Activision Blizzard Announces Fourth-Quarter and 2021 Financial Results

SANTA MONICA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced fourth-quarter and 2021 results.

“I’m so incredibly proud of our teams for their commitment and passion as we continued to engage the world through epic entertainment in 2021,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “As we look to the future, with Microsoft’s scale and resources, we will be better equipped to grow existing franchises, launch new potential franchises and unlock the rich library of games we have assembled over 40 years. Our 370 million players around the world and workplace excellence remain our focus. For investors, our recently announced transaction is the culmination of three decades of providing superior shareholder returns.”

Financial Metrics

 

Q4

 

CY

(in millions, except EPS)

2021

Prior

Outlook*

2020

2021

2020

GAAP Net Revenues

$2,163

$2,020

$2,413

 

$8,803

$8,086

Impact of GAAP deferralsA

$324

$763

$638

 

($449)

$333

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GAAP EPS

$0.72

$0.54

$0.65

 

$3.44

$2.82

Non-GAAP EPS

$1.01

$0.62

$0.76

 

$4.08

$3.21

Impact of GAAP deferralsA

$0.24

$0.67

$0.45

 

($0.36)

$0.26

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Prior outlook was provided by the company on November 2, 2021 in its earnings release.

Please refer to the tables at the back of this earnings release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.

For the year ended December 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were $8.80 billion, as compared with $8.09 billion for 2020. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $7.66 billion. GAAP operating margin was 37%. GAAP earnings per diluted share was $3.44, as compared with $2.82 for 2020. On a non-GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard’s operating margin was 44% and earnings per diluted share was $4.08, as compared with $3.21 for 2020.

For the quarter ended December 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were $2.16 billion, as compared with $2.41 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $1.78 billion. GAAP operating margin was 32%. GAAP earnings per diluted share was $0.72, as compared with $0.65 for the fourth quarter of 2020. On a non-GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard’s operating margin was 45% and earnings per diluted share was $1.01, as compared with $0.76 for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Activision Blizzard generated $2.41 billion in operating cash flow for the year ended December 31, 2021, as compared with $2.25 billion for 2020. For the quarter, operating cash flow was $661 million, as compared with $1.14 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Please refer to the tables at the back of this press release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.

Operating Metrics

For the year ended December 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net bookingsB were $8.35 billion, as compared with $8.42 billion for 2020. In-game net bookingsC were $5.10 billion, as compared with $4.85 billion for 2020.

For the quarter ended December 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net bookingsB were $2.49 billion, as compared with $3.05 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020. In-game net bookingsC were $1.24 billion, as compared with $1.32 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020.

For the quarter ended December 31, 2021, overall Activision Blizzard Monthly Active Users (MAUs)D were 371 million.

Microsoft transaction

As announced on January 18, 2022, Microsoft plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard’s net cash. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review and Activision Blizzard’s stockholder approval. The transaction, which is expected to close in Microsoft’s fiscal year ending June 30 2023, has been approved by the boards of directors of both Activision Blizzard and Microsoft.

Conference Call and Earnings Presentation

In light of the pending transaction with Microsoft, and as is customary during the pendency of an acquisition, Activision Blizzard will not be hosting a conference call, issuing an earnings presentation, or providing financial guidance in conjunction with its fourth quarter 2021 earnings release. For further detail and discussion of our financial performance please refer to our upcoming Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021.

Selected Business Highlights

Activision Blizzard delivered record full-year GAAP results in 2021, growing GAAP revenue 9% year-over-year, GAAP operating profit 19% year-over-year and GAAP EPS 22% year-over-year, building on very strong results in the prior year. Net bookings were broadly consistent year-over-year, again following very strong growth in 2020.

While fourth quarter 2021 GAAP revenue was ahead of our guidance provided on November 2, 2021, fourth quarter net bookings were below our prior outlook, primarily due to lower than expected performance in the Activision segment, which offset record performance at King. Activision Blizzard’s mobile net bookings grew 18% year-over-year and represented 33% of total net bookings in the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter GAAP EPS was ahead of our prior outlook. Non-GAAP EPS reflected a $0.16 benefit from the implementation of changes to our compensation plans, primarily to enhance equity ownership for employees and bring our employee equity compensation more in line with current industry practice.

Growing our developer base remains a strategic priority for the company. We continued to increase our developer headcount in the fourth quarter and added hundreds of talented professionals in 2021. Our teams are executing against an exciting pipeline of content planned for 2022. Activision expects to drive renewed expansion in the Call of Duty® franchise later in the year with groundbreaking all-new experiences. Blizzard is planning substantial new content for key franchises, and King expects to build on its momentum with further innovative live operations across its portfolio.

