Activision Blizzard 10-K 2009
Documents found in this filing:
Commission File Number 1-15839
ACTIVISION BLIZZARD, INC.
Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (310) 255-2000
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ý No o
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15 (d) of the Act. Yes o No ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ý No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of the registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," and "smaller reporting company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes o No ý
The aggregate market value of the registrant's Common Stock held by non-affiliates on June 30, 2008 as reported on the NASDAQ was $9,910,273,014.
The number of shares of the registrant's Common Stock outstanding at February 19, 2009 was 1,307,215,125.
Documents Incorporated by Reference
Portions of the registrant's definitive Proxy Statement, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission with respect to the 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report.
On July 9, 2008, a business combination (the "Business Combination") by and among Activision, Inc., Sego Merger Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision, Inc., Vivendi S.A., ("Vivendi"), VGAC LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivendi S.A., and Vivendi Games, Inc. ("Vivendi Games"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of VGAC LLC, was consummated. As a result of the consummation of the Business Combination, Activision, Inc. was renamed Activision Blizzard, Inc. For accounting purposes, the Business Combination is treated as a "reverse acquisition," with Vivendi Games, Inc. deemed to be the acquirer. The historical financial statements of Activision Blizzard, Inc. prior to July 9, 2008 are those of Vivendi Games, Inc. (see Note 1 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K).
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains, or incorporates by reference, certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements consist of any statement other than a recitation of historical fact and include, but are not limited to: (1) projections of revenues, expenses, income or loss, earnings or loss per share, cash flow projections or other financial items; (2) statements of our plans and objectives, including those relating to product releases; (3) statements of future economic performance; and (4) statements of assumptions underlying such statements. We generally use words such as "anticipate," "believe," "could," "estimate," "expect," "forecast," "future," "intend," "may," "outlook," "plan," "positioned," "potential," "project," "remain," "scheduled," "set to," "subject to," "to be," "upcoming," "will," and other similar expressions to help identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to business and economic risk, reflect management's current expectations, estimates and projections about our business, and are inherently uncertain and difficult to predict. Our actual results could differ materially. The forward-looking statements contained herein speak only at the date on which this Form 10-K was first filed, and we disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this Annual Report. Risks and uncertainties that may affect our future results include, but are not limited to those included in "Risk Factors" included in Part I, Item 1A of this Report. Except as otherwise noted (including in connection with the review and presentation of results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2008), all references to "we," "us," "our," "Activision Blizzard," or "the Company" mean Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
(a) General and Description of Business
Activision Blizzard is a worldwide pure-play online, personal computer ("PC"), console, and hand-held game publisher. Through Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. ("Blizzard"), we are the leader in terms of subscriber base and revenues generated in the subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game ("MMORPG") category. Blizzard internally develops and publishes PC-based computer games and maintains its proprietary online-game related service, Battle.net. Through Activision Publishing, Inc. ("Activision"), we are a leading international publisher of interactive software products and peripherals. Activision develops and publishes video games on various consoles, hand-held platforms and the PC platform through internally developed franchises and license agreements. Activision currently offers games that operate on the Sony Computer Entertainment ("Sony") PlayStation 2 ("PS2"), Sony PlayStation 3 ("PS3"), Nintendo Co. Ltd. ("Nintendo") Wii ("Wii"), and Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft") Xbox 360 ("Xbox 360") console systems; the Sony PlayStation Portable ("PSP") and Nintendo Dual Screen ("NDS") hand-held devices; and the PC.
Our Activision business involves the development, marketing, and sale of products directly, by license, or through our affiliate label program with certain third-party publishers. Activision's products cover diverse game categories including action/adventure, action sports, racing, role-playing, simulation, first-person action, music, and strategy. Activision's target customer base ranges from casual players to game enthusiasts, and children to adults. During 2008, Activision released Guitar Hero World Tour and Call of Duty: World at War, and continued to expand its licensed products with such titles as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, its first James Bond title, Quantum of Solace, and several other titles. Activision is currently developing sequels to the Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises, Wolfenstein through id Software, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion through Vicarious Visions, Prototype through Radical, and Singularity through Raven Software, and a yet to be named game for the racing genre, among other titles.
Our Blizzard business involves the development, marketing, sales and support of role playing action and strategy games. Blizzard also develops, hosts, and supports its online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category. Blizzard is the development studio and publisher best known as the creator of World of Warcraft and the multiple award winning Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft franchises. Blizzard distributes its products and generates revenues worldwide through various means, including: subscription revenues (which consist of fees from individuals playing World of Warcraft, such as prepaid-cards and other ancillary online revenues); retail sales of physical "boxed" product; electronic download sales of PC products; and licensing of software to third-party companies that distribute World of Warcraft in China and Taiwan. During 2008, Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion pack of World of Warcraft. Blizzard is currently developing new games, including sequels to the StarCraft and Diablo franchises.
Our distribution business consists of operations in Europe that provide warehousing, logistical and sales distribution services to third-party publishers of interactive entertainment software, our own publishing operations, and manufacturers of interactive entertainment hardware.
(b) Business Combination and Acquisitions
Activision, Inc. was originally incorporated in California in 1979 and was reincorporated in Delaware in December 1992. In June 2000, Activision, Inc. reorganized into a holding company organizational structure. As described in the explanatory note above, Activision, Inc. consummated a business combination with Vivendi Games during the year ended December 31, 2008 and was renamed Activision Blizzard, Inc. Activision Blizzard is a public company traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol ATVI.
Also, to further strengthen our development resources and underscore our commitment and leadership in the music-based genre, on September 11, 2008, we acquired Freestyle Games, Ltd., a premier United Kingdom-based video game developer specializing in the music-based genre. Additionally, on November 10, 2008, we acquired Budcat Creations, LLC, an award-winning Iowa City, Iowa based development studio with expertise on the Wii and the NDS.
See Note 4 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information regarding the accounting treatment of the Business Combination and our acquisitions.
(c) Operating Segment Changes
In conjunction with the Business Combination, we changed the manner in which senior management assesses the operating performance of, and allocates resources to our operating segments. As a result, we operate four operating segments: (i) Activision Publishingpublishing interactive entertainment software and peripherals which includes Activision, Inc. and certain studios, assets, and titles previously included in Vivendi Games' Sierra Entertainment operating segment prior to the
Business Combination ("Activision"), (ii) Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiariespublishing traditional games and online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category ("Blizzard"), (iii) Activision Blizzard Distributiondistribution of interactive entertainment software and hardware products ("Distribution") (these three operating segments form Activision Blizzard's core operations) and (iv) Activision Blizzard's non-core exit operations. Activision Blizzard's non-core exit operations represent legacy Vivendi Games' divisions or business units we have exited or are winding down as part of our restructuring and integration efforts as a result of the Business Combination, but do not meet the criteria for separate reporting of discontinued operations. In accordance with the provisions of Statement of Financial Accounting Standards, No. 131, "Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information," ("SFAS No. 131"), all prior period segment information has been restated, when practical, to conform to this new segment presentation. See Note 14 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for certain financial information regarding operating segments and geographic areas required by Item 1 of Form 10-K.
(d) Our Objective
Our objective is to be a worldwide leader in the development, publishing, and distribution of quality interactive entertainment software, peripheral products, and online games that deliver a highly satisfying consumer entertainment experience. Through Blizzard, we plan to maintain and build upon our worldwide leadership position of online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category. Our business strategy, the key components of our business operations and the risk factors that could impact our business are detailed below.
(e) Our Strategy
Continue to Improve Profitability. We continually strive to manage risk and increase our operating leverage and efficiency with the goal of increased profitability. We believe that the key factors affecting our future profitability will be the success rate of our product releases and proven franchises.
Our sales and marketing staff work with our studio resources to increase the visibility of new product launches and to coordinate the timing and promotion of product releases. Our finance and sales and marketing personnel work together to improve inventory management and receivables collections. We have instituted broad, objective-based reward programs that provide incentives to management and staff throughout the organization to produce results that meet our financial objectives.
