Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI), the large video game maker, swung to a profit in the fourth quarter as it retained more World of Warcraft subscribers and booked massive retail sales for its Call of Duty title.
The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company reported adjusted earnings per share of 62 cents, up from 53 cents per share in the previous year, beating the Bloomberg analyst consensus of 56 cents per share. Net income was up to $99 million from a loss of $233 million a year earlier.
Activision's Blizzard Entertainment division lost 100,000 World of Warcraft subscribers in the fourth quarter, down to a total of 10.1 million subscribers. The decline was less than a 700,000 loss in the third quarter of 2011. Blizzard expects two releases in 2012, including Diablo III, a sequel in its popular action role playing game series.
Activision's first person shooter game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, had record retail sales of $775 million five days after its November release. Its subscription service, Call of Duty: Elite, which offers additional paid contact, has 7 million subscribers, including 1.5 million paying for a premium subscription. Digital revenue -- including downloadable content -- made up over 34 percent of total revenue.
As we continue to strengthen our leadership position in interactive entertainment, our proven management team and talented employees delivered another extraordinary year of outperformance, CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement. Activision Blizzard continues to set the industry success bar.
The company has also found success in its Skylanders series, which targets younger consumers with collectable action figures. It recently announced a sequel, Skylanders Giants, to be released in the fall.
Activision Blizzard said it would buy back up to $1 billion in stock in April, and increase its divident by 9 percent to 18 cents per share.
Shares of Activision Blizzard were up 11 cents to $12.66 after Thursday's market close.