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Analyst:  StarCraft II  Could Sell 4 Million
Analyst: StarCraft II Could Sell 4 Million
July 29, 2009 | By Kris Graft

July 29, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Activision Blizzard shares have slumped 14 percent in the last month, MarketWatch reports, as investors seemingly fret over the possibility that Blizzard's PC real-time strategy game StarCraft II may not make the 2009 calendar year.

But with Activision-owned Infinity Ward on track to launch the first-person shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to masses of frothing gamers, investors might have little to worry about.

Some analysts expect Modern Warfare 2 to be the biggest-selling title of 2009. Development is on-track, and Activision is ramping up massive marketing efforts surrounding the game, which launches November 10.

Modern Warfare 2 may be successful enough to offset any potential StarCraft II delay, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter told Gamasutra. "[Modern Warfare 2] has the potential to sell an extra 4 million copies this year due to the big advertising push, so [a StarCraft 2 delay] could net out to zero financial impact."

In MarketWatch's report, Brean Murray analyst Jess Lubert concurred: "Even without StarCraft, I think Activision should be able to get to their current guidance for the year. But without StarCraft, getting an upside to that number might be challenging."

In May, Activision Blizzard raised its calendar 2009 sales guidance to $4.3 billion from $4.2 billion.

Blizzard has gone on record to say that it hopes to release StarCraft II, the sequel to the 1998 original, sometime by the end of 2009. But the studio, known for World of Warcraft and its virtually peerless roster of successful games, still clung to the policy of "it's done when it's done."

"The beta testing for StarCraft hasn't started yet. If it starts in August and takes five to six months, then launching the game this year is next to impossible," said Lubert.

Pachter said that when the game does ship, he expects it to sell 4 million units in its opening quarter. At $40 wholesale ($50 retail), that would equate to $160 million in revenues for Activision Blizzard. Operating profit could hit $80 million, he said, or 4 cents per share.

As for the StarCraft 2 beta, he said, "Nobody (truly nobody) knows how long the StarCraft II beta will take. It’s highly likely that the game is polished, with few or no bugs. The issue is balance, and until there is a large scale beta, Blizzard won’t be able to test every single weapon, defense, et cetera, in order to ensure that the three races are perfectly balanced."

"They did a phenomenal job with the World of Warcraft beta (as I recall, it was around four months), and they will have no issues at all in attracting 30,000 supremely knowledgeable beta testers, so my bias is that the beta will take less time than most expect."

He added, "...The Blizzard guys are perfectionists, and if they want to take six months, nobody at Activision is going to challenge them," said Pachter. "So the bottom line is that StarCraft II will launch when Blizzard says so."

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Maurício Gomes
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I am still to see the day that Blizzard make a bad game...

Not that I enjoy WoW (I find it quite boring in fact, but this is a genre thing... nearly all MMOs are boring to me, not even only the RPG ones...), but even their really old games, like Blackthorne and Rock and Roll racing are quite impressive...

In fact it would be awesome a Blackthorne sequel.... Still 2D gameplay, maybe even as a PSP and PC game (Blizzard not releasing to PC would be a totally bizarre thing I think...). Or even a Rock and Roll racing sequel, with the current most cool hits (maybe with 50 musics like Guitar Hero?) and a gameplay that acn be 3D even (racing games don't need to be 2D...)

Go Blizzard!!!

Joel Bennett
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$4.3 Billion? Wow. (I mean the expression of surprise, not the game).

Kevin Reese
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4 million ? What the heck do these investors know. South Korea's population is over 48 million.

Mario N
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Impressive...$4.3 billion... Rwanda has the 143rd highest GDP in the world: about $4.4 billion.

(Src: International Monetary Fund)

Roberto Alfonso
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Kevin, and all of them will buy it?

Jonathon Walsh
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I'm with Kevin, 4 million seemed low to me, especially for an entire quarter. Not only is Korea drooling over the prospect of Starcraft 2 but Blizzard is in a great position to sell A LOT. They have the following from Wow which won't fully transfer but they can probably get some additional sales from that. They also have the DotA and WC3 crowd which should compound on top of the SC players waiting for the sequel. Overall there's just a TON of people waiting for this game worldwide.

6 Million is my estimate!

Chris Remo
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StarCraft has sold about 10 million in its lifetime--that's over a decade now--so I think 4 million in a single quarter is hardly conservative. A little under half of StarCraft's sales were in South Korea.

Raymond Lau
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Wow, this is impressive. Do you have data on how many units of original SC and WoW was sold during its first quarters? I would love to see if 4M unit for Blizzard is comparably high or low.

Chris Remo
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StarCraft sold 1.5 million units in its first nine months, so this would be a significant increase.

Fábio Bernardon
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Considering that this "game" (partial game, since only 1 chapter will be available) has less features than its predecessor (no lan anyone?) I believe his prediction is rather optimistic. I can see the sales of this game really jumping when Blizzard releases the full game (ie, a SC2 battle chest - will the campaign for all 3 races).

Bryan OHara
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As much as Blizzard's method of "it's done when it's done" development can drive a fan up the wall, I have to agree that their record has shown this method to be nothing but extremely successful.

Of course, that strategy requires some delicate balancing of hype, which Blizzard is almost annoyingly successful at.

Lou Hayt
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Blackthorne was awesome

Dirk McCall
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Regarding Korea and Starcraft you need to remember that even though a lot of people play it, many don't actually own the game and just play at pc bangs.

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