Blizzard Profits Surge on Strong StarCraft II Sales

StarCraft 2

Blizzard says it shipped sold 3 million copies of StarCraft II during the real-time strategy game's first month of release, which you can either read as evidence that PC gaming's alive and kicking, or just that Blizzard is.

Note that the operative verb remains "shipped," not "sold." I happen to know, for instance, that all major retailers in southeast Michigan save one are sold out of the StarCraft II Collector's Edition, but that the one carrying it in stock, bizarrely, still has 10. If you really want to know how well a game's doing, you need it's sold numbers, which companies are often less inclined to give out because the "shipped" figure always sounds nicer. Update: Blizzard reached out to confirm the number above is in fact sold-through, not simply shipped.

The company originally revealed the number in early September and reconfirmed it during its third quarter results call yesterday, along with a few others that suggest it's doing extremely well despite performance presumptions informed by economic uncertainty. Note that StarCraft II also holds the record for fastest-selling strategy game of all time.

Blizzard's net third-quarterly revenues were up from $703 million to $745 million, beating a pessimistic revenue estimate of $600 million. The three products chiefly responsible were the Call of Duty series, World of Warcraft, and StarCraft II. Also of interest, Blizzard said revenues from digital sales were close to half of total, a 15 percent jump over last year's contribution.

With Call of Duty: Black Ops out next week and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm waiting to pounce in early December, the company says it's upgrading its calendar 2010 revenue and earnings performance, and expects 2010 to be "the most profitable year in [its] history" with "record operating margins." Bet against Blizzard at your peril, in other words.

The original StarCraft, which launched in March 1998, sold around 1.5 million copies globally during its first year. By 2007, that figure had surged to 9.5 million, with over half of sales occurring in South Korea alone, where it's played in professional gaming leagues.

While StarCraft II has its work cut out surpassing the original, remember that the first game, subtitled Wings of Liberty, is only the first in a trilogy to be released over the next several years. And some analysts think the first game could sell in the vicinity of 7 million copies by the close of Blizzard's fiscal year, which ends same as the calendar year in December.

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