Activision announced its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2023, related specifically to the period between October 1, and December 31, 2022.
As you can see from the table below, net revenue is up year-on-year for the quarter, but down for the full year.
The press release includes the traditional comment by CEO Bobby Kotick, boasting "record quarterly net bookings" and mentioning that the company is still working toward the merger with Microsoft. The objective is still to close the deal by June 30, 2023.
"We ended 2022 with record quarterly net bookings as we delivered on our mission to bring epic joy to players. I’m grateful to our talented and hardworking teams for their many successes entertaining our hundreds of millions of players around the world. We look forward to a historic year, as we work toward merging with Microsoft. This merger will enable us to better serve our players, create greater opportunities for our employees, and allow us to succeed in an increasingly competitive global gaming industry.”
We also get a list of operational highlights for the publisher's companies. We hear that Activision Blizzard enjoyed "43% year-over-year net bookings growth and record segment financial results in the fourth quarter."
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II had the best debut quarter sell-through of the franchise's history, while Blizzard also reported its highest quarterly net bookings ever, driven by "strong growth for Warcraft and the reinvigoration of Overwatch and Diablo."
- Activision segment revenue and operating income grew approximately 60% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, driven by the performance of Call of Duty across console, PC and mobile.
- Following its October launch, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II delivered the highest opening-quarter sell-through in franchise history. The strong performance was broad-based, and digital sales were particularly robust on PC and in Asia-Pacific after Activision expanded distribution of the title to Steam's PC digital storefront. At the end of the fourth quarter, cumulative hours played were the highest in franchise history for a premium title at this stage of its release.
- The November release of Warzone 2.0, including its new DMZ mode, also contributed to a strong year-over-year increase in franchise reach and engagement on console and PC in the fourth quarter, as well as record quarterly player investment. Year-over-year engagement growth in the free title has moderated following the launch, although next week sees the launch of Season 2, which will include new content, modes and gameplay updates aimed at delighting the community and accelerating growth. Our teams are also looking forward to further expanding the Warzone community with the release of Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile planned for this year.
- Fourth quarter Call of Duty Mobile net bookings grew double-digits year-over-year to a new quarterly record, driven by enhancements to the player experience and well-received seasonal content.
- Across the Call of Duty franchise, our teams are working to amplify the success of the fourth quarter, with 2023 plans including even more engaging live services across platforms and the next full annual premium release in the blockbuster series.
- Blizzard segment revenue and operating income grew approximately 90% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, as our teams executed against a substantial pipeline to deliver well-received content across key intellectual properties. Warcraft, Overwatch and Diablo grew strongly year-over-year and each delivered over $100M in net bookings.
- In the Warcraft franchise, World of Warcraft delivered significant year-over-year growth in reach, engagement and net bookings in the fourth quarter following the September release of Wrath of the Lich King Classic and the November launch of Dragonflight. While early Dragonflight sales have not reached the level of the prior expansion, community feedback on the title has been positive. Blizzard has announced plans to deliver substantially more follow-on content for the expansion than in the past, and post-launch subscriber retention in the West is higher than recent expansions. Elsewhere in the Warcraft franchise, mobile title Warcraft: Arclight Rumble™ continues to progress well through regional testing.
- The October launch of Overwatch 2 with a free-to-play model delivered the highest quarterly figures for player numbers and hours played in Overwatch history. Player investment is also off to a strong start, with fourth quarter in-game net bookings at the highest level to date for Overwatch. The team is working on an ambitious slate of regular seasonal updates, including PVE content, to engage and expand the community, as well as other ways for new and existing players to experience the Overwatch universe longer-term.
- Diablo Immortal on mobile and PC also contributed to Blizzard’s fourth quarter year-over-year growth. Engagement and player investment trends for the title were stable at the end of the fourth quarter and into the new year. Diablo IV, the next installment in the genre-defining series, is planned for release on PC and console on June 6, 2023. This ambitious title will serve as the launch for a compelling live service, with regular seasons and story-driven expansions planned for years to come.
- Licensing agreements with NetEase that covered the publication of several titles in China expired in January 2023. Nonetheless, we still expect very strong year-over-year financial growth globally for Blizzard in 2023, driven by both the launch of Diablo IV and live operations. Blizzard remains focused on finding alternative ways to serve the community in China.
- King continued to outperform amid a challenging backdrop for mobile games. Fourth quarter segment revenue grew 6% year-over-year, equivalent to low double-digit growth on a constant currency basis. King’s fourth quarter segment operating income was lower year-over-year, due to the year ago quarter benefiting from lower cash compensation expense and insurance claim proceeds.
- King’s in-game net bookings increased 9% year-over-year, driven by the Candy Crush franchise. Candy Crush was the top-grossing game franchise in the U.S. app stores for the 22nd quarter in a row. King advertising revenue was stable year-over-year despite an ongoing difficult macro environment for digital advertising.
- Candy Crush Saga, the largest title in the Candy Crush franchise, celebrated its 10-year anniversary in November. In-game net bookings for the title grew approximately 20% year-over-year for every quarter of 2022, driven by continuous live operations improvements and highly-effective user acquisition. The team sees further opportunities to increase engagement, retention and payer conversion in the title, including through further social and competitive features and deeper seasonal content. In 2023, King will also intensify focus on applying its proven live operations strategy to other games in the portfolio.
It's worth reminding that Activision doesn't follow the widespread fiscal year convention that identifies the period between April and March of the following calendar year. Instead, it sticks to calendar years, so this is about their Q4 while most other game developers and publishers are reporting about their Q3.
Incidentally, today the company won't host a financial conference call, because the acquisition by Microsoft is still pending. They haven't had one since the announcement of the upcoming deal in January 2022, so this is all we get.