Activision Blizzard is committed to ensuring an inclusive and safe working environment for its employees, and in the fourth quarter continued to implement previously announced initiatives to strengthen its practices and policies. The company also announced the conversion of nearly 500 temporary workers to full-time employees at Activision Publishing studios, along with securing increased wages and expanded paid time off benefits for a large portion of temporary workers.

Activision

  • Call of Duty net bookings on console and PC declined year-over-year in the fourth quarter, reflecting lower premium sales for Call of Duty: Vanguard versus the year ago title and lower engagement in Call of Duty: Warzone™. Fourth quarter in-game player investment on console and PC remained well above the level seen prior to the March 2020 launch of Warzone.
  • Development on this year’s premium and Warzone experiences is being led by Activision’s renowned Infinity Ward studio. The team is working on the most ambitious plan in franchise history, with industry-leading innovation and a broadly appealing franchise setting.
  • Call of Duty Mobile net bookings grew year-over-year in the fourth quarter, driven by continued contribution from the game in China. For the full year, Call of Duty Mobile net bookings grew strongly, with 2021 worldwide consumer spending on the title exceeding $1 billion.
  • Studio expansion has continued to add development resources worldwide as plans continue for ongoing live operations and new, unannounced titles in the Call of Duty universe.

Blizzard

  • Within the Warcraft franchise, fourth quarter World of WarcraftTM reach and engagement continued to benefit from the combination of the Modern game and Classic under a single subscription. In 2021, World of Warcraft delivered its strongest engagement and net bookings outside of a Modern expansion year in a decade. Hearthstone® fourth quarter net bookings grew year-over-year, driven by a steady cadence of new content.
  • Blizzard is planning substantial new content for the Warcraft franchise in 2022, including new experiences in World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, and getting all-new mobile Warcraft content into players’ hands for the first time.
  • In the Diablo franchise, Diablo II: ResurrectedTM sold through more units from its September release until the year end than any other Activision Blizzard remaster over an equivalent period. On mobile, Diablo ImmortalTM concluded its public testing with positive feedback.
  • Blizzard is making strong progress on its pipeline, including new experiences in Warcraft, ongoing development in Diablo and Overwatch, and an exciting new IP.

King

  • King’s in-game net bookings grew 14% year-over-year to a new record in the fourth quarter, driven by 20% year-over-year growth for Candy CrushTM, King’s largest franchise. Candy Crush was the top-grossing game franchise in the U.S. app stores1 for the 18th consecutive quarter.
  • Hours played across the King portfolio again grew year-over-year in the fourth quarter, with players responding positively to a more frequent cadence of compelling in-game content and events for key titles. King’s payer numbers grew by a double-digit percentage versus the year ago quarter.
  • King’s advertising business grew rapidly in the fourth quarter to reach a new high. For 2021, advertising revenue grew over 60% year-over-year.
  • Having passed the $1 billion annual operating income milestone in 2021, the King business is entering 2022 with strong momentum. Its teams are focused on continuing to deliver engaging features and events alongside robust live operations and disciplined user acquisition in the coming quarters.

Balance Sheet and Dividend

  • Cash and short-term investments at the end of the fourth quarter stood at $10.6 billion, and Activision Blizzard ended the quarter with a net cash position of approximately $7.0 billion.
  • The Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.47 per common share, payable on May 6, 2022 to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 15, 2022.

About Activision Blizzard

Our mission, to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment, has never been more important. Through communities rooted in our video game franchises we enable hundreds of millions of people to experience joy, thrill and achievement. We enable social connections through the lens of fun, and we foster purpose and a sense of accomplishment through healthy competition. Like sport, but with greater accessibility, our players can find purpose and meaning through competitive gaming. Video games, unlike any other social or entertainment media, have the ability to break down the barriers that can inhibit tolerance and understanding. Celebrating differences is at the core of our culture and ensures we can create games for players of diverse backgrounds in the 190 countries our games are played.

As a member of the Fortune 500 and as a component company of the S&P 500, we have an extraordinary track record of delivering superior shareholder returns for over 30 years.

Our enduring franchises are some of the world’s most popular, including Call of Duty®, Crash Bandicoot™, Warcraft®, Overwatch®, Diablo®, StarCraft®, Candy Crush™, Bubble Witch™, Pet Rescue™ and Farm Heroes™. Our sustained success has enabled the company to support corporate social responsibility initiatives that are directly tied to our franchises. As an example, our Call of Duty Endowment has helped find employment for over 90,000 veterans.

Learn more information about Activision Blizzard and how we connect and engage the world through epic entertainment on the company’s website, www.activisionblizzard.com.

