Tech

Activision Blizzard gives weak 2019 guidance, says it will slash 8% of workforce

Key Points
  • Activision Blizzard publishes popular game titles like "Call of Duty," "Diablo" and "Warcraft."
  • The company has revealed headwinds in recent weeks, and said Tuesday it plans to cut its global workforce.
  • The gaming industry is feeling increasing pressure from free-to-play competitor "Fortnite."
Attendees play the Activision Blizzard Inc. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 video game at the company's booth during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. 
Troy Harvey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Activision Blizzard reported mixed fourth-quarter results Tuesday and offered weak guidance for the first half of 2019. Shares fell as much as 5 percent in extended trading before gaining as much as 4 percent.

Activision Blizzard has revealed headwinds in recent weeks, and said Tuesday it plans to cut its global workforce by 8 percent.

"Our restructuring plan sheds investment and less productive nonstrategic areas to our business and will result in a net headcount reduction of approximately 8 percent while also driving a significant increase in investment focus and capabilities around our biggest franchises," Coddy Johnson, Activision's operating chief, said on the company's earnings call. "We're confident that over time this plan will enable our teams to accelerate the delivery of high-quality content to our communities."

Here's how the company did during the fourth quarter compared with what Wall Street was expecting:

  • EPS: $1.29 adjusted vs. $1.28 estimated by Refinitiv
  • Revs. $2.84 billion vs. $3.04 billion estimated by Refinitiv

Activision Blizzard expects first-quarter earnings per share of 20 cents— less than half of what Wall Street was looking for — on revenue of $1.18 billion. Refinitiv consensus estimates projected EPS of 46 cents on revenue of $1.45 billion for Q1 2019.

The company expects full-year 2019 earnings of $2.10 per share on $6.30 billion in revenue, compared with analyst estimates of earnings of $2.54 per share on $7.25 billion in revenue, according to Refinitiv.

The company's net bookings are expected to drop in 2019 to $6.30 billion, down from $7.26 billion during 2018 and $7.16 billion during 2017.

"In-game execution was inadequate in some of our franchises, and we saw weaker-than-anticipated retail demand," Johnson said on the call. "Our 2019 outlook assumes that we will not improve in-game monetization as quickly as we would like and that it is a transition year where we have less new major content to release than we should."

The company publishes popular game titles like "Call of Duty," "Diablo" and "Warcraft," and last month split from game studio Bungie, relinquishing rights to the "Destiny" game franchise. Each of those franchises will see increased investment over the next year, Johnson said.

The gaming industry is feeling increasing pressure from free-to-play competitor "Fortnite." Last week, Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive lost 13 percent and 14 percent respectively in a single day after revealing increased competition.

Shares of Activision have lost nearly 50 percent of their value since hitting a 52-week intraday high of $84.68 in October. The stock surged 4 percent Tuesday ahead of the earnings report.

The company has also seen a series of high-profile executive shakeups in recent months. Its former chief financial officer, Spencer Neumann, was hired as CFO at Netflix.

—CNBC's Eustance Huang contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly quoted Activision CEO Bobby Kotick instead of COO Coddy Johnson.

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