Q4 2011 Results

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, February 9, 2012

Highlights from the call and Fourth Quarter 2011 financial results include:

  • No release date announcement. Big shocker.
  • Diablo 3 has been delayed to Q2: "The company's first quarter 2012 outlook does not incorporate a new release from Blizzard Entertainment."

    Well, I guess we finally have our answer. "Early 2012" actually means "Mid 2012".
  • WOW has 10.2 Million Subscribers as of 12/31/11. (During their last conference call, they announced 10.3 million.)
  • Calendar year 2012 outlook anticipates two releases from Blizzard Entertainment. Looks like SC2 HOTS has been delayed to 2013.
  • There are approximately 50M monthly active users across Battle.net, CoD multiplayer, CoD Elite, and Skylanders WebWorld.
By the way, with all of the new people joining this call (potentially thousands of anxious fans, especially because direct links were advertised on Reddit and various Diablo forums), this is why it's so important for Blizzard to state ahead of time that the release date announcement WILL NOT be revealed at their upcoming conference call. When they don't do that, they're just trolling their customers.

Blizzard "Community Managers" (which is a form of PR) and Support staff frequently state that there are upcoming surprises, surprises planned, and surprise announcements. Because of this, people will grow even more suspicious when they say "Oh yeah.. this upcoming event is no big deal. You should really just go to your favorite site for the highlights of the call." It's like anticipating a surprise birthday party while your friends and family try to act nonchalant.

The reason they should notify their customers ahead of time is because, one of these days, an angry fan is going to raise a question during the open Q&A period for all of Activision Blizzard's employees and investors to hear: "Hey, Mike.. why is Bashiok such a troll?" Except, it will probably be worse.

"Early 2012"

Just to be clear, "Early 2012" means Q1. Blizzard even confirmed that this was their "internal definition." Bashiok never recanted his statement, he re-confirmed it.

There's a big difference between making a typo/mistake and the mistake of accidentally revealing something.

If someone were to accidentally leak Titan MMO game details, and they were to tweet "That was a mistake," it doesn't make it any less true that the game details were real.
Bashiok: Sorry I wasn't intending to imply anything by writing first quarter, just an honest mistake. Our official target is still "early 2012". Not sure if it makes too much difference one way or the other, but I don't want people to nitpick a mistake. :)
As Bashiok said, it doesn't make any difference one way or the other.. whether he writes it as Q1 or "Early 2012", it means the same thing.
Just a mistake on my part. Q1 is definitely more literal, so I suppose I should correct it.
Here, Bashiok confirms that Q1 is definitely more literal or accurate than saying "Early 2012".

If it was a typo or a mistake, then it would have meant that "Early 2012" means Q1-Q2 or "included Q2."

And moments ago, Bashiok just RE-re-confirmed that "Early 2012" always meant Q1, but now they just changed it this week to Q2 instead.
We've only ever said "early 2012". And we just decided we'd need until Q2 this week. Seems like the conference call was as good a place as any to announce that.
It's been delayed again; from Q1 to Q2.

When Will It Be Announced?

So, apparently, Blizzard was indeed intending on announcing the release date this week just as predicted. It was probably no coincidence that all of those Battle.net changes (5+ hour outages) were taking place and you didn't see the results. They truly were preparing for the release date announcement this week.

It's also no coincidence that the Battle.net Balance and PayPal features were implemented on Monday, which I had said would logically be accompanying the Release Date announcement.

To recap, for a couple months I have been predicting a 80% chance of a release date announcement right before the Q4 call. This was based on Blizzard's "promise" that their game would be coming out in Q1. However, I had also said that if an announcement was not made on the Monday, that the chances diminish substantially, and it means that the game will be delayed to Q2 (if still not announced before the call.) This week was really their only last option.

Maybe the new delay was related to the various Battle.net Balance problems they were having?

I'm currently waiting for the call recording to go live so that I can listen to it again. Mike Morhaime possibly mentioned that the release date schedule for the Diablo 3 release would be announced in the coming weeks.

The thing is, they can't make the announcement within the next 2-3 weeks. I mean they COULD, but if they did, it would imply that they actually KNOW the release date right now. Meaning that Q2 was planned before this week and they could have still made the announcement this week.

Plus, for such a major finance related item, it doesn't make any sense to announce it immediately after a major investor call rather than before. This means that the release date announcement has to be made late February or in March. Given a minimum of 2 months lead time for all of their past titles, this means that the game will be coming out in May at the earliest.

But, as I said, if they do announce within the next 2-3 weeks, then it means they actually know the real release date TODAY. And that would be very bad, considering that they could have announced it this week and it would have benefited them more greatly, especially from an investor perspective, while also avoiding many negative incidents (such as the forum outrage and angry frustration over the past 3 blog articles.) And, if THAT happens, it means that the decision "this week" was more personally motivated rather than business. :)