1 Based on App Annie Intelligence.

A Net effect of accounting treatment from revenue deferrals on certain of our online-enabled products. Since certain of our games are hosted online or include significant online functionality that represents a separate performance obligation, we defer the transaction price allocable to the online functionality from the sale of these games and then recognize the attributable revenues over the relevant estimated service periods, which are generally less than a year. The related cost of revenues is deferred and recognized as an expense as the related revenues are recognized. Impact from changes in deferrals refers to the net effect from revenue deferrals accounting treatment for the purposes of revenues, along with, for the purposes of EPS, the related cost of revenues deferrals treatment and the related tax impacts. Internally, management excludes the impact of this change in deferred revenues and related cost of revenues when evaluating the company’s operating performance, when planning, forecasting and analyzing future periods, and when assessing the performance of its management team. Management believes this is appropriate because doing so enables an analysis of performance based on the timing of actual transactions with our customers. In addition, management believes excluding the change in deferred revenues and the related cost of revenues provides a much more timely indication of trends in our operating results.

B Net bookings is an operating metric that is defined as the net amount of products and services sold digitally or sold-in physically in the period, and includes license fees, merchandise, and publisher incentives, among others, and is equal to net revenues excluding the impact from deferrals.

C In-game net bookings primarily includes the net amount of downloadable content and microtransactions sold during the period, and is equal to in-game net revenues excluding the impact from deferrals.

D Monthly Active User (“MAU”) Definition: We monitor MAUs as a key measure of the overall size of our user base. MAUs are the number of individuals who accessed a particular game in a given month. We calculate average MAUs in a period by adding the total number of MAUs in each of the months in a given period and dividing that total by the number of months in the period. An individual who accesses two of our games would be counted as two users. In addition, due to technical limitations, for Activision and King, an individual who accesses the same game on two platforms or devices in the relevant period would be counted as two users. For Blizzard, an individual who accesses the same game on two platforms or devices in the relevant period would generally be counted as a single user. In certain instances, we rely on third parties to publish our games. In these instances, MAU data is based on information provided to us by those third parties, or, if final data is not available, reasonable estimates of MAUs for these third-party published games.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures: As a supplement to our financial measures presented in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”), Activision Blizzard presents certain non-GAAP measures of financial performance. These non-GAAP financial measures are not intended to be considered in isolation from, as a substitute for, or as more important than, the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP. In addition, these non-GAAP measures have limitations in that they do not reflect all of the items associated with the company’s results of operations as determined in accordance with GAAP.

Activision Blizzard provides net income (loss), earnings (loss) per share, and operating margin data and guidance both including (in accordance with GAAP) and excluding (non-GAAP) certain items. When relevant, the company also provides constant FX information to provide a framework for assessing how our underlying businesses performed excluding the effect of foreign currency rate fluctuations. In addition, Activision Blizzard provides EBITDA (defined as GAAP net income (loss) before interest (income) expense, income taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and adjusted EBITDA (defined as non-GAAP operating margin (see non-GAAP financial measure below) before depreciation). The non-GAAP financial measures exclude the following items, as applicable in any given reporting period and our outlook:

  • expenses related to share-based compensation, including liability awards accounted for under ASC 718;
  • the amortization of intangibles from purchase price accounting;
  • fees and other expenses related to acquisitions, including related debt financings, and refinancing of long-term debt, including penalties and the write off of unamortized discount and deferred financing costs;
  • restructuring and related charges;
  • other non-cash charges from reclassification of certain cumulative translation adjustments into earnings as required by GAAP;
  • the income tax adjustments associated with any of the above items (tax impact on non-GAAP pre-tax income is calculated under the same accounting principles applied to the GAAP pre-tax income under ASC 740, which employs an annual effective tax rate method to the results); and
  • significant discrete tax-related items, including amounts related to changes in tax laws, amounts related to the potential or final resolution of tax positions, and other unusual or unique tax-related items and activities.

In the future, Activision Blizzard may also consider whether other items should also be excluded in calculating the non-GAAP financial measures used by the company. Management believes that the presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures provides investors with additional useful information to measure Activision Blizzard’s financial and operating performance. In particular, the measures facilitate comparison of operating performance between periods and help investors to better understand the operating results of Activision Blizzard by excluding certain items that may not be indicative of the company’s core business, operating results, or future outlook. Additionally, we consider quantitative and qualitative factors in assessing whether to adjust for the impact of items that may be significant or that could affect an understanding of our ongoing financial and business performance or trends. Internally, management uses these non-GAAP financial measures, along with others, in assessing the company’s operating results, and measuring compliance with the requirements of the company’s debt financing agreements, as well as in planning and forecasting.