Grow Through Continued Strategic Acquisitions and Alliances. The interactive entertainment industry has been consolidating, and we believe that success in this industry will be driven in part by the ability to take advantage of scale. Specifically, smaller companies are more capital constrained, enjoy less predictability of revenues and cash flow, lack product diversity and must spread fixed costs over a smaller revenue base. Several industry leaders are emerging that combine the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the industry with professional management, the ability to access the capital markets, and the ability to maintain favorable relationships with developers, intellectual property owners, and retailers. Through numerous acquisitions in the past years and the Business Combination with Vivendi Games in 2008, we believe that we have successfully diversified our operations and channels of distribution; developed our talent pool and library of titles; gained licensing relationships in Asia; and emerged as one of the industry's leaders. We intend to continue to evaluate the expansion of our resources through acquisitions, strategic relationships, and key license transactions. We intend to continue expanding our intellectual property library through key license transactions and strategic relationships with intellectual property owners. We will continue to evaluate opportunities to increase our development capacity through the acquisition of, or investment in, selected experienced software development firms.
The interactive entertainment industry is intensely competitive and new interactive entertainment software products and platforms are regularly introduced. Our competitors vary in size from small companies with limited resources to large corporations with greater financial, marketing, and product development resources than we have. Due to their different focuses and allocation of resources, certain of our competitors spend more money and time developing and testing products, undertake more extensive marketing campaigns, adopt more aggressive pricing policies, pay higher fees to licensors for desirable motion picture, television, sports and character properties, and pay more to third-party software developers. In addition, competitors with large product lines and popular titles typically have greater leverage with retailers, distributors, and other customers who may be willing to promote titles with less consumer appeal in return for access to such competitor's most popular titles. We believe that the main competitive factors in the interactive entertainment industry include: product features and playability; brand name recognition; compatibility of products with popular platforms; access to distribution channels; quality of products; ease of use; price; marketing support; and quality of customer service.
We compete primarily with other publishers of personal computer and video game console interactive entertainment software. In addition to third-party software competitors, integrated video game console hardware and software companies such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft compete directly with us in the development of software titles for their respective platforms. Further, certain major media companies, such as Disney and Time Warner, who have been investing in video game products, have increased competition within the industry.
We had approximately 7,000 total full-time and part-time employees at December 31, 2008. At December 31, 2008, 227 of our full-time employees were subject to term employment agreements with us. These agreements generally commit such employees to employment terms of between one and five years from the commencement of their respective agreements. Most of the employees subject to such agreements are executive officers or key members of the product development, sales, or marketing divisions. These individuals perform services for us as executives, directors, producers, associate producers, computer programmers, game designers, sales directors, or marketing product managers. The execution by us of employment agreements with such employees, in our experience, reduces our turnover during the development, production, and distribution phases of our entertainment software products and allows us to plan more effectively for future development and marketing activities.
None of our employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement except for the employees of our German distribution subsidiary who are allowed by German law to belong to an organized labor council. To date, we have not experienced any labor-related work stoppages.
Activision Publishing Segment ("Activision")Business Overview
Create, Acquire, and Maintain Strong Franchises. Activision focuses on development and publishing activities principally on products that are, or have the potential to become, franchises with sustainable consumer appeal and recognition. It is our experience that these products can then serve as the basis for sequels, prequels, and related new products that can be released over an extended period of time. We believe that the publishing and distribution of products based on franchises enhances predictability of revenues and the probability of high unit volume sales and operating profits. We own a number of successful intellectual properties such as the Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises. We intend to continue to develop owned franchises in the future. We have also entered into a series of strategic relationships with the owners of intellectual properties pursuant to which we have acquired the rights to
publish products based on franchises such as DreamWorks' Animation LLC ("DreamWorks"), Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. ("Harrah"), Hasbro Properties Group ("Hasbro"), MGM Interactive and EON Productions Ltd. ("MGM & EON"), Mattel, Inc. ("Mattel"), Marvel Entertainment, Inc. ("Marvel"), and professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, to develop video games based on their intellectual property.
Execute Disciplined Product Selection and Development Processes. The success of our publishing business depends, in significant part, on our ability to develop high quality games that will generate high unit volume sales. Our publishing units have implemented a formal control process for the selection, development, production, and quality assurance of our products. We apply this process, which we refer to as the "Greenlight Process," to all of our products, whether externally or internally developed. The Greenlight Process includes in-depth reviews of each project at several important stages of development by a team that includes many of our highest-ranking operating managers and coordination between our sales and marketing personnel and development staff at each step in the process.
We develop our products using a combination of our internal development resources and external development resources acting under contract with us. We typically select our external developers based on their track records and expertise in producing products in the same category. One developer will often produce the same game for multiple platforms and will produce sequels to the original game. We believe that selecting and using development resources in this manner allows us to leverage the particular expertise of our internal and external development resources, which we believe enhances the quality of our products.
Create and Maintain Diversity in Product Mix, Platforms, and Markets. We believe that maintaining a diversified mix of products can reduce our operating risks and enhance profitability. Therefore, we develop and publish products spanning a wide range of product categories, including action/adventure, action sports, racing, role-playing, simulation, first-person action, music-based gaming, and strategy. We also develop products designed for target audiences ranging from casual players to game enthusiasts, children to adults, and mass-market consumers to "value" buyers. Presently, we are developing, publishing, and distributing products that operate on the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii console systems, the PSP and NDS hand-held devices, and the PC. We typically offer our products for use on multiple platforms to reduce the risks associated with any single platform, leverage our costs over a larger installed hardware base, and increase unit sales.
Activision has been best known for our action/adventure, action sports, role-playing, simulation, first-person action, and music video game products. We have been successful in the first person action categories through the Call of Duty original intellectual property, which we plan on continuing as a successful long-term franchise. Call of Duty has achieved over $1 billion life-to-date sales. We are a leading company in the music-based gaming genre with the Guitar Hero franchise. We became the first publisher to surpass the $1 billion in sales from a single title: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The Guitar Hero franchise combines interactive software with hardware peripherals of a guitar, drum, and microphone. We have been successful in the superheroes category with our releases of titles based on the Spider-Man and X-Men properties. Our Tony Hawk franchise has been a leader in the action sports genre, and we have a new game in development to continue the strength of this franchise. We have continued our success with the DreamWorks animated movie titles, with the recent launches of Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar Escape 2 Africa, and the upcoming release of Monsters vs. Aliens. We have expanded our portfolio in the action/adventure genre with the recent launch of James Bond: Quantum of Solace. Our top three franchises accounted for approximately 68% of Activision's consolidated net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2008. We will further expand our portfolio with entry into the large racing genre with the upcoming launch of a new racing title in 2009 from
Bizarre Creations, a studio with a proven track record of developing hit racing games for the past 10 years.
Product Development and Support
Activision develops and produces titles using a model in which a core group of creative, production, and technical professionals, in coordination with our marketing and finance departments, have responsibility for the entire development and production process including the supervision and coordination of internal and external resources. This team assembles the necessary creative elements to complete a title using, where appropriate, outside programmers, artists, animators, scriptwriters, musicians and songwriters, sound effects and special effects experts, and sound and video studios. Activision believes that this model allows us to supplement internal expertise with top quality external resources on an as-needed basis.
In addition, Activision often seeks out and engages independent third-party developers to create products on our behalf. Such products are either owned by us, or Activision has unlimited rights to commercially exploit these products. In other circumstances, a third-party developer may retain ownership of the intellectual property and/or technology included in the product and reserves certain exploitation rights. Activision typically selects these independent third-party developers based on their expertise in developing products in a specific category for specific platforms. Each of our third-party developers is under contract with us for specific or multiple titles. From time to time, Activision also acquires the license rights to publish and/or distribute software products that are or will be independently created by third-party developers. In such cases, the agreements with such developers provide us with exclusive publishing and/or distribution rights for a specific period of time, often for specified platforms and territories. In either case, Activision often has the ability to publish and/or distribute sequels, conversions, enhancements, and add-ons to the product initially being produced by the independent developer and Activision frequently has the right to engage the services of the original developer with regard to the further development of such products.
