This excerpt taken from the ATVI 10-K filed Jun 9, 2005.
Allowance for Returns and Price Protection
In determining the appropriate unit shipments to our customers, we benchmark our titles using historical and industry data. We closely monitor and analyze the historical performance of our various titles, the performance of products released by other publishers and the anticipated timing of other releases in order to assess future demands of current and upcoming titles. Initial volumes shipped upon title launch and subsequent reorders are evaluated to ensure that quantities are sufficient to meet the demands from the retail markets but at the same time, are controlled to prevent excess inventory in the channel.
We may permit product returns from, or grant price protection to, our customers under certain conditions. In general, price protection refers to the circumstances when we elect to decrease the wholesale price of a product by a certain amount and, when granted and applicable, allows customers a credit against amounts owed by such customers to Activision with respect to open and/or future invoices. The conditions our customers must meet to be granted the right to return products or price protection are, among other things, compliance with applicable payment terms, delivery to us of weekly inventory and sell-through reports, and consistent participation in the launches of our premium title releases. We may also consider other factors, including the facilitation of slow-moving inventory and other market factors. Management must make estimates of potential future product returns and price protection related to current period product revenue. We estimate the amount of future returns and price protection for current period product revenue utilizing historical experience and information regarding inventory levels and the demand and acceptance of our products by the end consumer. The following factors are used to estimate the amount of future returns and price protection for a particular title: historical performance of titles in similar genres, historical performance of the hardware platform, historical performance of the brand, console hardware life cycle, Activision sales force and retail customer feedback, industry pricing, weeks of on-hand retail channel inventory, absolute quantity of on-hand retail channel inventory, Activision warehouse on-hand inventory levels, the titles recent sell-through history (if available), marketing trade programs and competing titles. The relative importance of these factors varies among titles depending upon, among other items, genre, platform, seasonality and sales strategy. Significant management judgments and estimates must be made and used in connection with establishing the allowance for returns and price protection in any accounting period. Based upon historical experience we believe our estimates are reasonable. However, actual returns and price protection could vary materially from our allowance estimates due to a number of reasons including, among others, a lack of consumer acceptance of a title, the release in the same period of a similarly themed title by a competitor, or technological obsolescence due to the emergence of new hardware platforms. Material differences may result in the amount and timing of our revenue for any period if management makes different judgments or utilizes different estimates in determining the allowances for returns and price protection.