly accessible multi‐player game featuring an amazing cast of heroes and set in an all‐new Blizzard game universe.

  • On November 13, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment launched Warlords of Draenor™, the fifth expansion for the #1 subscription‐based MMORPG in the world, World of Warcraft®. The expansion sold‐through more than 3.3 million copies as of the first 24 hours of its availability and helped drive World of Warcraft to more than 10 million global subscribers at the end of 2014.

  • On December 8, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment launched Goblins vs Gnomes™, the first expansion for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The release of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft on Android tablets followed on December 15, 2014.

  • On January 13, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment began the closed beta test for Heroes of the Storm™, its upcoming free‐to‐play online team brawler featuring iconic heroes from more than 20 years of Blizzard gaming history. To date, more than nine million players have signed up to beta test the game.

  • In January 2015, Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft reached more than 25 million registered players.

  • Additionally, in 2015, Blizzard Entertainment expects to begin beta testing Overwatch

Activision Blizzard Q4 2014 Transcript

Activision Blizzard Q4 2014 Transcript

  • Overwatch going to beta soon this year. No ETA.
  • Blizzard working on new Hearthstone content

Activision Blizzard Q4 2014 Transcript

Dennis Durkin: In 2014, Blizzard generated record avenues and near-record operating income. The year was driven by Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, both of which generated significant revenues and income that will not have comparable releases this year.

In addition, we expect WoW subs to decline as we have seen historically in the year following the release of a large-scale expansion.

In terms of new releases, in January, Heroes of the Storm Blizzard second free-to-play game entered closed beta. While we expect it will take time to ramp in monetization as it builds its audience, we are very excited about the opportunity we have in front of us with this game.

In addition, this year, Blizzard will continue to release new content for Hearthstone as well as bringing the game to mobile devices later in the year.

Lastly, Overwatch, which was just announced in November, is expected to go into closed beta later this year. While we are very excited about this new franchise, it has not been factored into our outlook.

Finally, Blizzard will continue to invest in our own distribution platform, Battle.net, which will need to support a significantly larger audience and commercial capabilities going forward.

 

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Mike Morhaime: Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated and talented employees around the world, Blizzard Entertainment delivered one of our most successful years ever.

In 2014, we released award-winning expansions: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (on Windows and Mac), and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (on Windows, Mac and Consoles).

We also launched our first free-to-play game, Hearthstone, which has collected Game of the Year awards, and nominations as well.

Hearthstone was released first on Windows and Mac; and later on iPad and Android tablets, bringing Blizzard into the mobile space for the first time.

Additionally, we supported Hearthstone with two major content releases: the Curse of Naxxramas Adventure and Goblins vs. Gnomes, our first expansion. Our success across multiple game genres and platforms in 2014 drove Blizzard’s best-ever annual revenue, and more importantly, helped us continue expanding our global community of gamers.

On the World of Warcraft side, we ended the year with the release of Warlords of Draenor in November. As we previously announced, the expansion was a great success in all regions, pushing the global player-base above 10 million. The introduction of the character boost as well as design updates to the game made it much easier for lapsed players to return to World of Warcraft, and quickly reintegrate themselves into the community.

Looking ahead, we’re already preparing new content and features to support the game in the coming months. As with previous expansions, we do anticipate a decline in subscribership in the coming months, particularly out of Asia, where the subscriber-base has been more fluid.

Moving on to Hearthstone, the game continued to excite and attract players around the world. After announcing the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion at BlizzCon in November, we launched it a few weeks later in December. This was followed shortly after with the Android tablet version of the game. All this activity helped drive Hearthstone’s highest monthly active players ever in December, as well as our highest revenue quarter-to-date for Hearthstone.

Registered players for the game have now reached over 25 million, capping off a spectacular start for Hearthstone. It’s gratifying for us to see how the global Blizzard community has responded to our first foray into a new genre; as well as the free-to-play market and gaming on tablets. We will keep working hard to build on last year’s momentum with more content in 2015, as well as the upcoming Android phone and iPhone versions of the game.