In consideration for the services that independent third-party developers provide, the developers receive a royalty generally based on net sales of the developed products. Typically, developers also receive an advance, which Activision recoups from the royalties otherwise payable to the developers. The advance generally is paid in "milestone" stages. The payment at each stage is tied to the completion and delivery of a detailed performance milestone. Some contracts include minimum guaranteed royalty payments which are recorded as an asset when actually paid and as a liability when incurred. Working with independent developers allows us to reduce our fixed development costs, share development risks with the third-party developers, take advantage of the third-party developers' expertise in connection with certain categories of products or certain platforms, and gain access to proprietary development technologies.
Activision provides various forms of product support to both our internally and externally developed titles. Activision quality assurance personnel are involved throughout the development and production of each title published. Activision subjects all such products to extensive testing before release to ensure compatibility with all appropriate hardware systems and configurations and to minimize the number of bugs and other defects found in the products. To support our products after release, Activision provides its customers online access on a 24-hour basis as well as live telephone operators who answer the help lines during regular business hours.
Marketing, Sales, and Distribution
Activision's marketing efforts include online activities (such as the creation of World Wide Web pages to promote specific titles and build user communities around our franchises), public relations, print and broadcast advertising, coordinated in-store and industry promotions (including merchandising
and point of purchase displays), participation in cooperative advertising programs, direct response vehicles, and product sampling through demonstration software distributed through the Internet or on compact discs. From time to time, we also receive marketing support from hardware manufacturers and retailers in connection with their own promotional efforts. In addition, certain of our products contain software that enables customers to "electronically register" their purchases with us online.
We believe that our strong proven franchises and genres generate a loyal and devoted customer base that continues to purchase our sequels as a result of such dedication to the franchise and satisfaction from previous product purchases. We therefore market these sequels and expansion packs toward the established market as well as to broader audiences. In addition, for marketing titles based on licensed properties, we believe that we derive benefits from our continued marketing of these licensed properties as well as marketing and promotional activities of the property owners.
North America. Our products are available for sale or rental in thousands of retail outlets in North America. Our North American retail customers include Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart.
In the United States and Canada, our products are sold primarily on a direct basis to mass-market retailers, consumer electronics stores, discount warehouses, and game specialty stores. We believe that a direct relationship with retail accounts results in more effective inventory management, merchandising, and communications than would be possible through indirect relationships. We have implemented electronic data interchange linkages with many of our retailers to facilitate the placing and shipping of orders. We also sell our products to a limited number of distributors.
International. Our products are sold internationally on a direct-to-retail basis, through third-party distribution and licensing arrangements, and through our wholly-owned European distribution subsidiaries. We conduct our international publishing activities through offices in the United Kingdom ("U.K."), Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and South Korea. We seek to maximize our worldwide revenues and profits by releasing high quality foreign language releases concurrently with English language releases and by continuing to expand the number of direct selling relationships we maintain with key retailers in major territories.
On a worldwide basis, our largest customers, Wal-Mart and GameStop, each accounted for 11% of consolidated net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2008. No sales made to one customer accounted for more than 10% of Vivendi Games' total net sales during 2007 or 2006.
Affiliate Labels. In addition to our own products, we distribute a select number of interactive entertainment products that are developed and marketed by other third-party publishers through our "affiliate label" programs in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. The distribution of other publishers' products allows us to increase the efficiencies of our sales force and provides us with the ability to better ensure adequate shelf presence at retail stores for all of the products that we distribute. Revenues that we receive from distributing other publishers' titles mitigate the risk associated with a particular title or titles published by us failing to achieve expectations. Services provided by us under our affiliate label programs include order solicitation, in-store marketing, logistics and order fulfillment, sales channel management, as well as other accounting and general administrative functions. Our current affiliate label partners include LucasArts, as well as several affiliate label partners in our "value" business. Each affiliate label relationship is unique and may pertain only to distribution in certain geographic territories and may be further limited only to specific titles or titles for specific platforms.
Activision prepares a set of master program copies, documentation, and packaging materials for our products for each hardware platform on which the product will be released. We also manufacture
separate hardware peripheral, such as the guitar, drum and microphone for Guitar Hero World Tour. With respect to products for use on the Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft systems, our disk and hardware peripheral duplication, packaging, printing, manufacturing, warehousing, assembly, and shipping are performed by third-party subcontractors.
To maintain protection over their hardware technologies, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft generally specify or control the manufacturing and assembly of finished products. We deliver the master materials to the licensor or its approved replicator, which then manufactures finished goods and delivers them to us for distribution under our label. We use the manufacturers who are authorized by Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft to make the hardware peripherals for Guitar Hero. At the time our product unit orders are filled by the manufacturer, we become responsible for the costs of manufacturing and the applicable per unit royalty on such units, even if the units do not ultimately sell.
Blizzard Entertainment Segment ("Blizzard")Business Overview
Maintain and Build upon Our Leadership Position in the MMORPG Category and PC Online categories. Blizzard plans to maintain and build upon our leadership position in the MMORPG genre by regularly providing new content and game features to further solidify the loyalty of our subscriber base, as well as to expand the global game footprint to new markets.
We believe that the PC online market will remain a fast growing category throughout the world. The large and still growing PC installed base in all regions and the continuing development of broadband connectivity facilitates online games and community experiences while creating access to new potential customers. Given the success of World of Warcraft in Asia, we expect to be well positioned to capture the growing consumer demand in this region. Blizzard is among the few companies with video game franchises created and developed in the United States ("U.S.") that have gained and retained success in Asia. Warcraft and StarCraft are strong brands in Asia. Titles in those series have been among the most played games in the region for many years and support a thriving professional gaming industry, particularly in South Korea. Also, as World of Warcraft is a server-based game, only playable online, Blizzard is one of the few companies that can target markets that have been dominated by piracy and be able to monetize former illegitimate players as well as expand in markets that have not been penetrated by consoles, but offer a large PC installed base.
Blizzard is a leading company in the subscription-based MMORPG category. World of Warcraft was initially launched in November 2004 in North America, Australia, and New Zealand; and was subsequently launched in South Korea, Europe, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau in 2005; Malaysia in 2006; and Thailand in 2007. In December 2008, World of Warcraft had more than 11.5 million paying subscribers worldwide. World of Warcraft is available in various different languages based on the regions in which it is played and has earned awards and praise from publications around the world. Blizzard launched an expansion pack to World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, in January 2007 in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade was launched in South Korea in February 2007; Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau in April 2007; and China in September 2007. Blizzard launched the second World of Warcraft expansion pack, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King in November 2008 in all territories except China where we anticipate launching in 2009. Revenues associated with the World of Warcraft franchises accounted for 97%, 97%, and 95% of Blizzard's consolidated net revenues for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006, respectively.
Additionally, in the PC online category, we have announced the development of sequels for StarCraft, a real-time strategy game, and Diablo, an action role-playing game.
Product Development and Support
As a development studio, creator and publisher of World of Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft franchises, Blizzard focuses on creating well-designed, high quality games. All product development is done internally by a strong core group of talented designers, producers, programmers, artists, and sound engineers. To maintain its current subscribers and attract new subscribers, Blizzard continues to develop new patches to upgrade World of Warcraft. In addition to its headquarters in Irvine, California, Blizzard maintains offices in or around Austin, Texas; Paris, France; Cork, Ireland; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; and Taipei, Taiwan, to provide 24/7 game support to World of Warcraft players in their native language, enhance online community management, and tailor marketing initiatives to specific regions.
Marketing, Sales, and Distribution
The Blizzard business involves the development, marketing, sales and support of traditional games and online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category. Blizzard distributes its product and generates revenues worldwide through various means: subscription revenues (which consist of fees from individuals playing World of Warcraft and other ancillary online revenues); retail sales of physical "boxed" product; electronic download sales of PC products; and licensing revenues from third-party companies who distribute World of Warcraft in China and Taiwan. In addition, Blizzard operates a free online game service, Battle.net, which attracts millions of active players making it one of the largest online-game related services in the world. Battle.net is a service that allows millions of players to connect and play Blizzard games and strengthens brand loyalty among current Blizzard gamers.
