NEW YORK (Reuters) - Finally, there’s a bit of good news this year for the video game business.
New titles from proven franchises, like Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty and Electronic Arts Inc’s FIFA, are stoking hopes that the industry could emerge from its two-year slump after the holiday season.
After Microsoft’s Halo made $200 million on its launch day in September, EA’s FIFA 11 this month became the fastest-selling sports game ever.
This week, Activision said “World of Warcraft,” its online role-playing game, has 12 million subscribers, the most subscribers ever to the game. Last year, it made $1 billion in revenue.
“When you look at how the industry looks today, we are seeing the top products doing really well,” said Paul Sams, chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment, the unit of Activision that publishes “World of Warcraft.”
Industry sales numbers, published by research group NPD, are due out next week and should provide a clearer picture.
Arvind Bhatia, a Sterne Agee analyst, expects September numbers to be better than August‘s, when video game equipment and software sales were down 10 percent.
“It’s a tough economy, but the overall picture for video games is starting to look a little bit better,” Bhatia said.
The $60.4 billion global video game industry, which dwarfs Hollywood’s annual box office take, is on shaky ground.
US video game sales are down 8 percent this year on top of an 8 percent drop in 2009, according to NPD.
EA shares were last trading at $16.68, down 7.3 percent this year, while Activision shares were at $11.01, down about 2 percent this year.
But with U.S. same-store sales rising more than expected in September, executives and analysts are more upbeat now than a year ago.
Activision’s console release, “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” is expected to sell considerably more than ThinkEquity analyst Atul Bagga originally expected, generating an additional $90 million in revenue and adding 2 cents per share in profit.
Blizzard’s COO Sams called Black-Ops “absolutely one of the biggest titles of the year, if not the biggest,” for its sister company Activision.
Cataclysm, the first World of Warcraft expansion pack released in two years, will also come out Dec 7 in time for holiday shopping.
“We’re very hopeful of what will occur in the holiday season for us,” Sams added.
Reporting by Liana B. Baker. Editing by Robert MacMillan