We do have another free-to-play game in the pipeline with Heroes of the Storm (our Online Team-Brawler). This is a genre that has proven to be very popular in the online space in recent years. We are excited to put our unique spin on this genre, in a game that stands out from the rest, with highly accessible play and iconic Blizzard characters from the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo universes.

Heroes of the Storm has recently hit some major development milestones including the start of closed beta in January, along with sales of the Founder’s Pack (a digital bundle for $39.99) that gives player an array of heroes, skins and other content; as well as instant access to the beta test.

We are continuing to ramp up our infrastructure and game service capabilities, allowing us to open up the game to more of the 9 million players who have signed up for beta testing. Excitement around Heroes of the Storm continues to build as we are seeing more grass-root tournaments pop up and major eSports entities are already creating professional teams for the game.

Looking further ahead, we gave the world a glimpse of what’s next for Blizzard at BlizzCon.

We kicked off the show by unveiling Overwatch, a team-based first-person shooter featuring an amazing cast of characters of heroes; and set in an all-new Blizzard game universe. The announcement trailer for Overwatch was a viral sensation on the Internet, while attendees and press alike raved about the gameplay after trying an early build on the BlizzCon show floor.

In addition to Overwatch, we also showcased the final chapter in the StarCraft II trilogy: Legacy of the Void. This will be a stand-alone expansion, meaning anyone can jump right into the StarCraft II experience without needing to own the previous games. We expect beta testing for both Overwatch and Legacy of the Void to start later this year.

For a while now, we have been discussing the strong pipeline of Blizzard games. Gamers have long known us for World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. Now with Hearthstone added to the mix, and Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch soon to follow, we will have more games in more genres and on more platforms than ever before.

As busy and successful as 2014 was, we’re looking to build on that momentum this year and deliver even more excitement to players in 2015.

 

Past Activision Blizzard financial conference calls for trend research in our archive.

[SPOILERS and SPECULATION] Who is Cho’gall’s Master, and what does it bode for Draenor?

He comes…

A burning question has resonated in the minds of many, especially myself, since Warlords of Draenor’s unveiling: how will the expansion’s story progress and conclude?

The prospect of how Warlords of Draenor storyline comes to a close is still a mystery. By all accounts, all that we know for sure pertaining to WoD’s conclusion and final raid tier is the following: Grommash Hellscream will be involved with the final encounter, and it will be heavily Legion themed. Aside from this tidbit shared by Tom Chilton, what happens upon Draenor post-6.0 is a complete mystery. The single plausible route to formulating what will play out next in WoD is speculation, and the recent slaying of Mythic Imperator Mar’gok surprised many with a new development in the lore.

Before jumping into any speculation, let’s review every significant lore event that’s occurred so far in WoD:

The Red Shirt Guy’s BlizzCon 2014 Predictions

BlizzCon 2014 is nearly upon us and, as with every year, speculation about the convention’s announcements have run wild. Here are my predictions for what we shall see announced this year.

Things I’m Very Sure Of:

Hearthstone expansion, it’s been teased to fan sites over the past weeks and the Hearthstone website posted a strange article hinting at new features. From these various teasers, I’m fairly certain the Hearthstone expansion will be mechanical themed in terms of the new cards added, and will have a spectator mode and a new gameplay mode, “speed rounds,” in which each player is given only fifteen seconds for their turns.

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void reveal. Blizzard released several StarCraft II sound files over the past few days which are titled respectively “See” “…you…” “…at…” with the last one uploaded only 11 hours ago as of this writing. Yes, technically LoV can’t be “revealed” as we’ve known about it since before StarCraft II even launched, but this would be the first public look at the expansion, similar to Heart of the Swarm‘s reveal trailer several BlizzCons ago.

Warlords of Draenor patch content. Jeremy Feasel mentioned on Twitter that they will be showcasing some new pet battle information, which means, even if it’s just pet content, there will be information about 6.1 and beyond. My personal guess would be a showcase of Tanaan Jungle, perhaps discussion on how the patch cycle will work as they have been rather vague in past interviews, and if they’re ready, a preview of the updated blood elf models.

