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Better-Than-Expected and Record Q1 Results

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced first-quarter 2021 results.

“Our employees continue to demonstrate exceptional performance under challenging circumstances,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “That relentless drive across our franchises produced strong first quarter results that were well ahead of expectations. Our continued overperformance enables us to raise our outlook for the full year.”

Financial Metrics

 

Q1

(in millions, except EPS)

2021

Prior Outlook*

2020

GAAP Net Revenues

$2,275

$2,015

$1,788

Impact of GAAP deferralsA

($209)

($265)

($266)

 

 

 

 

GAAP EPS

$0.79

$0.59

$0.65

Non-GAAP EPS

$0.98

$0.84

$0.76

Impact of GAAP deferralsA

($0.14)

($0.19)

($0.18)

 

 

 

* Prior outlook was provided by the company on February 4, 2021 in its earnings release.

Please refer to the tables at the back of this earnings release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were $2.28 billion, as compared with $1.79 billion for the first quarter of 2020. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $2.01 billion. GAAP operating margin was 35%. GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.79, as compared with $0.65 for the first quarter of 2020. On a non-GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard’s operating margin was 43% and earnings per diluted share were $0.98, as compared with $0.76 for the first quarter of 2020.

For the quarter, operating cash flow was $844 million, as compared with $148 million for the first quarter of 2020. For the trailing twelve-month period, operating cash flow was $2.95 billion.

Please refer to the tables at the back of this press release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.

Operating Metrics

For the quarter ended March 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net bookingsB were $2.07 billion, as compared with $1.52 billion for the first quarter of 2020. In-game net bookingsC were $1.34 billion as compared with $0.96 billion for the first quarter of 2020.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2021, overall Activision Blizzard Monthly Active Users (MAUs)D were 435 million.

Selected Business Highlights

Activision Blizzard significantly exceeded its prior outlook for the first quarter, delivering very strong growth across our largest franchises. Our increased investment in our largest franchises is enabling us to connect and engage people in more ways than ever before. Despite ongoing challenges from working from home, our creative and commercial teams are executing strongly. Their work drove another quarter of fantastic results for Call of Duty®, World of Warcraft®, and Candy CrushTM, and we continue to make great progress on our pipeline, positioning us for ongoing strong results through the remainder of this year and into 2022 and beyond.

Activision

  • Activision segment revenue grew 72% year-over-year, driven by Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and WarzoneTM in-game revenues, strong premium sales, and Call of Duty Mobile. Segment operating income more than doubled year-over-year.
  • The introduction of Call of Duty free-to-play and mobile experiences has transformed the franchise, more than tripling franchise MAUsD over the last two years, and leading Activision to a new record of 150 million MAUsD in the first quarter.
  • Call of Duty franchise MAUsD increased sequentially and grew over 40% year-over-year in the first quarter.
  • Following its integration with Warzone, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War saw premium sales well above the levels typically seen in the first quarter.
  • Call of Duty in-game net bookingsC on console and PC grew more than 60% year-over-year. The first two seasons of Black Ops Cold War and Warzone content were both in the top-three seasons in Call of Duty history for in-game net bookingsC. The third season, launched in April, is sustaining this strong run-rate, tracking in-line with the first two seasons.
  • Call of Duty Mobile saw strong year-over-year growth in reach, engagement, and player investment in the first quarter, benefiting from ongoing enhancements in the West and the launch of the title in China. In the West, the March season concluded as the highest for player investment yet. Momentum has continued into the second quarter, with the April season now the top-grossing to date at this point after launch. In China, Call of Duty Mobile brought tens of millions of new players to the franchise, with player investment in the first quarter on par with the rest of the world combined.
  • The 2021 season of the professional Call of Duty LeagueTM is off to a great start, enjoying strong year-over-year growth in average minute audience through the first two stages of competition.

