Activision ($ATVI) is releasing their quarterly earnings on August 4th (8/4). They’re up about 30% from their pre-Covid highs, and are currently valued around 10x annual revenue. They crushed their last earnings revenue by 15.30% and EPS by 53.28% which helped them on their run-up to their current levels.
I am now going to convince you why they will smash their earnings again despite their already-inflated revenue projections that price in a coronavirus boost and why you should bet big on them and not miss out on a potential huge play.
Me and one of my friends from school (who is very intelligent) used to roast the shit out of people who buy cosmetic items in-game, like in Call of Duty, and talk about how dumb it is to pay for in-game clout. But during the pandemic, like many people, he’s been so fucking bored that he’s been playing Call of Duty all day unlocking a bunch of gun camos. The other day, he (embarrassingly) admitted to me that in his pursuit of gun camo unlocking he (shamefully) bought a $10 “battle pass” that would help him unlock more cosmetics. Why not, he is getting paid unemployment + stimulus to sit home on his ass and play Call of Duty, so might as well put a little of that into the game because there’s nothing else to buy right now. (Last time I had a moment like this? In early April when one of my much dumber friends asked me with help setting up a Shopify store. I was dumbfounded that he would even be trying to set one up. Since then Shopify is up more than 120%)
Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty Modern Warfare are very popular, and just like all those nerds that played Fortnite and forked over tons for skins, there are a plethora of microtransactions that come with it and man do the people that play Warzone specifically everyday take it seriously.
This got me thinking. How many people who never bought microtransactions before have now spent money on them, especially when somebody as resilient to them as my friend have now purchased them? What kind of assumptions can we make about how much bigger the microtransaction market got during the pandemic?
The answer I believe is that because people are playing these games so frequently when they had never done so before, they start to assign more value to their in-game character and want to appear to have more “clout” and seem good at the game. It is this value that somebody assigns to their in-game experience that when high enough drives the user to purchase content for their character and spend real dollars. That coupled with the fact that they get free money from the government while doing nothing makes the target market for these games especially excited to start spending.
But it isn’t just that the existing users are spending more – the microtransaction market size is expanding, so much so that my friend who once considered himself way out of the microtransactions market and laughed about ever spending money on shit for a video game decided to spend money on it for the first time. This isn’t just a one-off thing I’m noticing with a stupid friend, because he is in fact not stupid, rather it’s a psychological effect caused by having way too much time to play video games and stimulus money that Activision’s target market doesn’t want to spend elsewhere.
According to surveys, in Call of Duty 60% of people purchase downloadable content. In Overwatch, it’s 62%. In Hearthstone, it’s 71%. In StarCraft, it’s 42%. Source: venturebeat.com/2019/11/19/arm-treasure-data-the-most-popular-games-arent-necessarily-using-lots-of-microtransactions/ What if in all these games, which are owned by Activision, that percent has risen substantially because so many people have been playing them so often during the pandemic and as a result of the effect I previously described that my friend was victim to? This survey was conducted using people that consider themselves to play video games regularly, meaning people that play pretty much daily. So we have to keep in mind that the population of people that play daily is ALSO increasing because of the pandemic, while the raw % of people that will spend on microtransactions is also increasing.
Well what’s the big deal, it’s just a few in-game purchases right?
In 2019 Activision pulled in $6.49 billion in revenue. Of this $6.49 billion in revenue, a whopping 50.85% or $3.3 billion came from in-game microtransactions. $3.3 billion in a year for some pixels what the fuck right? And the kicker? There’s nearly a 100% profit margin on these microtransactions, which is why last earnings (which ended March 31 and contained what is a decent increase in microtransactions because people hadn’t been sitting on their ass for too long yet) Activision reported a 28.24% net margin, up 15.31% YoY.
Last quarter they came in at $1.52 billion in revenue versus the $1.32 billion expected revenue. This earnings report, the consensus revenue estimate is $1.68 billion (representing a whopping 39% YoY growth) which is set nice and high – but I’m going to tell you why this is still going to be beat.
For Q2 of last year, Activision reported $1.21 billion in revenue. Ok, now we’re going to do some conservative math, estimate the lower bounds of the earnings, and show why this quarter’s earnings will be beat.