Activision Blizzard Distribution Segment ("Distribution")Business Overview
We distribute interactive entertainment hardware and software products in Europe through our European distribution subsidiaries: Centresoft in the United Kingdom; NBG in Germany; and CD Contact in the Benelux countries. These subsidiaries act as wholesalers in the distribution of products and also provide packaging and logistical and sales services. They provide services to our publishing operations and to various third-party publishers, including Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Centresoft is Sony's exclusive distributor of PlayStation products to the independent market sector of the United Kingdom.
We entered into the distribution business to obtain distribution capacity in Europe for our own products, while supporting the distribution infrastructure with third-party sales, and to diversify our operations into the European market. Centresoft and our other distribution subsidiaries operate in accordance with strict confidentiality procedures to provide independent services to various third-party publishers.
Activision Blizzard Non-Core Exit Operations Segment ("Non-core")Overview
As part of our restructuring and integration efforts, we have exited or are winding down several of Vivendi Games' legacy divisions, studios or businesses, including Vivendi Games Mobile, and Sierra Online, to achieve synergies and form the streamlined organization of Activision Blizzard. Our goal is to substantially exit or wind down these divisions by June 2009 to maximize synergies.
Financial Information about Operating Segments and Foreign Geographic Areas
See Item 7 "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and Note 14 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8.
Our website is located at http://www.activisionblizzard.com. Our Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act"), are available free of charge through our website. The information found on our website is not a part of, and is not incorporated by reference into, this or any other report that we file with or furnish to the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC").
The public may also read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SEC's Public Reference Room at Station Place, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549 (information on the operation of the Public Reference Room is available by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330). The SEC also maintains a web site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at http://www.sec.gov.
A continuing deterioration of general economic conditions could result in a reduction in discretionary spending by consumers that could reduce demand for our products.
Most of our products involve discretionary spending on the part of consumers. Consumers are generally more willing to make discretionary purchases, including purchases of products like ours, during periods in which favorable economic conditions prevail. As a result, our products may be sensitive to general economic conditions and economic cycles. A continuation or worsening of current, adverse worldwide economic conditions, including declining consumer confidence, inflation, recession, rising unemployment and volatile gasoline prices, may lead consumers to delay or reduce purchases of our products. Reduced consumer spending may also require us to incur increased selling and promotional expenses. A reduction or shift in domestic or international consumer spending could negatively impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business may be harmed if our distributors, retailers or other parties with which we do business cannot honor their existing credit arrangements, default on their obligations to us, or seek protection under the bankruptcy laws.
We rely on various business partners for several important aspects of our business, including distribution of our products, product development, and intellectual property licensing. Some of these business partners are highly-leveraged or small businesses that may be particularly vulnerable to difficult economic conditions. As a result of the current economic downturn, we are subject to increased counterparty risks, including the risks that our business partners may default on their obligations to us or seek protection under the bankruptcy laws.
For example, retailers and distributors in the interactive entertainment industry have from time to time experienced significant fluctuations in their businesses and a number of them have failed. We typically make sales to most such retailers and some such distributors on unsecured credit, with terms that vary depending upon the customer's credit history, solvency, credit limits, and sales history, as well as whether such customer can obtain sufficient credit insurance. Challenging economic conditions may impair the ability of such customers to pay for products they have purchased, and as a result, our reserves for doubtful accounts and write-off of accounts receivable could increase and, even if increased, may turn out to be insufficient. Moreover, even in cases where we have insolvency risk insurance to protect against a customer's bankruptcy, insolvency, or liquidation, this insurance typically contains a significant deductible and co-payment obligation, and does not cover all instances of non-payment. As a result, a payment default by or the insolvency or business failure of a significant customer could significantly harm our business and financial results.
The insolvency or business failure of other types of business partners could result in disruptions to the manufacturing or distribution of our products or the cancellation of contractual arrangements that we consider to be favorable.
Current general economic conditions may adversely affect other aspects of our business.
We are unable to predict the likely duration and severity of the current disruption in financial markets and adverse economic conditions in the U.S. and other countries, and all of the effects the disruptions and current macroeconomic conditions may have on our business. Among other things, because we generally maintain large cash reserves, we are subject to the risk that inflation may cause the real value of our cash and cash equivalents to decline. Furthermore, uncertainties concerning the likely length and severity of the economic downturn cause our forecasts to be subject to even greater risks and uncertainties.
Fluctuations in currency exchange rates may have a negative impact on our results of operations.
We transact business in various currencies other than the U.S. dollar and have significant international sales and expenses denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, subjecting us to currency exchange rate risks. A substantial portion of our international sales and expenses are made in local currencies, including certain major currencies, such as the euro and U.K. pound, and emerging market currencies, such as the Korean won and Chinese renminbi, which could fluctuate against the U.S. dollar. We have, in the past, utilized currency derivative contracts to hedge certain foreign exchange exposures, principally anticipated transactions and firm commitments, with hedge tenors of generally less than 12 months. We may also, from time to time, hedge non-U.S. dollar earnings. Our principal counterparty in respect of currency derivative contracts is Vivendi, though we periodically evaluate and may use similar arrangements with other counterparties. There can be no assurance that we will continue these programs, or that we will be successful in managing exposure to currency exchange rate risks. We currently expect that a stronger U.S. dollar in 2009 than in 2008 will adversely affect our results of operations in 2009 compared to 2008.
Although we expect that the Business Combination will result in benefits to Activision Blizzard, we may not realize those benefits because of integration difficulties and other challenges.
The success of the combination of Activision and Vivendi Games will be dependent in large part on the success of our management in integrating the operations, technologies and personnel of the two companies. Though we have largely achieved the integration in North America, other regions are still underway.
Our failure to meet the challenges involved in successfully completing the integration of the operations of Activision and Vivendi Games in those other regions or to otherwise realize any of the anticipated benefits of the Business Combination, including additional revenue opportunities, could impair our results of operations.
Challenges involved in this integration include, without limitation:
We may not successfully complete the integration of the operations of Activision and Vivendi Games in a timely manner and we may not realize the anticipated benefits or synergies of the Business Combination to the extent, or in the timeframe, anticipated. The anticipated benefits and synergies include cost savings associated with anticipated restructurings and other operational efficiencies, greater economies of scale and revenue enhancement opportunities. However, these anticipated benefits and synergies assume a successful integration and are based on projections, which are inherently uncertain, and other assumptions. Even if integration is successful, anticipated benefits and synergies may not be achieved.
Vivendi owns a majority of our outstanding shares of common stock, and the interests of Vivendi and its subsidiaries may conflict with the interests of our other shareholders.
Vivendi and its subsidiaries currently own approximately 55% of our issued and outstanding shares of common stock.
As a result of the Business Combination, Vivendi has the ability to nominate a majority of our board of directors and determine the outcome of certain matters submitted to our stockholders, such as the approval of significant transactions. As a result, actions that may be supported by a majority of other stockholders may be blocked by Vivendi. In addition, Vivendi's ownership may affect the liquidity in the market for our common stock.
Furthermore, the ownership position and governance rights of Vivendi may discourage a third party from proposing a change of control or other strategic transaction concerning Activision Blizzard. As a result, our common stock may trade at prices that do not reflect a "control premium" to the same extent as do the stocks of similarly situated companies that do not have a stockholder with an ownership interest as large as Vivendi's ownership interest.
We are a "controlled company" within the meaning of NASDAQ rules and, as a result, are exempt from certain corporate governance requirements.
For so long as Vivendi or any other entity or group owns more than 50% of the total voting power of our common shares, we will be a "controlled company" within the meaning of NASDAQ rules and, as a result, qualify for exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements. As a controlled company, we are exempt from several NASDAQ standards, including the requirements:
We currently rely on these exemptions and as a result, a majority of our Board is not independent (as defined by the NASDAQ rules). In addition, while we have a nominating and corporate governance committee and a compensation committee, these committees do not consist entirely of independent directors. Accordingly, our stockholders do not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to all of the NASDAQ corporate governance requirements.
We depend on a relatively small number of franchises for a significant portion of our revenues and profits.