Blizzard

  • Blizzard segment revenue grew 7% year-over-year, led by strong growth in the Warcraft® franchise, with World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands expansion building on the substantial increase in scale seen since the launch of World of Warcraft Classic in 2019. Blizzard had 27 million MAUsD in the first quarter.
  • World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands expansion continued to drive strong results following its record-setting release in November, with first quarter franchise net bookingsB growing sharply year-over-year. World of Warcraft saw strong reach, engagement and participation in value added services, along with a particularly high number of new players joining the community for the first time, boosted by initiatives to enhance the onboarding experience.
  • Hearthstone®’s latest expansion, Forged in the BarrensTM, launched on March 30 and is on track to deliver expansion-over-expansion net bookingsB growth for the second consecutive release.
  • Ahead of its launch later this year, Diablo® II: Resurrected saw very positive feedback during early testing in April and online viewership of the alpha test was the highest ever for a Blizzard game test.
  • On mobile, Diablo® ImmortalTM entered its second phase of testing and is on track for global release later this year.
  • April saw Overwatch® fans around the world return to celebrate players and city-based teams in the opening weekend of the 2021 season of Overwatch LeagueTM. The league signed a multi-year partnership with Bilibili Esports for exclusive rights to broadcast league games to the platform’s passionate and growing Overwatch League fanbase in China.

King

  • King segment revenue reached a new record, growing 22% year-over-year, driven by strong growth for Candy Crush. King had 258 million MAUsD in the first quarter.
  • King’s initiatives to broaden the payer base, deliver more frequent seasonal events and introduce compelling new features into Candy Crush and other portfolio titles drove in-game net bookingsC growth in the high-teens percentage year-over-year.
  • Candy Crush grew in-game net bookingsC very strongly year-over-year and was once again the top grossing franchise in the U.S. app stores1.
  • In-game net bookingsC for Farm HeroesTM, King’s second-largest franchise, also grew sharply year-over-year.
  • King’s in-game net bookingsC have remained strong into the second quarter, continuing to grow well year-over-year.
  • Crash Bandicoot: On The Run!TM launched on March 25 and has seen over 30 million downloads to-date.
  • King delivered 70% year-over-year growth in advertising net bookingsB in the first quarter, with significant increases across both direct brand advertisers and partner networks.

Company Outlook

(in millions, except EPS)

GAAP
Outlook

Non-GAAP Outlook

Impact of GAAP deferralsA

CY 2021

 

Net Revenues

$8,370

$8,370

$230

EPS

$2.91

$3.42

$0.28

Fully Diluted Shares

787

787

 

 

 

 

 

Q2 2021

 

 

 

Net Revenues

$2,135

$2,135

($285)

EPS

$0.81

$0.91

($0.21)

Fully Diluted Shares

785

785

 

Net bookingsB are expected to be $8.60 billion for 2021 and $1.85 billion for the second quarter of 2021.

Capital Allocation

The Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.47 per common share, payable on May 6, 2021 to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 15, 2021, which represents a 15% increase from 2020.

Conference Call

Today at 4:30 p.m. EDT, Activision Blizzard’s management will host a conference call and webcast to discuss the company’s results for the quarter ended March 31, 2021 and management’s outlook for the remainder of 2021. The company welcomes all members of the financial and media communities and other interested parties to visit https://investor.activision.com to listen to the conference call via live Webcast or to listen to the call live by dialing into 866-777-2509 in the U.S. We encourage participants to pre-register for the conference call using the following link https://dpregister.com/sreg/10153825/e5b8c12052. A replay of the call will also be available after the call's conclusion and archived for one year at https://investor.activision.com/events.cfm.

About Activision Blizzard

Our mission, to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment has never been more important. Through communities rooted in our video game franchises we enable hundreds of millions of people to experience joy, thrill and achievement. We enable social connections through the lens of fun, and we foster purpose and a sense of accomplishment through healthy competition. Like sport, but with greater accessibility, our players can find purpose and meaning through competitive gaming. Video games, unlike any other social or entertainment media, have the ability to break down the barriers that can inhibit tolerance and understanding. Celebrating differences is at the core of our culture and ensures we can create games for players of diverse backgrounds in the 190 countries our games are played.

As a member of the Fortune 500 and as a component company of the S&P 500, we have an extraordinary track record of delivering superior shareholder returns for over 30 years.

Our enduring franchises are some of the world’s most popular, including Call of Duty®, Crash Bandicoot™, World of Warcraft®, Overwatch®, Hearthstone®, Diablo®, StarCraft®, Candy Crush™, Bubble Witch™, Pet Rescue™ and Farm Heroes™. Our sustained success has enabled the company to support corporate social responsibility initiatives that are directly tied to our franchises. As an example, our Call of Duty Endowment has helped find employment for over 80,000 veterans.

Learn more information about Activision Blizzard and how we connect and engage the world through epic entertainment on the company's website, www.activisionblizzard.com.

