Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) - Get Report shares traded higher Wednesday after the video game maker said the 'Modern Warfare' version of its Call of Duty franchise notched record sales over its debut weekend.
Activision said the Modern Warfare release had more than $600 million in estimated worldwide digital and retail sales in it first three days, a tally the company said more than doubled the box office opening for the Hollywood blockbuster 'Joker', which stars Joaquin Phoenix. The game has also had more total payers and total hours played than any other Call of Duty release over the past six years, the company said.
"Call of Duty is once again the top selling new premium game of the year, proving the enduring nature of the franchise across console, PC, mobile, and e-sports," said CEO Bobby Kotick.
Activision Blizzard shares were marked 1.6% higher in the opening minutes of trading on Wall Street Wednesday to change hands at $54.89 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 18% and a market value of $41.4 billion.
The Modern Warfare release come just days ahead of Activision's 'BlizzCon 2019' gaming convention in Anaheim later this week, during which it is expected to unveil new versions of its World of Warcraft franchise, a teaser for Diablo 4 and a new Overwatch game that could include in-game purchases similar to those seen in Fortnite, the hugely successful multi-player contest from Epic Games.
"We believe Overwatch will be the highlight of BlizzCon, where Blizzard will provide an all new player vs. environment modes that take advantage of its rich background stories," said Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz.
"BlizzCon should prove that Blizzard has plenty of cards to play to get players and investors excited over upcoming games in 2020 and 2021," he added. "While we are bullish on content, we hesitate to adjust our 2020/2021 estimates due to lack of monetization details and conservative view on Diablo 4."
Earlier this month, Citigroup raised its price target on Activision Blizzard by $8, to $55 per share, with analyst Jason Bazinet citing Call of Duty's "strong start" and projections for increasing revenues over the next two years.
Activision Blizzard publishes its third quarter earnings on November 7, with analysts looking for revenues of $1.17 billion. The Santa Monica, California-based game maker had earlier guided for adjusted non-GAAP earnings of 20 cents per share for the third quarter, and $2.15 for the full year, up 10 cents per share from its prior forecast, and full-year revenues of $6.2 billion.
"Our 300 million players spend tens of billions of hours every year watching and playing our games and yet we believe we're just scratching the surface in terms of fulfilling the reach, engagement and player investment potential of our franchises," CEO Kotick told investors in early August. "We see even more clearly than ever before the potential for growth across all our franchises as we create great content for new and existing platforms, leverage our wide array of business models, and capitalize on new engagement models."