Burning Crusade sizzles Vivendi Games' earnings

Quarterly revenue for French media conglomerate's games division more than doubles to $392.5 million, thanks to WOW expansion.

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When Vivendi bought Blizzard Entertainment in 1998, its directors probably thought they had acquired the innovative developer of such real-time strategy titles as Starcraft and Warcraft. However, since the Irvine, California-based developer released World of Warcraft in 2004, Vivendi has found itself the proud owner of a veritable money-printing machine. WOW has been a runaway success, with nearly 9 million subscribers paying 10s of millions of dollars each month in collective monthly subscription fees.

The first World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released this past January to solid reviews and even more solid sales. The add-on sold more than 3.5 million copies in North America, Europe, and Australasia in its first month after its January 17 release. As of March 31, according to the NPD Group, it had sold 1.7 million boxed retail copies in the US, where it is also available for digital download.

Needless to say, the Burning Crusade's success has boosted Vivendi's bottom line. This week, Vivendi Games reported revenue of 291 million euros (roughly $392.5 million) during the January-March quarter--more than 117 percent higher than during the same three months in 2006. The division's quarterly EBITA--earnings before the deduction of interest, tax, and amortization expenses--was 107 million euros ($144.4 million), 84 million euros ($113.4 million) more than the previous year.

Overall, the quarterly earnings for Paris-based Vivendi, which owns the Universal Music Group and French television network Canal Plus, totaled some 5 billion euros. Pre-EBITA earnings were 1.3 billion euros ($1.75 billion), up 21.7 percent over the first quarter of 2006. Quarterly net income was 771 million euros, a 22.8 percent year-over-year increase.

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