Activision reports record revenues

Rising publisher reports $947.7 million in income, PSP/DS support, THUG2.

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When Activision raised its fiscal 2004 earnings outlook in late March, some may have thought its leaders were merely being bullish. Today, though, the publisher revealed that it had exceeded the new targets with the highest net revenues in its history.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004, net revenues were $947.7 million, a jump of 10 percent compared to the year before. Net income for year was $77.7 million, compared to $66.2 million the company reported the previous year.

For the quarter ending March 31, the company posted net income of $6.7 million, compared with a loss of $8 million a year earlier. Total revenue grew 30 percent to $162.9 million, up from $125 million the year earlier.

In today's fiscal year-end conference call, Chairman and CEO Bobby Kotick and President Ron Doornink discussed the drivers of the firm's strong results and shared a rosy outlook for next year, including hints about key release dates: financial projections call for Doom 3 PC and Xbox versions to go to market in Q2 and Q3 respectively.

At the start of the call Kotick pointed out that over the last five years, the company's earnings increased at a very healthy 39 percent. Doornink said that one of the keys to this success was the company's increased focus on what he described as "big propositions." On other words, Activision was placing bigger bets on fewer games, spending more marketing expenditures on a smaller group of SKUs.

Activision plans to continue this strategy in the future, and sees True Crime and Call of Duty as central. In Kotick's words, the two new franchises are easily sequelized, expandable, and have broad demographic appeal--and should "provide predictable revenue streams for years to come."

The firm's projections for the upcoming year show it will be an interesting one. Forecasts call for Doom 3 to be released on the PC in Q2 2004, followed by the Xbox version in Q3. The officers stressed, however, that these dates were used for financial planning, and that, as has been previously and repeatedly stated, developer id Software has the final call on the game's release date.

Executives also revealed development is underway on Tony Hawk's Underground 2, the next installment in the wildly popular skating series. Other key releases for fiscal 2005 include Shrek 2 (on sale this month), True Crime: Streets of L.A. for PC (planned to ship next week), Spiderman 2, Tony Hawk Underground 2, X-Men Legends, Call of Duty: Finest Hour, and Shark Tale, based on the upcoming animated film by DreamWorks SKG. The company also has high expectations for its Lemony Snicket game, a youth title based on a popular series of children's books that has sold over 15 million titles world wide.

Activision also joined the gathering grow of PSP and DS supporters. Officials said the company plans to release one game for each fiscal year 2005, but predicted neither would have a large impact on earnings.

Today's call briefly touched on Activision's partnership with Nielsen Entertainment to create ratings tools for in-game advertising. The officers see these tools as the key to attracting a larger share of the dollars that currently go to TV ads, but note that they are still in development, and they do not expect any revenue effects in fiscal year 2005.

This year's record net revenues and earnings marks the company's 12th straight year of growth, and Kotick pointed out the company's earnings had a healthy 39 percent compounded annual growth rate over those past five years. The company's projections call for continued strong growth in the upcoming year, with revenues breaking the $1 billion mark for the first time, and at least four multi-million selling titles.

They call ended with the words "See you at E3." With the healthy release slate they discussed today, many people will take them up on that offer.

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