Ubisoft Q2 sales climb 37 percent, guidance raised

Brothers in Arms, Soulcalibur IV, casual games push French publisher past quarterly targets to $224 million for July-September period; Anno, unannounced title delayed.

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With terms like "global economic meltdown" being bandied about Wall Street, it's no surprise that this earnings season has seen more than its fair share of bloodletting across a breadth of industries. However, lending more credence to analysts' notions that the gaming industry is highly recession-resilient, French publisher Ubisoft said today that it beat its second quarter targets, reporting sales up 37 percent year-over-year to €175 million ($224 million).

Having beat projections during its first fiscal quarter as well, Ubisoft's sales thus far for the fiscal year are up 31.5 percent to €344 million ($441 million). For the quarter ending September 30, earnings were bolstered by the long-awaited release of Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway, which received a warm critical reception just seven days before the reporting period's end. Ubisoft's other top performers during the quarter included Soulcalibur IV (which it published in Europe), and a host of games from its casual line, such as Imagine Teacher, My Secret World by Imagine, and PlayZone Sports Party.

"Ubisoft delivered a robust performance in the second fiscal quarter against an uncertain environment," commented Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in a statement. "We are carefully and regularly monitoring changes in the economic context in order to factor them into our market forecasts and financial targets. Going forward, we are confident that the video game industry will be able to continue its dynamic growth in 2008 and 2009, buoyed by the increase in the installed base for consoles coupled with the steady influx of new consumers."

For the publisher's part, it is viewing the upcoming holiday season as "the most important and diversified quarter in Ubisoft's history." For the traditional gaming sect, Ubisoft's third-quarter releases include Far Cry 2, which debuted this week to critical approbation, with real-time strategy game Tom Clancy's EndWar set to follow on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 November 4. On December 2, Ubisoft will anoint the latest Prince of Persia, while Shaun White Snowboarding is expected to taxi to the top of the mountain in November.

Much of Ubisoft's business is wrapped up in the casual gaming market, and the publisher has a number of titles positioned at the expanded sector as well. In November, the publisher will release the Wii Balance Board-enabled Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party for the Wii and DS. The two platforms will also see new installments in the Petz, Imagine, MyCoach, ENER-G, Jake Power, Planet Rescue, and PlayZone casual gaming franchises.

Today's earnings announcement wasn't without delays. In part due to what it called "good first-half trends," Ubisoft said it has bumped Related Designs' city-building strategy game Anno 1404 as well as an unannounced title from this fiscal year to the next. Those two games are now expected to arrive anywhere from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Ubisoft expects to continue its double-digit revenue growth into next year. While the publisher has made a habit of projecting well under its actual results, Ubisoft said today that it expects third-quarter earnings to amount to €500 million ($641 million), which would amount to an 11 percent year-over-year increase. The publisher also boosted its full-year outlook, projecting annual sales will now hit €1,050 million ($1.35 billion), up from previous estimates of €1,020 million ($1.31 billion).

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