A significant portion of our revenues has historically been derived from products based on a relatively small number of popular franchises and these products are responsible for a disproportionately large amount of our profits. We expect that a limited number of popular franchises will continue to produce a disproportionately large amount of our revenues and profits. Due to this dependence on a limited number of franchises, the failure to achieve anticipated results by one or more products based on these franchises may significantly harm our business and financial results.
Sales of certain titles such as Guitar Hero are affected by hardware peripheral availability, which increases our exposure to imbalances between projected and actual demand.
Some of our titles involve one or more separate hardware peripherals, such as the guitar controller in Guitar Hero. Typically, we sell such software both in bundles with the hardware peripheral and on a stand-alone basis. Consumers may not want to buy such game software if they cannot also buy the hardware peripheral. If we underestimate demand or otherwise are unable to produce sufficient quantities of the hardware peripheral of an acceptable quality or allocate too few peripherals to geographic markets and hardware platforms where demand exceeds supply, we will forego revenue. This may also create greater opportunities for competitors to develop or gain market share with competitive product offerings.
In addition, if we overestimate demand and make too many peripherals, or allocate too many peripherals to geographic markets and hardware platforms where there is insufficient demand, we will incur unrecoverable manufacturing costs for unsold units as well as for unsold game software. In either case, hardware peripheral manufacturing and allocation decisions may negatively affect our financial performance.
The increasing importance and complexity of hardware peripherals in our business increases our exposure to hardware manufacturing and shipping risks, including availability of sufficient third-party manufacturing capacity, and increases in manufacturing and shipping costs.
A limited number of manufacturers are authorized by Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft to make the hardware peripherals for Guitar Hero, and the majority of those manufacturers are located in China. Anything that impacts the ability of those manufacturers to produce or otherwise supply the hardware peripherals for us or increases their costs of production, including the revocation of the first party license to produce the hardware, the utilization of such manufacturer's capacity by one of our competitors, natural disasters that disrupt manufacturing, transportation or communications, labor shortages, civil unrest or issues generally negatively impacting international companies operating in China, increases in the price of petroleum or other raw materials, increases in fuel prices and other shipping costs, and increases in local labor costs in China, may adversely impact our ability to supply those peripherals to the market and the prices we must pay for those peripherals, and therefore our financial performance. Additionally, the increasing complexity and expense of these hardware peripherals increases the risk of production delays or product defects.
Our sales may decline substantially without warning and in a brief period of time because a substantial portion of our sales are made to a relatively small number of key customers and because we do not have long-term contracts for the sale of our products.
In the U.S. and Canada, Activision has primarily sold its products on a direct basis to mass-market retailers, consumer electronics stores, discount warehouses, and game specialty stores. Activision products are sold internationally on a direct-to-retail basis, through third-party distribution and licensing arrangements and through our wholly-owned European distribution subsidiaries. Activision's sales are made primarily on a purchase order basis without long-term agreements or other forms of commitments. Activision's largest customers, Wal-Mart and GameStop, accounted for approximately 20% and 22%, respectively, of Activision's net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2008. The loss of, or significant reduction in sales to, any of Activision's principal retail customers or distributors could significantly harm our business and financial results. The concentration of sales in a small number of large customers also could make us more vulnerable to collection risk if one or more of these large customers became unable to pay for our products or sought protection under the bankruptcy laws. In addition, having such a large portion of our total net revenue concentrated in a few customers reduces our negotiating leverage with these customers.
We may not be able to maintain our distribution relationships with key vendors and customers.
Our CD Contact, NBG, and Centresoft subsidiaries distribute interactive entertainment software and hardware products and provide related services in the Benelux countries, Germany, and the UK, respectively, and via export in other European countries for a variety of entertainment software publishers, many of which are our competitors, and hardware manufacturers. From time to time, they also maintain exclusive relationships to serve certain retail customers. These services are generally performed subject to limited-term arrangements. Although we expect to use reasonable efforts to retain these vendors and retail customer relationships, we may not be successful in this regard. The cancellation or non-renewal of one or more of these arrangements could adversely affect our business and financial results.
As online functionality has become an increasingly important feature of our software products, we may need to defer the recognition of an increasing amount of revenue, which may adversely affect the net revenue, net income and earnings per share that we will report under GAAP.
As online functionality has become a more important component of gameplay, an increasing number of our online-enabled games contain a more-than-inconsequential separate service deliverable in addition to the product, and our performance obligations for these games extend beyond the sale of the games. Vendor-specific objective evidence of fair value does not exist for the online services, as we do not plan to separately charge for this component of online-enabled games. As a result, we recognize revenues from the sale of certain online-enabled games for certain platforms ratably over an estimated service period. In addition, we defer the costs of sales of those titles. This has an adverse effect on the revenue, net income and earnings per share that we report under GAAP. If we are required to recognize a greater portion of the revenue of a sale after shipment, or if we are required to recognize revenue over a longer service period, there may be an adverse effect on our reported net revenue, net income and earnings per share under GAAP.
A substantial portion of our revenue and profitability will depend on the subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game category. If we do not maintain our leadership position in this category, our financial results could suffer.
Activision Blizzard is the leading global developer, publisher and distributor in terms of subscriber base and revenues in the subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game ("MMORPG") category, due to the popularity of World of Warcraft and related expansion packs. Subscription revenues from this game comprise a significant portion of our consolidated revenues. To remain the leader in the MMORPG category, it is important that we continue to refresh World of Warcraft or develop new MMORPG products that are favorably received by our existing customer base and new customers. A number of software publishers have developed and commercialized or are currently developing online games for use by consumers over the Internet which pose a threat to the popularity of World of Warcraft, and we expect new competitors to continue to emerge in the MMORPG category. If consumer demand for World of Warcraft games declines and we have not introduced new MMORPG or other products that replace World of Warcraft's potentially decreasing revenue, or added other sources of revenue, our financial condition could suffer. Additionally, if new technologies are developed that replace MMORPG games, if consumer preferences trend away from MMORPG games or if new business models emerge that offer online subscriptions for free or at a substantial discount to current MMORPG subscription fees, our revenue and profitability may decline.
The development of MMORPG products requires substantial up-front expenditures. We may not be able to recover development costs for our future MMORPG products.
Consumer preferences for games are usually cyclical and difficult to predict, and even the most successful titles remain popular for only limited periods of time, unless refreshed with new content. In
order to remain competitive in the MMORPG market, we must continuously develop new products and enhancements to existing products. Because of the significant complexity of MMORPG games, these products require a longer development time and are more expensive to create than traditional console game products. In addition, the long lead time involved in developing a MMORPG product and the significant allocation of financial resources that each product requires means it is critical that we accurately predict consumer demand for new MMORPG products. If future MMORPG products do not achieve expected market acceptance or generate sufficient sales and subscription revenues upon introduction, we may not be able to recover the development and marketing costs associated with new products, and our financial results could suffer.
A substantial portion of Activision Blizzard's revenues is derived from subscriptions paid by World of Warcraft subscribers. If these customers cancel their subscriptions, our results of operations may suffer.
A substantial portion of our revenues is generated by subscription fees paid by consumers who play World of Warcraft. Typically, World of Warcraft subscribers purchase one to three month memberships that are cancelable, without penalty, at the end of the membership period. If World of Warcraft subscribers become dissatisfied, they may chose not to renew their memberships in order to engage in other forms of entertainment (including competing MMORPG offerings) and we may not be able to replace lost subscribers. Additionally, if general economic conditions deteriorate further, consumers may decrease their discretionary spending on entertainment items such as MMORPG games and users may choose not to renew their World of Warcraft subscriptions. A decrease in the overall subscription base of World of Warcraft could substantially harm our operating results.
We depend on servers to operate our MMORPG business. If we were to lose server capacity, for any reason, our business could suffer.
Our business relies on the continuous operation of our data servers. Any broad based catastrophic server malfunction, a significant intrusion by hackers that circumvents our security measures, or a failure of our disaster recovery service would likely interrupt the operation of our MMORPG games and could result in the loss of subscription-based sales. An extended interruption of service could harm our reputation and operating results.
