Activision’s ‘Call of Duty’ Sets It Apart as EA and Take-Two Stumble

After a pandemic-fueled boom, most major gaming companies disappointed investors in 2022 due to a thin release schedule and an economic slowdown that kept a lid on sales of all but the most popular titles.

| Updated on: Feb 08 2023, 14:05 IST
5 BEST video games of 2022; God of War Ragnarok, Elden Ring, Stray and more
God of War Ragnarok
1/5 God of War Ragnarok - The highly anticipated sequel to 2018’s game, God of War Ragnarok continues the Norse saga as you follow Kratos and Atreus to the Nine Realms in search for answers while Asgardian forces hunt them down. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4. (PlayStation)
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2/5 Stray - Popularly known as the ‘cat game’, Stray is a third-person cat adventure game set in the detailed but decaying cybercity where you play as a cat trying to unravel a mystery as you try to escape the city. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows. (PlayStation)
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3/5 Elden Ring - Elden Ring is the latest action-RPG by FromSoftware. Make your way across the lands ruled by Queen Marika as you fight through the world of monsters in a bid to collect all the Great Runes and become Elden Lord. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows.  (PlayStation)
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4/5 Horizon Forbidden West - Aloy is back to solve the mystery that has plagued the world. In Horizon Forbidden West, the land is dying so Aloy heads to the forbidden land of the west. Explore distant lands, fight bigger and more awe-inspiring machines, and encounter astonishing new tribes as you make your way across the post-apocalyptic world. Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5. (PlayStation)
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5/5 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II – The new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is being considered one of the best launches in the history of Activision Blizzard and Infinity Ward’s FPS saga. It only borrows the name from the 2009 game, and features an all-new storyline with familiar faces of the Task Force 141 returning. Available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows. (Activision Blizzard)
Modern Warfare II
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Activision's latest installment of the blockbuster series, Modern Warfare II, was the best-selling game of 2022. (AP)

After a pandemic-fueled boom, most major gaming companies disappointed investors in 2022 due to a thin release schedule and an economic slowdown that kept a lid on sales of all but the most popular titles.

Ubisoft Entertainment SA, Nintendo Co., Electronic Arts Inc., Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., and GameStop Corp. all posted results for the last quarter that missed Wall Street's expectations or shared disappointing outlooks for the beginning of this year. Last year, there was a dearth of blockbuster game releases and several anticipated titles slipped into 2023. Many of the big games that did publish, like Ubisoft's Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope or Take-Two's Marvel's Midnight Suns, didn't see the kind of demand publishers had hoped.

Activision Blizzard Inc. stood out in a sea of grim results for one clear reason: Call of Duty. The latest installment of the blockbuster series, Modern Warfare II, topped $1 billion in sales in 10 days in October and was the best-selling game of 2022, according to industry researcher NPD Group. Those results helped boost bookings 43% in the last three months of the year, the biggest jump in nine quarters.

“Consumer wallets have clearly tightened for everything but the blockbusters,” analysts at KeyBanc Capital Markets wrote in a note following the results.

Take-Two Chief Executive Officer Strauss Zelnick conceded as much in his own comments on the company's results, which saw the publisher of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption cut its outlook for bookings in fiscal 2023 and give a disappointing forecast for the current quarter.

“We believe that consumers shifted their holiday spending toward established blockbuster franchises and titles that were offered with pricing promotions in light of macroeconomic conditions,” Zelnick said. While Grand Theft Auto is one of the most lucrative game franchises of all time, Take Two's next installment in the series doesn't have an official release date.

Still, while a lot of the market depends on a much-hyped new release, the industry is also learning how to milk existing hits for years.

Many top gaming titles are no longer a one-time $60 purchase. They are designed as endlessly replayable social experiences constantly refreshed with new content. So-called service games like Grand Theft Auto V, launched in 2013 from Take Two subsidiary Rockstar Games, is still seeing sustained sales. Last quarter it surpassed more than 175 million units. In these games, players continually purchase digital items or content expansions for months or years post-release. According to EA Chief Financial Officer Chris Suh, revenue from live-service games such as Apex Legends accounted for 75% of the company's business over the past 12 months.

In 2022, the top 3 games by monthly active users were released in 2017, 2011 and 2013, according to gaming analytics firm NewZoo.

Many analysts expect the industry to turn a corner this year. A packed calendar of buzzy releases from Activision Blizzard, Nintendo and Square Enix Holdings Co. could drive a rebound. On Friday, Hogwarts Legacy, inspired by the Harry Potter series, will be released from Warner Bros. Games. In mid-January, pre-order data on the game indicated sales could break records.

Shares in Activision and Take Two were up more than 5% on Tuesday, while EA gained about 1%.

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First Published Date: 08 Feb, 14:05 IST
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