Overwatch, the newest title from Activision Blizzard (ATVI) - Get Report , isn't just the most-anticipated video game release of the year. Analysts at Jefferies believe it has the potential to be a major catalyst for Activision's current and future top- and bottom-line growth.
The team-based, class-based, first-person shooter debuted Tuesday, and it is Activision's first new franchise in 17 years. While the company's popular Diablo, Starcraft andWarcraft titles continue to be popular with gamers, this infusion of new blood is assured to grow the company's fan base.
"Overwatch looks like a hit," Thursday's note from Jefferies stated. "The Street assumes it will sell 5 to 7 million units in 2Q. We continue to argue that [fellow Activision release] Destiny (9 million+ units at launch) is the best comparison, and currently Overwatch is besting Destiny against all metrics we are able to track."
If the game sells 10 million units, Jerfferies analysis suggests the title could bring in between $200 million and $250 million in revenue and grow earnings between 7 cents and 9 cents per share.
The analysts used several metrics to make their sales and revenue forecasts, including the success of the game's open beta platform -- the version of the game that Activision made available to play for free ahead of the game's official release. The game's open beta had 9.7 million users, larger than the betas for other games that went on to sell between 9 million and 13 million units, according to Jefferies.
The game itself has received rave reviews from various gaming critics. Review aggregation site Metacritic had a 93 rating for Overwatch. Forbes, Game Informer and Destructoid all gave the game a perfect score, while Hardcore Gamer, Game Revolution and Gamespot gave the game a 90 out of 100.
"Out of 11 reviews, five gave the game a perfect 100 ... Reviews praise the game's beautiful design, accessible game-play (easy to learn; difficult to master), and likable detailed characters," the Jefferies team wrote. "On Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report , where Prime members receive a 20% discount (AMZN eats the discount), Overwatch is the top-selling game for both consoles and PC."
Overwatch's release may be just the jolt the video game industry needs following a disappointing April. Gamers spent $509.5 million on video game hardware and software-related products in the U.S. in April, a 15% year-over-year decline from the $598.1 million they spent last year. Hardware sales fell 23% to $142.1 million from $183.7 million, while software sales declined 21% to $203.9 million from $256.7 million.
Despite the industry's struggles, Activision has performed well this year. While the stock is basically even with where it began the year, Activision stock and the market as a whole is up more than 25% since hitting a low in mid-February.
Jefferies has a buy rating and $45 price target on the stock, representing a potential 15% upside from the stock's previous closing price. Activision shares were showing volatility in trading Thursday, spending time in both positive and negative territory.