We must project our future server needs and make advance purchases of servers to accommodate expected business demands. If we underestimate the amount of server capacity our business requires or if our business were to grow more quickly than expected, our customers may experience service problems, such as slow or interrupted gaming access. Insufficient server capacity may result in our experiencing decreased sales, a loss of our customer base, and adverse consequences to our reputation. Conversely, if we overestimate the amount of server capacity required by our business, we may incur additional operating costs that would adversely affect our operating margins.
We may not accurately predict the amount of Internet bandwidth necessary to sustain our online gaming businesses.
Our online gaming businesses are dependent on the availability of sufficient Internet bandwidth. An increase in the price of bandwidth could have an adverse effect on operating margins since we may not be able to increase our prices or subscriber levels to compensate for such costs. Because of the importance of our MMORPG business to our revenues and results of operations, our ability to access adequate bandwidth to support our business is critical. To secure bandwidth access, we have entered into arrangements with several bandwidth providers and entered into long-term contracts with some of them to secure future bandwidth capacity. If the price of bandwidth were to decrease, our contractual commitments to pay higher prices could affect our ability to compete with other video game producers.
Conversely, because we purchase additional bandwidth based on anticipated growth, our bandwidth capacity is sometimes larger than necessary to sustain our existing needs. If our projected online business growth is delayed or does not occur, we will incur larger bandwidth expenses than necessary. If we underestimate the amount of bandwidth that our online business requires, and our purchased bandwidth capacity is insufficient to meet demand, our business and reputation may suffer.
Our results of operations or reputation may be harmed as a result of offensive consumer posted content.
We are subject to risks associated with World of Warcraft's collaborative online features, specifically our online chat feature. Consumers may post narrative comment, in real time, onto World of Warcraft's gaming sites that is visible to other users. Despite our efforts to police and restrict inappropriate consumer content, from time to time objectionable and offensive consumer content may be posted to a World of Warcraft's gaming site. We may be subject to lawsuits, governmental regulation or restrictions, and consumer backlash (including decreased sales and harmed reputation), as a result of consumers posting offensive content, any of which could harm our operating results.
A substantial portion of World of Warcraft's subscribers pays their subscription fees using credit cards. Credit card fraud could have a negative impact on our business and operating results.
A substantial portion of the subscription revenue generated by World of Warcraft is paid by subscribers using credit cards. At times, there may be attempts to use fraudulently obtained credit card numbers to pay for World of Warcraft upgrades or subscriptions. Additionally, the credit card numbers of World of Warcraft's subscribers are maintained in a proprietary database that may be compromised internally or externally by fraudulent maneuvers. As fraudulent schemes become more sophisticated, it may become more difficult and more costly for us to detect credit card fraud and protect subscriber information. An increase in credit card fraud could have an adverse effect on our business and operating results.
The future success of our business depends on our ability to release popular products.
The life of any one console or hand-held game product is relatively short and generally involves a relatively high level of sales during the first few months after introduction followed by a rapid decline in sales. Because revenues associated with an initial product launch generally constitute a high percentage of the total revenues associated with the life of a product, delays in product releases or disruptions following the commercial release of one or more new products could have an adverse effect on our operating results and cause our operating results to be materially different from expectations. It is therefore important for us to be able to continue to develop many high quality new products that are popularly received. We focus our development and publishing activities principally on products that are, or have the potential to become, franchise brand properties. If we are unable to continue to develop many high quality new products that are popularly received, our business and financial results may be negatively affected.
Our business is "hit" driven. If we do not deliver "hit" titles, or if consumers prefer competing products, our sales could suffer.
While many new products are regularly introduced, only a relatively small number of "hit" titles account for a significant portion of net revenue. Competitors may develop titles that imitate or compete with our "hit" titles, and take sales away from them or reduce our ability to command premium prices for those titles. "Hit" products published by our competitors may take a larger share of consumer spending than anticipated, which could cause our product sales to fall below expectations. If our competitors develop more successful products or offer competitive products at lower prices, or if we do not continue to develop consistently high-quality and well received products, our revenues, margins, and profitability could decline.
If we are unable to maintain or acquire licenses to intellectual property, we may publish fewer "hit" titles and revenues may decline.
Some of our products are based on intellectual property and other character or story rights acquired or licensed from third parties. These license and distribution agreements are limited in scope and time, and we may not be able to renew key licenses when they expire or to include new products in existing licenses. Our loss of a significant number of intellectual property licenses or relationships with licensors, or inability to obtain additional licenses of significant commercial value could have an adverse effect on our ability to develop new products and therefore on our business and financial results. Additionally, the failure of intellectual property acquired by us to be popularly received could impact the market acceptance of those products in which the intellectual property is included. Such lack of market acceptance could result in the write-off of the unrecovered portion of acquired intellectual property assets, which could harm our business and financial results. Furthermore, the competition for these licenses and distribution agreements is often intense. Competition for these licenses may also increase the advances, guarantees, and royalties that must be paid to the licensor.
The interactive entertainment industry is highly competitive and competitors may succeed in reducing our market share and sales.
We compete with other publishers of PC and video game console interactive entertainment software and peripherals. Those competitors vary in size from small companies with limited resources to very large corporations with significantly greater financial, marketing, and product development resources than we have. For example, integrated video game console hardware and software companies such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft compete directly with us in the development of software titles for their respective platforms. Certain of these competitors may spend more money and time on developing and testing products, undertake more extensive marketing campaigns, adopt more aggressive pricing policies, pay higher fees to licensors for desirable motion picture, television, sports, music and character properties, and pay more to third-party software developers than we do. Further, certain major media companies, such as Disney and Time Warner, who have been investing in the videogame products, have increased the competition within the industry.
We also compete with other forms of entertainment and leisure activities. For example, the overall growth in the use of the Internet and online services by consumers may pose a competitive threat if customers and potential customers spend less of their available time using interactive entertainment software and more using the Internet and online services. A number of software publishers who compete with us have developed and commercialized or are currently developing online games for use by consumers over the Internet. Future increased consumer acceptance and increases in the availability of online games or technological advances in online game software or the Internet could result in a decline in platform-based software and negatively impact sales of our console and hand-held products. Newer technological advances in online game software may also render products such as World of Warcraft obsolete. Direct sales of software over the Internet by competitors could adversely affect our distribution business as well.
Competition in the interactive entertainment industry is intense and we expect new competitors to continue to emerge.
Our business is subject to the risks and uncertainties of international trade.
We conduct business throughout the world, and we derive a substantial amount of revenue from international trade, particularly from Europe, Australia, and Asia. We expect that international revenues will continue to account for a significant portion of total revenues in the future. We are subject to risks inherent in foreign trade, including increased tariffs and duties, fluctuations in currency exchange rates, shipping delays, increases in transportation costs, increases in local labor costs in
overseas locations where our hardware peripherals are manufactured, and international political, regulatory and economic developments, all of which may impact operating margins or make it more difficult, if not impossible, for us to conduct business in foreign markets.
For example, a deterioration in relations between the U.S. and any country in which we have significant operations or sales, including China in particular, could result in the adoption or expansion of trade restrictions that harm our business and operating results as could the implementation of government regulations in a country where we have significant operations or sales. For example, to operate in China, World of Warcraft must have a publishing number. A decision by the Chinese government to revoke this number would adversely impact our operating results. A publishing number will also be required to sell the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack in China. A decision by the Chinese government to decline to grant a number for this or other future products would adversely impact our operating results. Additionally, in the past, legislation has been implemented in China that has required modifications to the World of Warcraft software. The future implementation of similar laws may require engineering modifications to our products that are not cost-effective, if even feasible at all or could degrade the customer experience to the point where customers ceased to purchase such products.
Further, if government regulations or restrictions prevent us from repatriating internationally derived revenue into the U.S., or a country's tax structure makes repatriation prohibitively expensive, we may not transfer such revenue into the U.S., which could affect our ability to reinvest or utilize such amounts in our business.
In addition, cultural differences may affect consumer preferences and limit the popularity of titles that are "hits" in the U.S. If we do not correctly assess consumer preferences in the countries in our market, our sales and revenue may be lower than expected.
We rely on independent third parties to develop some of our software products.
