Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) business is changing in focusing more on digital distribution and the ways of making money off that. No longer are investors worried just about how many copies of Skylanders or Call of Duty it sold, but new areas such as mobile advertising, eSports and digital distribution will get much of the focus.
"ATVI's strong brand and well-recognized game franchises will allow the company to foster deeper engagement with players and reduce its earnings volatility between product cycles," Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz wrote in a note to clients. "Also, we believe there is significant upside from its emerging eSports, media content and mobile advertising initiatives, the benefit of which will not be material until after 2017."
Activision's continued push into mobile and thereby being less reliant on disc sales, has been fueled by its acquisition of King Digital, maker of the popular Candy Crush series of games. "If done successfully, the shift to a digital distribution model could have the potential to significantly reduce costs compared to traditional non-digital methods," said PureFunds CEO Andrew Chanin via email, highlighting a reduction in costs in things like shipping or packaging.
When the Bobby Kotick-led Activision reports on November 3, investors will also be looking to hear how its Overwatch Summer Games event went and what it means for the future.
Jefferies analyst Brian Fitzgerald wrote that he was "particularly optimistic" around the event, noting it "appeared to drive meaningfully higher levels of engagement and spending across the user base." Fitzgerald has a buy rating and a $55 price target on Activision.Analysts compiled by Yahoo! Finance expect the company to earn 42 cents a share on $1.57 billion in revenues.
These three ETFs may benefit if investors like what Activision has to say about the past 90 days.
iShares North American Tech-Software ETF
Activision accounts for 6.02% of the iShares North American Tech-Software ETF (IGV) , which has $741.9 million in assets under management and sports a 0.47% expense ratio.
Oppenheimer's Uerkwitz noted the company (and other video game companies as well) are likely to benefit from high-margin digital game sales, benefiting from new ways to generate revenue, including downloadable content and microtransactions. "[Activision's] game franchises make the company one of the best positioned to outperform peers in this shift," Uerkwitz wrote in a note to clients. The analyst has a outperform rating and a $53 price target rating on shares.PureFunds Video Game Tech ETF
The PureFunds Video Game Tech ETF (GAMR) has Activision make up 4.97% of its $8 million portfolio and charges investors a 0.75% expense ratio.
PureFunds' Chanin said it makes sense for the company to focus on new areas of gaming like virtual and augmented reality and push the innovation envelope, but only if it makes sense financially. "When they are convinced these new platforms will achieve a critical mass, it may make sense for them to pour resources into developing content and games for these platforms," Chanin said. "Given the strong brand and franchise loyalty many gamers have to Activision, they do have the ability to take a more 'wait and see' approach before making a significant investment in game development for newer platforms."
Direxion iBillionaire Index ETF
Activision makes up 4.1% of the $17.2 million iDirexion iBillionaire Index ETF (IBLN) and charges investors a 0.65% expense ratio.
Jefferies's Fitzgerald also highlighted that investors will be looking to hear about the upcoming Call of Duty release, slated for November 4, as well as fourth-quarter guidance. Wall Street is expecting the company to earn 38 cents a share on $1.66 billion in revenue, compared to Fitzgerald's forecast of 41 cents in earnings and $1.54 billion in sales.