Let’s assume 0% YoY growth, ignoring the addition to the revenue that games like CoD Warzone had, so they’ll be making $1.21 billion as a base like they did in Q2 of last year. Last quarter, microtransactions made up an astounding $956 million of the $1.522 billion in revenue, equaling about 63%, and that was just at the beginning of the pandemic when the I’m-staying-home-so-now-I-value-this-game-more effect that I am describing was just coming into fruition. AND THAT WAS BEFORE STIMULUS CHECKS WERE RECEIVED. Let’s be conserative and assume that of that baseline $1.21 billion that we will use to come up with earnings for this quarter, $726 million or about 60% is from microtransactions, even though this % is most likely rising on track with the previous quarter’s trend which had 63% of revenue from microtransactions.
Now let’s try to estimate what the increase in volume of microtransactions is like if even my friend who was sworn against them played enough to care about cosmetics because he had played the game for long enough. So, not only are we increasing the number of people that want cosmetics and other in-game purchasable items, but also accounting for the fact that the people who already spent a lot on them will now spend more because they play more. This is inclusive of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and the Candy Crush Saga which are their big three microtransaction earners. I’m convinced that the volume on these things has to at least have doubled YoY. But for the sake of argument, we’ll say they have only increased 75%. Why is this a fair estimate? Last quarter, microtransactions for Modern Warfare were up 100% compared to Black Ops 4 in the same quarter the previous year. We don’t want to over-estimate and get our hopes up, we want to make sure this very ballpark math that we are doing can beat revenue estimates even on a considerably lower bound, giving us a high % chance of being right about the actual figure.
To further justify this kind of growth in microtransactions, we’re going to look at a few things. This report is for months April, May, and June, meaning last quarter’s results ended with March. Here are the latest active player count statistics for Warzone: www.statista.com/statistics/1110000/call-of-duty-warzone-players/ As of May, there are 60 million Warzone players – this is where there will be a large number of microtransactions which were barely included in the previous quarter because they had less than 40 million players by the end of March. A large part of last quarter’s revenue came from CoD Modern Warfare’s (not Warzone) season 1 and 2 in-game purchasable content. According to Google Trends, Season 4, released in June, garnered more interest than any other season: trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=modern%20warfare%20season&geo=US Also since last quarter, interest in buying CoD points (their currency) has gone up tremendously: trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=buy%20cod%20points
So let’s take our baseline $1.21 billion assuming 0% YoY growth, and increase the revenue generated by microtransactions by 75%. $1.21 billion + ($726 million * 0.75) = $1.754 billion, beating the $1.68 billion consensus only by factoring in a growth in microtransactions and absolutely nothing else, when in reality up-front game sales (purchasing games online for full price), subscriptions, merchandise, and other revenue streams have also increased. This way, even if we’ve over-estimated our microtransactions boost, there is more than enough room to still trounce earnings from the added revenue from other streams. And if we were very accurate about the microtransactions boost, then that additional revenue will send us way over. Activision already killed earnings last quarter with barely any money coming in from Warzone. l would not be at all surprised if they reach $2 billion in earnings, representing almost a 20% beat of expectations. At $2 billion per quarter and a 10x revenue valuation, Activision would be valued at $80 billion representing a 30% move.
ACTIVISION IS GOING TO BEAT AN EARNINGS ESTIMATE THAT IS ALREADY HEAVILY ACCOUNTING FOR THEIR CORONA BUMP.
The options are cheap for Activision, so I am loaded up. I think realistically it will have a pre-earnings run up as more people realize that they’re going to do very well on earnings and then go up even more on beat earnings. The downside risk on a stock like this is low considering it is a stay-at-home that has had its value increased REASONABLY by the pandemic and is not trading at a ridiculously high tech revenue multiple. At peak rona season, the stock fell roughly 20% and has since rebounded about 56%.
ATVI 8/21 90C
ATVI 8/21 100C
TLDR: Microtransactions made up 63% of Activision’s earnings last quarter when they beat revenue estimates by 15.30%. This quarter not only are microtransactions going to make up a larger percentage of the revenue, but the revenue will be much larger with help from the pandemic and the 60m+ new Call of Duty Warzone players. I’ve also bolded the more important information if you don’t want to read through everything.
EDIT: Warzone, like Fortnite, is a free download. A comparable game is Fortnite, which at its peak popularity had a revenue per user of a shocking $96 (Source: fortniteintel.com/report-fortnite-is-earning-double-the-revenue-of-google-twitter-snap-and-facebook-per-user/9265/ ). If we assume that Warzone has just 1/20th of this revenue per user, we’re already at an additional $288 million in revenue from Warzone alone.
Disclaimer: This information is only for educational purposes. Do not make any investment decisions based on the information in this article. Do you own due diligence.