We rely on independent third-party software developers to develop some of our software products. Because we depend on these developers, we are subject to the following risks:
Increased competition for skilled third-party software developers also has compelled us to agree to make significant advance payments on royalties to game developers. If the products subject to these arrangements do not generate sufficient revenues to recover these royalty advances, we would have to write-off unrecovered portions of these payments, which could harm our business and financial results. Typically, we pay developers a royalty based on a percentage of net revenues from product sales, less agreed upon deductions, but from time to time, we have agreed to pay developers fixed per unit product royalties after royalty advances are fully recouped. To the extent that sales prices of products on which we have agreed to pay a fixed per unit royalty are marked down, our profitability could be adversely affected.
Our platform licensors set the royalty rates and other fees that must be paid to publish games for their platforms, and therefore have significant influence on our costs.
We pay a licensing fee to the hardware manufacturer for each copy of a product manufactured for that manufacturer's game platform. In order to publish products for new hardware platforms, we must take a license from the platform licensor which gives the platform licensor the opportunity to set the fee structure that we must pay in order to publish games for that platform. Similarly, the platform licensors have retained the flexibility to change their fee structures for online gameplay and features for their consoles and the manufacturing of products. The control that platform licensors have over the fee structures for their platforms and online access makes it difficult for us to predict our costs and profitability in the medium to long term. It is also possible that platform licensors will not renew our existing licenses. Any increase in fee structures or nonrenewal of licenses could have a significant negative impact on our business models and profitability, particularly for Activision Publishing, as the publishing of products for console systems is the largest portion of Activision Publishing's business.
Our business is highly dependent on the success, timely release and availability of new video game platforms, on the continued availability of existing video game platforms, as well as our ability to develop commercially successful products for these platforms.
We derive a substantial portion of our revenue from the sale of products for play on video game platforms manufactured by third parties, such as Sony's PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii and NDS. The success of our business is driven in large part by the availability of an adequate supply of these video game platforms, our ability to accurately predict which platforms will be successful in the marketplace, and our ability to develop commercially successful products for these platforms. We must make product development decisions and commit significant resources well in advance of the anticipated introduction of a new platform. A new platform for which we are developing products may be delayed, may not succeed or may have a shorter life cycle than anticipated. Alternatively, a platform for which we have not devoted significant resources could be more successful than initially anticipated, causing us to miss a meaningful revenue opportunity. Additionally, if the platforms for which we are developing products are not released when anticipated, are not available in adequate quantities to meet consumer demand, or do not attain wide market acceptance, our revenues may suffer, we may be unable to fully recover our investment in developing those products, and our financial performance may be harmed.
Transitions in console platforms could adversely affect the market for interactive entertainment software.
In 2005, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 and, in 2006, Sony and Nintendo introduced the PlayStation 3 and Wii. When new console platforms are announced or introduced into the market, consumers typically reduce their purchases of game console entertainment software products for current console platforms in anticipation of new platforms becoming available. During these periods, sales of game console entertainment software products published by us may be expected to slow or even decline until new platforms are introduced and achieve wide consumer acceptance. This decline may not be offset by increased sales of products for the new console platforms. As console hardware moves through its life cycle, hardware manufacturers typically enact price reductions and decreasing prices may put downward pressure on software prices. During platform transitions, we may simultaneously incur costs both in continuing to develop and market new titles for prior-generation video game platforms, which may not sell at premium prices, and also in developing products for next-generation platforms, which will not generate immediate or near-term revenue. As a result, our operating results during platform transitions may be more volatile and more difficult to predict than during other times, and such volatility may cause greater fluctuations in our stock price.
We must make significant expenditures to develop products for new platforms which may not be successful.
We must make substantial product development and other investments in a particular platform well in advance of introduction of the platform and may be required to realign our product portfolio and development efforts in response to market changes. Furthermore, development costs for new console platforms are greater than such costs for current console platforms. If increased costs are not offset by higher revenues and other cost efficiencies, operating results will suffer and our financial position will be harmed. If the platforms for which we develop new software products or modify existing products do not attain significant market penetration, we may not be able to recover our development costs, which could be significant, and our business and financial results could be significantly harmed.
If the average price of prior-generation titles continues to decline or if we are unable to sustain launch pricing on next-generation titles, our operating results will suffer.
We have experienced a decrease in the average price of titles for prior-generation platforms. With the transition of the interactive entertainment software industry to next-generation video game platforms, fewer prior-generation titles are able to command premium prices, and we expect that even those titles that can do so will be subject to price reductions at an earlier point in their sales cycle than was the case with prior platform transitions. We expect the average price of prior-generation titles to continue to be under pressure, which may have a negative effect on our margins and operating results.
Next-generation titles for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Wii have been offered at premium retail prices since the launch of such consoles. We expect to continue to price next-generation titles at a premium level, but if we are unable to sustain launch pricing on these next-generation titles we may experience a negative effect on our margins and operating results.
Platform licensors are our chief competitors and frequently control the manufacturing of and have broad approval rights over our console and hand-held video game products.
Generally, when we develop interactive entertainment software products for hardware platforms offered by Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft, the products are manufactured exclusively by that hardware manufacturer or their approved replicator.
The agreements with these manufacturers include certain provisions, such as approval rights over all software products and related hardware peripherals and promotional materials and the ability to change the fee they charge for the manufacturing of products, which allow them substantial influence over the cost and the release schedule of such interactive entertainment software products. In addition, because each of the manufacturers is also a publisher of games for its own hardware platforms and manufactures products for all of its other licensees, a manufacturer may give priority to its own products or those of our competitors in the event of insufficient manufacturing capacity. Accordingly, Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft could cause unanticipated delays in the release of our products as well as increases to projected development, manufacturing, marketing, or distribution costs, which could harm our business and financial results.
In addition, platform licensors control our ability to provide online game capabilities for console platform products and in large part establish the financial terms on which these services are offered to consumers. Currently, Microsoft provides online capabilities for the Xbox 360 and Sony provides online capabilities for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 products. In each case, compatibility code and/or the consent of the licensor are required for us to include online capabilities in its console products. As these capabilities become more significant, the failure or refusal of licensors to approve our products may harm our business and financial results.
Our market is subject to rapid technological change, and if we do not adapt to, and appropriately allocate our new resources among, emerging technologies, our revenues would be negatively affected.
Technology changes rapidly in the interactive entertainment industry. We must continually anticipate and adapt our products to emerging technologies. When we choose to incorporate a new technology into a product or to develop a product for a new platform, operating system or media format, we often are required to make a substantial investment one to two years prior to the introduction of the product. If we invest in the development of video games incorporating a new technology or for a new platform that does not achieve significant commercial success, our revenues from those products likely will be lower than we anticipated and may not cover our development costs. If, on the other hand, we elect not to pursue the development of products incorporating a new technology or for new platforms that achieve significant commercial success, our revenues would also be adversely affected, and it may take significant time and resources to shift product development resources to that technology or platform. Any such failure to adapt to, and appropriately allocate resources among, emerging technologies would harm our competitive position, reduce our market share and significantly increase the time we take to bring popular products to market.
We may face difficulty obtaining access to retail shelf space necessary to market and sell our products effectively.
Retailers typically have a limited amount of shelf space and promotional resources, and there is intense competition among consumer interactive entertainment software products for high quality retail shelf space and promotional support from retailers. To the extent that the number of products and platforms increases, competition for shelf space may intensify and may require us to increase our marketing expenditures. Retailers with limited shelf space typically devote the most and highest quality shelf space to those products expected to be best sellers. We cannot be certain that our new products will consistently achieve such "best seller" status. Due to increased competition for limited shelf space, retailers and distributors are in an increasingly better position to negotiate favorable terms of sale, including price discounts, price protection, marketing and display fees, and product return policies. Our products constitute a relatively small percentage of most retailers' sales volume. We cannot be certain that retailers will continue to purchase our products or to provide those products with adequate levels of shelf space and promotional support on acceptable terms. A prolonged failure in this regard may significantly harm our business and financial results.
Our products may be subject to legal claims.
