For a "meaningful" portion of a current estimated 27 million Call of Duty players, Activision believes it could see average per-user revenue of $200 for future games, including initial sales and map packs. That's why the company is so focused on further monetizing that brand rather than diversifying its portfolio, says one analyst.
Stern Agee's Arvind Bhatia says some of the company's investors are uncertain about the company's laser-like focus on annualizing and monetizing a few key franchises; brand fatigue is a concern, for example.
But Bhatia says the strategy will pay off over the long term: "If we assume 20 percent of the current online players (around 5.5 million) double their spending on Call of Duty over time, that would be an incremental $500 million in revenue at fairly high margins," he estimates.
That's not including Activision's other growth areas -- Blizzard's new Titan MMO, the launch of Diablo III and its online revenues, and the launch of Call of Duty in China, which Bhatia expects won't occur before 2012 or 2013. Finally, there's the company's 10-year deal with Bungie and the new franchise it will yield, plus the new multimedia Spyro-centric toy brand Activision recently revealed.
Amid investor concerns over console hardware and software weakness at traditional retail, Activision points to very healthy underlying online trends in the game industry that can't be charted through the NPD measures investors have typically used to gauge gaming's strength.
But there's still more on the horizon for console retail, Bhatia believes, despite the fact he doesn't expect a new Sony or Microsoft console for at least two to three years. Nintendo's Wii will need to catch up to the more advanced hardware eventually, says the analyst.
"We would not be surprised if Nintendo unveiled the specifications of its next console at E3 in June this year, followed by product introduction early next year," he estimates.