Activision Blizzard, the largest game company across America and Europe, recently released to the public their financial results for the end of 2017, revealing that they put up record sales numbers for both Q4 2017 and for the year as a whole. One special fact catching the eye of many is that, in a year where the company broke records in revenue and cash flow overall, over half of the company’s net revenue came from “in-game net bookings”, a.k.a. the notorious microtransaction.
Activision Blizzard is a properly massive company, covering dozens of franchises and IPs from Activision’s Call of Duty and Destiny, to Blizzard’s Warcraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, as well as the oft-forgotten mobile titles from King including Candy Crush and Pet Rescue. All together, the company brought in a record $7.16 billion over the year, with approximately $4 billion of that coming from in-game bookings, which includes DLC sales, loot boxes, and in-app purchases.
Mobile gaming is typically more closely associated with microtransactions than “traditional” gaming on console and PC, and this year King did its part and brought in right around $2 billion for the Activision Blizzard family. However, that still leaves the other $2 billion in in-game bookings, which was indeed generated by the company’s other PC and console franchises.
It seems to be an increasingly common sentiment among gamers in 2018 to be opposed to microtransactions in gaming as a general concept, and we witness that pushback through occurences like the Battlefront II fiasco and even new anti-lootbox legislation. Activison themselves saw their own fair share of microtransaction blues with the launch of Destiny 2 and the controversy around its loot system, which had quite a few players upset.
However, there are other games within the Activision Blizzard family that seem to get the system right, and flourish as a result. Overwatch is a Blizzard title that is routinely introducing new special events with skins, sprays, cosmetics, and more, which are almost universally met with fan praise and excitement. Hearthstone also seems to have a good feel for how to properly deliver secondary in-game content to its playerbase, and sees good success introducing new cards and card backs for players to scoop up at their leisure.
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, commented on the company’s success in 2017 with a hopeful message:
This was a record quarter to cap off a record year for Activision Blizzard…In 2017, our community reached new milestones for engagement, our business delivered record revenues and cash flows, and we made important progress in building future growth opportunities such as the Overwatch League. We couldnʹt be more excited for the opportunities ahead in 2018 to continue serving our players and fans.