1 Based on App Annie Intelligence.

A Net effect of accounting treatment from revenue deferrals on certain of our online-enabled products. Since certain of our games are hosted online or include significant online functionality that represents a separate performance obligation, we defer the transaction price allocable to the online functionality from the sale of these games and then recognize the attributable revenues over the relevant estimated service periods, which are generally less than a year. The related cost of revenues is deferred and recognized as an expense as the related revenues are recognized. Impact from changes in deferrals refers to the net effect from revenue deferrals accounting treatment for the purposes of revenues, along with, for the purposes of EPS, the related cost of revenues deferrals treatment and the related tax impacts. Internally, management excludes the impact of this change in deferred revenues and related cost of revenues when evaluating the company’s operating performance, when planning, forecasting and analyzing future periods, and when assessing the performance of its management team. Management believes this is appropriate because doing so enables an analysis of performance based on the timing of actual transactions with our customers. In addition, management believes excluding the change in deferred revenues and the related cost of revenues provides a much more timely indication of trends in our operating results.

B Net bookings is an operating metric that is defined as the net amount of products and services sold digitally or sold-in physically in the period, and includes license fees, merchandise, and publisher incentives, among others, and is equal to net revenues excluding the impact from deferrals.

C In-game net bookings primarily includes the net amount of downloadable content and microtransactions sold during the period, and is equal to in-game net revenues excluding the impact from deferrals.

D Monthly Active User (“MAU”) Definition: We monitor MAUs as a key measure of the overall size of our user base. MAUs are the number of individuals who accessed a particular game in a given month. We calculate average MAUs in a period by adding the total number of MAUs in each of the months in a given period and dividing that total by the number of months in the period. An individual who accesses two of our games would be counted as two users. In addition, due to technical limitations, for Activision and King, an individual who accesses the same game on two platforms or devices in the relevant period would be counted as two users. For Blizzard, an individual who accesses the same game on two platforms or devices in the relevant period would generally be counted as a single user. In certain instances, we rely on third parties to publish our games. In these instances, MAU data is based on information provided to us by those third parties, or, if final data is not available, reasonable estimates of MAUs for these third-party published games.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures: As a supplement to our financial measures presented in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”), Activision Blizzard presents certain non-GAAP measures of financial performance. These non-GAAP financial measures are not intended to be considered in isolation from, as a substitute for, or as more important than, the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP. In addition, these non-GAAP measures have limitations in that they do not reflect all of the items associated with the company’s results of operations as determined in accordance with GAAP.

Activision Blizzard provides net income (loss), earnings (loss) per share, and operating margin data and guidance both including (in accordance with GAAP) and excluding (non-GAAP) certain items. When relevant, the company also provides constant FX information to provide a framework for assessing how our underlying businesses performed excluding the effect of foreign currency rate fluctuations. In addition, Activision Blizzard provides EBITDA (defined as GAAP net income (loss) before interest (income) expense, income taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and adjusted EBITDA (defined as non-GAAP operating margin (see non-GAAP financial measure below) before depreciation). The non-GAAP financial measures exclude the following items, as applicable in any given reporting period and our outlook:

  • expenses related to share-based compensation;
  • the amortization of intangibles from purchase price accounting;
  • fees and other expenses related to acquisitions, including related debt financings, and refinancing of long-term debt, including penalties and the write off of unamortized discount and deferred financing costs;
  • restructuring and related charges;
  • other non-cash charges from reclassification of certain cumulative translation adjustments into earnings as required by GAAP;
  • the income tax adjustments associated with any of the above items (tax impact on non-GAAP pre-tax income is calculated under the same accounting principles applied to the GAAP pre-tax income under ASC 740, which employs an annual effective tax rate method to the results); and
  • significant discrete tax-related items, including amounts related to changes in tax laws, amounts related to the potential or final resolution of tax positions, and other unusual or unique tax-related items and activities.

In the future, Activision Blizzard may also consider whether other items should also be excluded in calculating the non-GAAP financial measures used by the company. Management believes that the presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures provides investors with additional useful information to measure Activision Blizzard’s financial and operating performance. In particular, the measures facilitate comparison of operating performance between periods and help investors to better understand the operating results of Activision Blizzard by excluding certain items that may not be indicative of the company’s core business, operating results, or future outlook. Additionally, we consider quantitative and qualitative factors in assessing whether to adjust for the impact of items that may be significant or that could affect an understanding of our ongoing financial and business performance or trends. Internally, management uses these non-GAAP financial measures, along with others, in assessing the company’s operating results, and measuring compliance with the requirements of the company’s debt financing agreements, as well as in planning and forecasting.