Things I’m Not as Sure Of:

Overwatch. Blizzard has filed 7 trademarks for this recently, one months ago and the others over these last two weeks. Considering all the different trademarks I’d hazard to say Overwatch is a new IP, and possibly the “big announcement” that Blizzard employees have been alluding to on Twitter. As for what it is, I’d theorize it’s the setting and lore made for the canceled Titan project put into a non-MMO game of some type, but it’s just a guess with no real evidence backing it up.

Heroes of the Storm beta announcement. Nothing for HOTS has been teased the way Hearthstone has, but with the “final phase of the technical alpha” having started a little while ago, now would be the perfect time to announce when HOTS will enter its beta test. I’d also expect some new heroes and possibly new maps to be shown off as well.

Eye of Azshara is fake. Yes, someone would have had to spend $299 and commit a crime to get that trademark up if it’s not genuine, but at this point things aren’t looking to be in EoA’s favor. It hasn’t been filed in any other country, whereas Warlords of Draenor was quickly trademarked in other regions after its discovery. I would certainly like it to be genuine, I might even make a series of posts about what I would want to see in a hypothetical Azshara expansion, but at this point I doubt it has anything to do with this year’s BlizzCon. Hopefully I’m wrong on this one.

 

Looking for Group – Documentary Premiere at BlizzCon

A few months ago, a secret project was being created. Asking the help of the community, Blizzard asked players and fans to share their feelings about a World of Warcraft adventure that we started 10 years ago.
And so, on November 8 at 5 p.m there will be the premiere of World of Warcraft : Looking for Group, a documentary made for that special moment!
World of Warcraft®: Looking for Group – Documentary Premiere at BlizzCon

Join us Saturday, November 8 at 5 p.m. PST for the premiere of World of Warcraft: Looking for Group, an all-new documentary celebrating 10 years of adventure, camaraderie, and /dancing on mailboxes all around Azeroth. This decade-spanning archive explores the history of WoW with the people who create it, collects stories from players around the world, and takes you into corners of Blizzard and the WoW community you’ve never seen before.

Join us either in person at BlizzCon at the Main Stage in Hall D at 5 p.m. PST, or watch it free on the World of Warcraft Tournament Live Stream. You’ll also be able to find it on the official World of Warcraft YouTube page and official World of Warcraft site.

 

 

Activision Blizzard Q3 2014 Conference Call – Transcript

The Activision Blizzard Q3 2014 financial report conference call revealed a few details of importance surrounding Blizzard Entertainment games.

  • Hearthstone coming to Android Tablets in December 2014.

  • Hearthstone coming to iPhones some time afterwards. No ETA.

  • Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha is shifting to Closed Beta soon.

  • Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with more than 7.4 million subscribers as of September 30, 2014, ahead of the upcoming World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor release.

  • During the quarter, Blizzard Entertainment’s newest franchise, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, exceeded 20 million registered users life to date.

  • In North America and Europe combined, for the third quarter, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III: Reaper of Souls-Ultimate Evil Edition was the #4 best-selling console title, and year to date, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls remained the #2 PC game in dollars.

 

Transcript

This is a partial transcript of the conference call, gathering the comments from Robert A. Kotick (Activision Blizzard CEO, President and Director) and Mike Morhaime (Blizzard Entertainment CEO).

Blizzard’s new-found focus on storytelling is a step in the right direction for World of Warcraft

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“Gameplay first.”

The first thing you see upon Blizzard Entertainment’s mission statement webpage is this statement, standing firmly as the first of “eight core values” that serves as the code for game development within this massive company.

It’s no secret that Blizzard has always prioritized gameplay over other elements in their video games. This core value of “gameplay first” is what’s lead the studio to being seen as a titan within the video game industry. The immersive world and fluid combat of World of Warcraft; the gameplay improvements and tweaks brought upon Diablo 3 with Reaper of Souls; the near perfect RTS elements of Starcraft; all of these worlds that have been crafted by Blizzard offer fantastic experiences in gameplay as a whole.

Despite all these obvious positives in Blizzard’s video games, what elements have they overlooked? In this case, and for this piece, there’s one element that to the opinion of several fans have always been lacking severely: Storytelling.