Skylanders and Guitar Hero underperform while Call of Duty soars

Ben Parfitt
Skylanders and Guitar Hero underperform while Call of Duty soars

Publisher Activision has said that both Skylanders SuperChargers and Guitar Hero Live failed to meet sales expectations.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III, however, exceeded them on every single level.

The toys-to-life category grew in 2015, although that was mostly down to market leader LEGO Dimensions, which not only performed well in its own right but also ate into the market share of its rivals.

Activision has however reiterated that it remains committed to the series.

For Skylanders in Q4, we expect to release an innovative new game, which for guidance purposes we plan to be down year-over-year given the challenging competitive environment in the toys to life category,” CFO Dennis Durkin said.

Activision Publishing president and CEO Eric Hirshberg added, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha: While Skylanders performed below our expectations, we believe in its future and remain committed to the franchise.

We will do what we always do, which is to make sure that we have right-sized the investment on our efforts in the category while continuing to introduce breakthrough innovations that our fans will love. We're excited about the innovations in the next Skylanders game launching this fall from the creators of the franchise and the genre, Toys for Bob. More on that in the coming months.”

Guitar Hero Live, when coupled with the struggles of Rock Band 4, arguably signifies a failure to reignite the guitar rhythm action genre. Activision confirmed that there will not be another full Guitar Hero release this cycle, either, although it hopes to make Guitar Hero Live a success with ongoing support.

Guitar Hero Live is a fun, high-quality game that introduced innovative new game play to fans, including the GHTV platform, which keeps our community engaged and will allow us to cost-effectively deliver new content and build our installed base,” Hirshberg stated. We plan to release new content, but not another full Guitar Hero console game this cycle.”

While music and toys-to-life fell short, however, Call of Duty went the other way – smashing predictions of decline for the veteran series.

In Q4, Call of Duty: Black Ops exceeded our plan in prior year in practically every key commercial and engagement metric delivering upside for the year,” Durkin enthused. And more importantly, the Call of Duty franchise had its largest player community ever at yearend.

Hirshberg added: This year we saw our largest franchise, Call of Duty, ascend to new heights with performance above our plan. OI and margin growth for Call of Duty continues to expand, and we also saw phenomenal reception to in-game content and services. This is a virtuous cycle. Engagement creates the opportunity for us to earn additional player investment by providing more great content, which in turn leads to more engagement.

Call of Duty, which continues to gain momentum and set new records. In quarters one through three, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare over-performed our plan and the prior year with very strong performance on our digital season of content. In Q4, Call of Duty: Black Ops III exceeded our plan and the prior year in practically every key area: retail sell-in and sell-through, digital full game sales, digital in-game sales and season pass sales.”

Also confirmed is a Q4 2016 release for a new Infinity Ward made Call of Duty this year.

Activision boss Bobby Kotick noted that full-game downloads for Black Ops III were up 80 per cent year-on-year. However, while Destiny digital full-game downloads were in the high 20 per cents”, BOIII was lower than this – with PC being the exception, where digital accounted for the cast majority” of sales.

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