New 'Call of Duty' Confirmed, But Activision Expects Sales To Fall

Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg cites "increased volatility this year due to the ongoing console transition"

 @YannickLeJacq
on February 08 2013 3:01 PM

After posting its best year ever this week, video game publisher Activision (NASDAQ: ATVI) is trying to temper expectations for its continued growth.

Speaking in an a conference call with investors late Thursday evening, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg said that the company expects the next “Call of Duty” game to sell less than 2012’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” Following Activision’s routine production cycle, the current “Call of Duty” game slated for a 2013 release is in development at Sledgehammer Games, who have overseen the “Modern Warfare” branch of the massive game franchise.

"The 'Call of Duty' franchise continues to set the bar for innovation, and we expect the new 'Call of Duty' game in development for 2013 to raise that bar even higher," Hirshberg told investors during Thursday’s earnings call.

Despite its strong fourth-quarter results, Activision said that “Black Ops 2” has been underperforming compared to its 2011 predecessor, “Modern Warfare 3.” While the company seemed immune to overall market trends such as sluggish demand for new consoles and what many analysts see as a dissatisfaction with the current crop of games available, Hirshberg added that the company anticipates greater challenges in the coming year.

"There is increased volatility this year due to the ongoing console transition, which makes predicting the future more challenging than during normal years in the cycle,” Hirshberg said. “For ‘Call of Duty,’ consistent with our past practices, we are planning for the mainline release in Q4 to be down versus 2012.”

It is unclear if the upcoming “Call of Duty” will be made available for whatever next-generation consoles that Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have in store. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick did say, however, that he was disappointed with Nintendo’s (PINK:NTDOY) Wii U console so far.

"We were somewhat disappointed with the launch of the Wii U,” Kotick said. “I think it's a challenging environment this year, and one of the things we are concerned about is what the install base of hardware will be like for six- to eleven-year-olds.”

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