Activision revs top estimates; loss haunts bottom line

Confirms four titles at 360's launch, movie tie-ins with Over the Hedge, X-Men 3; Gun PSP delayed.


Activision reported earnings for its second fiscal quarter today, and while revenues topped the same quarter's numbers a year ago, the bottom line still registered a loss.

For the quarter ending September 30, 2005, revenues for the publisher were $222.5 million, $22.5 million over the company's prior outlook of $200 million. Compared to last year's second quarter, that figure is $68 million under the $310.6 million reported a year ago.

Net loss for the second fiscal quarter was $13.2 million, compared with a profit of $25.5 million for the same quarter a year ago.

For the six-month period ending September 30, 2005, net revenues were $463.6 million, compared to $521.9 million reported for the same six-month period last year. Net loss for the six-month period ending September 30 was $16.8 million, compared with the net income of $37.5 million for the same period last year.

While the numbers were far from impressive, analysts had expected worse. Those polled by Thomson First Call were expecting sales of $203 million.

The big sellers for Activision during the quarter were Ultimate Spider-Man across all major platforms, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, and World Series of Poker.

Activision pulled back the curtains on two upcoming movie tie-ins due in 2006. A game based on X-Men 3 will likely launch around the same time as the film's release in late May. Activision has released several successful games based on Marvel Comics' properties, including the two that drove last quarter's revenues. Dreamworks' upcoming animated film Over the Hedge, featuring the voice of Bruce Willis as a con-artist raccoon, will also get a game adaptation. Activision hopes to follow in the paw prints of another Dreamworks film-to-game adaptation about talking animals, the multiplatform Madagascar.

Though those two announcements bode well for the publisher, one piece of information does not. Activision finally officially confirmed the PSP version of Gun, a free-roaming Western-themed action game. However, the game will be holstered longer than expected and won't make its original release period of the January-March quarter next year. Instead, the game is due sometime after March 31, 2006. "We had a stretch objective to bring it into the year based on the enthusiasm of the Gun franchise," the execs said on the call. "We made the call to [delay] just to make sure we have a game that we feel very good about. So we will put it into [fiscal] Q1."

While company execs were upbeat in the statement that preceded the teleconference call today--boasting of a strong third-quarter lineup of games, as well as the four-game lineup of Xbox 360 launch titles (Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Gun, Quake 4, and Call of Duty 2)--with analysts, they were more sanguine.

Activision Inc. CEO Bobby Kottick referred to potential pitfalls that Activision faces in the near term. "Early indications show some market weakness," he said. "Possibly the result of the hurricanes, [rising] fuel prices or the consumer waiting for the launch of the Xbox 360."

He said that the trend was for retailers to place lower initial orders followed by faster replenishment "as products demonstrate sell through strength."

The company held fast to third-quarter guidance it issued previously: The publisher still expects $790 million in sales for the current quarter; and for the fourth quarter, it is forecasting sales of $226 million.

In addition, Activision increased its guidance for full-year revenues from $1.47 billion to $1.48 billion.

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