Activision Blizzard’s non-GAAP financial measures are not based on a comprehensive set of accounting rules or principles, and the terms non-GAAP net income, non-GAAP earnings per share, non-GAAP operating margin, and non-GAAP or adjusted EBITDA do not have a standardized meaning. Therefore, other companies may use the same or similarly named measures, but exclude different items, which may not provide investors a comparable view of Activision Blizzard’s performance in relation to other companies.

Management compensates for the limitations resulting from the exclusion of these items by considering the impact of the items separately and by considering Activision Blizzard’s GAAP, as well as non-GAAP, results and outlook, and by presenting the most comparable GAAP measures directly ahead of non-GAAP measures, and by providing a reconciliation that indicates and describes the adjustments made.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: The statements contained herein that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements including, but not limited to statements about: (1) projections of revenues, expenses, income or loss, earnings or loss per share, cash flow, or other financial items; (2) statements of our plans and objectives, including those related to releases of products or services, restructuring activities, and employee retention and recruitment; (3) statements of future financial or operating performance, including the impact of tax items thereon; (4) statements regarding the proposed transaction between Activision Blizzard and Microsoft (the “proposed transaction”), including any statements regarding the expected timetable for completing the proposed transaction, the ability to complete the proposed transaction and the expected benefits of the proposed transaction; and (5) statements of assumptions underlying such statements. Activision Blizzard, Inc. generally uses words such as “outlook,” “forecast,” “will,” “could,” “should,” “would,” “to be,” “plan,” “aims,” “believes,” “may,” “might,” “expects,” “intends,” “seeks,” “anticipates,” “estimate,” “future,” “positioned,” “potential,” “project,” “remain,” “scheduled,” “set to,” “subject to,” “upcoming,” and the negative version of these words and other similar words and expressions to help identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to business and economic risks, reflect management’s current expectations, estimates, and projections about our business, and are inherently uncertain and difficult to predict.

We caution that a number of important factors, many of which are beyond our control, could cause our actual future results and other future circumstances to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: the risk that the proposed transaction may not be completed in a timely manner or at all, which may adversely affect our business and the price of our common stock; the failure to satisfy the conditions to the consummation of the transaction, including the adoption of the merger agreement by our stockholders and the receipt of certain governmental and regulatory approvals; the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstance that could give rise to the termination of the merger agreement; the effect of the announcement or pendency of the transaction on our business relationships, operating results, and business generally; risks that the proposed transaction disrupts our current plans and operations and potential difficulties in employee retention as a result of the transaction; risks related to diverting management’s attention from ongoing business operations; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against us related to the merger agreement or the transaction; restrictions during the pendency of the proposed transaction that may impact our ability to pursue certain business opportunities or strategic transactions; the potential for receipt of alternative acquisition proposals from potential acquirors; the ongoing global impact of a novel strain of coronavirus which emerged in December 2019 (“COVID-19”) (including, without limitation, the potential for significant short- and long-term global unemployment and economic weakness and a resulting impact on global discretionary spending; potential strain on the retailers, distributors, and manufacturers who sell our physical products to customers and the platform providers on whose networks and consoles certain of our games are available; effects on our ability to release our content in a timely manner; effects on the operations of our professional esports leagues; the impact of large-scale intervention by the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world, including the impact on interest rates; increased demand for our games due to stay-at-home orders and curtailment of other forms of entertainment, which may not be sustained and is likely to fluctuate as stay-at-home orders are reduced, lifted and/or reinstated; macroeconomic impacts arising from the long duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, including labor shortages and supply chain disruptions; and volatility in foreign exchange rates); our ability to consistently deliver popular, high-quality titles in a timely manner, which has been made more difficult as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; competition; concentration of revenue among a small number of franchises; our ability to satisfy the expectations of consumers with respect to our brands, games, services, and/or business practices; our ability to attract, retain, and motivate skilled personnel; rapid changes in technology and industry standards; increasing importance of revenues derived from digital distribution channels; risks associated with the retail sales business model; the continued growth in the scope and complexity of our business; substantial influence of third-party platform providers over our products and costs; success and availability of video game consoles manufactured by third parties, including our ability to predict the consoles that will be most successful in the marketplace and develop commercially-successful products for those consoles; risks associated with the free-to-play business model, including our dependence on a relatively small number of consumers for a significant portion of revenues and profits from any given game; our ability to realize the expected benefits of, and effectively implement and manage, our restructuring actions; difficulties in integrating acquired businesses or otherwise realizing the anticipated benefits of strategic transactions; the seasonality in the sale of our products; risks relating to behavior of our distributors, retailers, development, and licensing partners, or other affiliated third parties that may harm our brands or business operations; risks associated with our use of open source software; risks and uncertainties of conducting business outside the United States (the “U.

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