Activision Blizzard’s non-GAAP financial measures are not based on a comprehensive set of accounting rules or principles, and the terms non-GAAP net income, non-GAAP earnings per share, non-GAAP operating margin, and non-GAAP or adjusted EBITDA do not have a standardized meaning. Therefore, other companies may use the same or similarly named measures, but exclude different items, which may not provide investors a comparable view of Activision Blizzard’s performance in relation to other companies.

Management compensates for the limitations resulting from the exclusion of these items by considering the impact of the items separately and by considering Activision Blizzard’s GAAP, as well as non-GAAP, results and outlook, and by presenting the most comparable GAAP measures directly ahead of non-GAAP measures, and by providing a reconciliation that indicates and describes the adjustments made.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: The statements contained herein that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements about: (1) projections of revenues, expenses, income or loss, earnings or loss per share, cash flow, or other financial items; (2) statements of our plans and objectives, including those related to releases of products or services and restructuring activities; (3) statements of future financial or operating performance, including the impact of tax items thereon; and (4) statements of assumptions underlying such statements. Activision Blizzard, Inc. generally uses words such as “outlook,” “forecast,” “will,” “could,” “should,” “would,” “to be,” “plan,” “aims,” “believes,” “may,” “might,” “expects,” “intends,” “seeks,” “anticipates,” “estimate,” “future,” “positioned,” “potential,” “project,” “remain,” “scheduled,” “set to,” “subject to,” “upcoming,” and other similar words and expressions to help identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to business and economic risks, reflect management’s current expectations, estimates, and projections about our business, and are inherently uncertain and difficult to predict.

We caution that a number of important factors, many of which are beyond our control, could cause our actual future results and other future circumstances to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: the ongoing global impact of a novel strain of coronavirus which emerged in December 2019 (“COVID-19”) (including, without limitation, the potential for significant short- and long-term global unemployment and economic weakness and a resulting impact on global discretionary spending; potential strain on the retailers and distributors who sell our physical product to customers; effects on our ability to release our content in a timely manner; the impact of large-scale intervention by the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world, including the impact on interest rates; and volatility in foreign exchange rates); our ability to consistently deliver popular, high-quality titles in a timely manner, which has been made more difficult as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; concentration of revenue among a small number of franchises; our ability to satisfy the expectations of consumers with respect to our brands, games, services, and/or business practices; our ability to attract, retain and motivate skilled personnel; rapid changes in technology and industry standards; competition, including from other forms of entertainment; increasing importance of revenues derived from digital distribution channels; risks associated with the retail sales business model; the continued growth in the scope and complexity of our business, including the diversion of management time and attention to issues relating to the operations of our newly acquired or started businesses and the potential impact of our expansion into new businesses on our existing businesses; substantial influence of third-party platform providers over our products and costs; risks associated with transitions to next-generation consoles; success and availability of video game consoles manufactured by third parties; risks associated with the free-to-play business model, including dependence on a relatively small number of consumers for a significant portion of revenues and profits from any given game; our ability to realize the expected financial and operational benefits of, and effectively implement and manage, our previously-announced restructuring actions; our ability to quickly adjust our cost structure in response to sudden changes in demand; risks and costs associated with legal proceedings; intellectual property claims; changes in tax rates or exposure to additional tax liabilities, as well as the outcome of current or future tax disputes; our ability to sell products at assumed pricing levels; reliance on external developers for development of some of our software products; the amount of our debt and the limitations imposed by the covenants in the agreements governing our debt; the seasonality in the sale of our products; counterparty risks relating to customers, licensees, licensors, and manufacturers, which have been magnified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; risks associated with our use of open source software; piracy and unauthorized copying of our products; insolvency or business failure of any of our partners, which has been magnified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; risks and uncertainties of conducting business outside the United States; increasing regulation of our business, products, and distribution in key territories; compliance with continually evolving laws and regulations concerning data privacy; reliance on servers and networks to operate our games and our proprietary online gaming service; potential data breaches and other cybersecurity risks; and the other factors identified in “Risk Factors” included in Part I, Item 1A of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020.

The forward-looking statements contained herein are based on information available to Activision Blizzard, Inc. as of the date of this filing and we assume no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Although these forward-looking statements are believed to be true when made, they may ultimately prove to be incorrect.


Contacts

Activision Blizzard, Inc.
Investors and Analysts:
ir@activisionblizzard.com
or
Press:
pr@activisionblizzard.com


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