Vivendi rolling in World of Warcraft gold

MMORPG big factor in multimedia multinational's 4.8 percent quarterly revenue increase; 50 Cent, Ice Age 2 help raise game division's income 29.6 percent.

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By now, the fact that World of Warcraft is fantastically profitable isn't really news anymore. Since its release more than a year and a half ago, GameSpot's 2004 Game of the Year has been a permanent fixture on the best-seller charts. During the week of July 9-15, 2006, the game was once again the top PC game in the US, according to unit-volume sales rankings from industry-research group NPD Funworld. It is also nearing 7 million subscribers worldwide, each of whom pays its developer-publisher, Blizzard Entertainment, a monthly fee.

But while news of WOW's success has become routine, it is news when Vivendi Games credits the massively multiplayer online role-playing game for increasing its bottom line. Today, the France-based multimedia multinational gave its game division credit for helping boost its revenues 4.8 percent during the quarter that ended on June 30, 2006. The three-month period saw Vivendi rake in 4.84 billion euros ($6.16 billion), up from 4.62 billion euros ($5.87 billion) the year before. For the first half of the year, Vivendi's revenue stood at 9.61 billion euros ($12.2 billion), up from 9.13 billion ($11.61 billion) during Q2 2005.

Virtually every sector of Vivendi's extensive television and telecommunications holdings saw increased profit. However, no sector saw bigger growth than Vivendi Games, which is the owner of Blizzard and the recipient of the buckets of ducats that WOW generates. The division took in 162 million euros ($206 million) for the April-June quarter, an increase of 29.6 percent over its Q2 2005 income. The first half of 2006 saw Vivendi Games' gross haul add up to 296 million euros ($376.4 million), an increase of 24.4 percent over the previous year.

"This increase was primarily driven by the continued worldwide success of Blizzard's World of Warcraft," said Vivendi in its earnings report. "Other solid performers in the first half of 2006 included the release of Ice Age 2, the game based on [the] Fox movie, and continuing strong sales from backlist products including 50 Cent: Bulletproof and Crash Tag Team Racing."

With WOW sales showing no sign of slowing down, Vivendi is poised for an even more profitable second half of 2006. In the fall, Blizzard is set to release the first expansion pack for the game, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

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