Activision Blizzard at E3 2016: What Investors Need to Know

Activision's upcomingSkylanders Academytelevision show. Image Source: Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard featured a limited lineup at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, focusing on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,Skylanders: Imaginators, andDestiny: Rise of Iron.The publisheralso unveiled its first push into film production withSkylanders Academy, an animated show that will launch on Netflix this fall and receive at least a two-season run.

Here's a rundown of what investors should know about the company's E3 2016 announcements.

Showing forCall of Dutyshould ease investor concerns

In May, Activisiondebuted Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the next mainline release in its premier first-person shooter series, to a largely negative reception. The game's showing at the expo should help to assuage investor concerns about the game's quality and prospective sales performance.

When the new Call of Dutywas first shown, many fans of the series were disappointed that the game took place in a futuristic setting and placed an emphasis on space flight and traversal -- features that seemed alien to the series. A deeper look at Infinite Warfare suggests that, while it may not be exactly the game fans were clamoring for, the upcoming title still incorporates many of the hallmarks of the series and should have the chance to win fans over with its new features.

Sales ofInfinite Warfarewill likely fall short of last year'sBlack Ops 3, owing partially to the fact thatInfinitewill launch only on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC plaftorms, but the upcoming game appears on track to be a quality release in the long-running series and should not threaten the brand simply by virtue of its setting.

The individual series that make up theCall of Dutyfranchise (Modern Warfare,Black Ops, Ghosts, among others) pack varying degrees of sales strength, and a movement in somewhat of a new direction withInfinite Warfare should probably not be taken as a worrying sign for investors, particularly as Activision continues to show strength with its other big first-person-shooter franchises,DestinyandOverwatch.

NewDestinycontent and great numbers forOverwatch

Activision used E3 to spotlight its upcomingRise of Iron expansion packforDestiny, and the update looks like it will help maintain the popularity of the publisher's lucrative shooter.Rise of Ironwill not be launching on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, but the game's developer recently indicated that the game could come to PC in the near future -- a welcome addition as sales on last-gen console platforms wind down.

Activision also used E3 as occasion to announce that Overwatchhad surpassed more than 10 million players. That's a great reception for the game,which launched at the tail end of May on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Strong reviews and player feedback indicate that the game will have a long life cycle and the potential to generate significant digital revenue through downloadbale content and expansions.

Skylanders, film ambitions, and the return of a bandicoot

With Disney exiting video games and closing up itsInfinitytoys-to-life series, and Nintendo'sAmiiboonly compatible with Wii U and 3DS hardware, Activision'sSkylanders and Time Warner's Lego Dimensions arenow the only products in the category that are full multi-platform releases. Sales in the toys-to-life genre have showed signs of slowing in 2016, but Activision might have an opportunity to regain ground with one of its chief competitors exiting the space and a multimedia push for Skylandersunder way.

Activision's upcoming release in the mainline series,Skylanders Imaginators, places an emphasis on character creation. Whetherthe new feature will prove to be a successful new hook for the series is unknown, but along with its recently released Skylanders Battlecastcard game for mobile and its upcomingSkylanders Academyshow on Netflix, Activision appears to be doing a commendable job of maintaining the property. The company's push into film and television production has big potential if executed properly and has huge value for a franchise likeSkylanders.

Early news aboutAcademy appearspromising for the Skylandersseries, as well as Activision's broader ambitions in film production. The Netflix series will feature the voice acting talents of Hollywood notables including Justin Long, Ashley Tisdale, Norm McDonald, and Susan Sarandon, among others, indicating that the show is being treated as a valuable extension of a core property and not a cheap tie-in. Activision is also developing films aroundCall of Dutyand other properties, and the talent attached to Skylanders Academy and the show's high quality aestheticwould seem to portend well for future adaptations.

Activision is also teaming with Sony to bring Crash Bandicoot, the former PlayStation mascot and game star,back into the spotlight. The PlayStation 4 version ofSkylandersImaginatorswill reintroduce the beloved marsupial, followed by remakes of the first three games in theCrash Bandicootseries developed by Activision's Vicarious Visions studios. Activision still owns the rights to the character, so it has a potential long-term opportunity if it can help restore Crash's popularity.

Activision's post-E3 outlook

Activision's E3 presence was short on surprises, but the company did emerge from the year's biggest gaming event looking stronger than it went in. A compelling showing forCall of Duty: Infinite Warfareon the heels of last's month worrying debut should be somewhat comforting for investors, and early news surrounding the company's Skylanders Academytelevision show is a promising indication that Activision can successfully bridge some of its valuable intellectual properties into new mediums.

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Keith Noonan owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard, Netflix, Time Warner, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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