In prior fiscal years, at least two lawsuits have been filed against numerous video game companies, including against Activision, by the families of victims who were shot and killed by teenage gunmen in attacks perpetrated at schools. These lawsuits alleged that the video game companies manufactured and/or supplied these teenagers with violent video games, teaching them how to use a gun and causing them to act out in a violent manner. These lawsuits have been dismissed. Similar additional lawsuits may be filed in the future. Although, with respect to the prior lawsuits of this nature against us, our general liability insurance carrier agreed to defend such suits, it is uncertain whether insurance carriers would do so in the future, or if such insurance carriers would cover all or any amounts for which we might be liable if such future lawsuits are not decided in our favor. If such future lawsuits are filed and ultimately decided against us and the relevant insurance carrier does not cover the amounts for which we may be liable, it could have an adverse effect on our business and financial results. Payment of significant claims by insurance carriers may make such insurance coverage materially more expensive or unavailable in the future, thereby exposing us to additional risk.
If our products contain defects, our business could be harmed significantly.
Software products and hardware peripherals as complex as the ones published and distributed by us may contain undetected errors and defects. This risk is often higher when such products or peripherals are first introduced or when new versions are released. Failure to avoid, or to timely detect and correct, such errors or defects could result in loss of, or delay in, market acceptance, and could significantly harm our business, financial results, and reputation.
We may permit our customers to return products and to receive pricing concessions which could reduce net revenues and results of operations.
We are exposed to the risk of product returns and price protection with respect to our distributors and retailers. Return policies allow distributors and retailers to return defective, shelf-worn, and damaged products in accordance with terms granted. Price protection, when granted and applicable, allows customers a credit against amounts owed with respect to merchandise unsold by them. We may permit product returns from, or grant price protection to, our customers under certain conditions. These conditions include compliance with applicable payment terms, delivery of weekly inventory and sell-through reports, and consistent participation in the launches of premium title releases. We may also consider other factors, including the facilitation of slow-moving inventory and other market factors. When we offer price protection, it is offered with respect to a particular product to all of our retail customers (although only customers who meet the conditions detailed above are entitled to such price protection). Activision also offers a 90-day limited warranty to its end users that Activision products will be free from manufacturing defects. Although we maintain a reserve for returns and price protection, and although we may place limits on product returns and price protection, we could be forced to accept substantial product returns and provide substantial price protection to maintain our relationships with retailers and our access to distribution channels. Product returns and price protection that exceed reserves could significantly harm our business and financial results.
Our business is subject to risks generally associated with the entertainment industry, any of which could significantly harm our operating results.
Our business is subject to risks that are generally associated with the entertainment industry, including the popularity, price and timing of the release of our games and the platforms on which they are played, economic conditions that adversely affect discretionary consumer spending, changes in consumer demographics, the availability and popularity of other forms of entertainment, and critical reviews and public tastes and preferences, which may change rapidly and cannot necessarily be predicted. Many of these risks are beyond our control. These risks could negatively impact our business and financial results.
We are exposed to seasonality in the sale of our products.
The interactive entertainment industry is highly seasonal, with the highest levels of consumer demand occurring during the calendar year end holiday buying season. As a result, net revenues, gross profits, and operating income have historically been highest during the second half of the calendar year. Receivables and credit risk are likewise higher during the second half of the calendar year as customers stock up on our products for the holiday season. Further, delays in development, licensor approvals, or manufacturing can also affect the timing of the release of products, causing us to miss key selling periods such as the calendar year end holiday buying season.
We may not be able to adequately adjust our cost structures in a timely fashion in response to a sudden decrease in demand.
A significant portion of our selling and general and administrative expense is comprised of personnel and facilities. In the event of a significant decline in revenues, we may not be able to exit facilities, reduce personnel, or make other changes to our cost structures without disruption to operations or without significant termination and exit costs. Management may not be able to implement such actions in a timely manner, if at all, to offset an immediate shortfall in revenues and profit.
If we do not continue to attract and retain key personnel, we will be unable to effectively conduct our business.
Our success depends to a significant extent on our ability to identify, hire, and retain skilled personnel. The software industry is characterized by a high level of employee mobility and aggressive recruiting among competitors for personnel with technical, marketing, sales, product development, and management skills. We may have difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled personnel or may incur significant costs in order to do so. If we are unable to attract additional qualified employees or retain the services of key personnel, our business and financial results could be negatively impacted.
Our products are subject to the threat of piracy and unauthorized copying, and inadequate intellectual property laws and other protections could prevent us from enforcing or defending our proprietary technologies. We may also face legal risks arising out of user-generated content.
We regard our software as proprietary and rely on a combination of copyright, patent, trademark and trade secret laws, employee and third-party nondisclosure agreements, and other methods to protect our proprietary rights. We own or license various copyrights, patents, and trademarks. We are aware that some unauthorized copying occurs, and if a significantly greater amount of unauthorized copying of our software products were to occur, it could cause harm to our business and financial results.
Policing unauthorized use of our products is difficult, and software piracy is a persistent problem, especially in certain countries. Further, the laws of some countries where our products are or may be distributed either do not protect their products and intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the U.S., or are poorly enforced. Legal protection of our rights may be ineffective in such countries. In addition, though we take steps to make the unauthorized copying and distribution of our products more difficult, as do the manufacturers of consoles on which some of those games (and a majority of those games published by Activision) are played, our efforts and the efforts of the console manufacturers may not be successful in controlling the piracy of our products. Organized pirate operations have been expanding globally. In addition, the proliferation of technology designed to circumvent the protection measures used in our products, the availability of broadband access to the Internet, the ability to download pirated copies of games from various Internet sites and peer-to-peer networks, and the widespread proliferation of Internet cafes using pirated copies of our products all have contributed to an expansion in piracy. This could have a negative effect on our growth and profitability in the future.
Moreover, as we leverage our software products using technologies such as the Internet and online services, and as user-generated content increases, our ability to protect our intellectual property rights and to avoid infringing intellectual property rights of others may diminish. We cannot be certain that existing intellectual property laws will provide adequate protection for our products in connection with these emerging technologies.
Data breaches involving the source code for our products or customer or employee data stored by us could adversely affect our reputation and revenues.
We store the source code and game assets for our interactive entertainment software products as created. In addition, we store confidential information with respect to our customers and employees. A breach of the systems on which such source code and assets, account information (including personally identifiable information) and other sensitive data is stored could lead to piracy of our software or fraudulent activity resulting in claims and lawsuits against us in connection with data security breaches. A data intrusion into World of Warcraft servers could also disrupt the operation of World of Warcraft. If we are subject to data security breaches, we may have a loss in sales or be forced to pay damages or other amounts, which could adversely affect profitability. In addition, any damage to our reputation resulting from a data breach could have an adverse impact on our revenues and future growth prospects, or increased costs arising from the implementation of additional security measures.
We may be subject to intellectual property claims.
As the number of interactive entertainment software products increases and the features and content of these products continue to overlap, software developers increasingly may become subject to infringement claims. Many of our products are highly realistic and feature materials that are based on real world examples, which may be the subject of intellectual property infringement claims of others. In addition, our products often utilize complex, cutting edge technology that may become subject to emerging intellectual property rights of others. Although we take steps to avoid knowingly violating the intellectual property rights of others, it is possible that third parties still may claim infringement. From time to time, we receive communications from third parties regarding such claims. Existing or future infringement claims against us, whether valid or not, may be time consuming, distracting to management and expensive to defend.
Intellectual property litigation or claims could force us to do one or more of the following:
Any of these actions may harm our business and financial results.
Our products are subject to ratings by the Entertainment Software Rating Board and similar agencies. Our failure to obtain our target ratings for our products could negatively impact our sales.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (the "ESRB") is a self-regulatory body in the U.S. that provides consumers of interactive entertainment software with ratings information, including information relating to violence, nudity, or sexual content contained in software titles. Certain countries other than the U.S. have also established similar rating systems as prerequisites for product sales in those countries. In some instances, a company may be required to modify its products to comply with the requirements of the rating systems, which could delay or disrupt the release of any given product, or may prevent its sale altogether in certain territories. The relevant ESRB ratings include "Everyone" (age 6 and older), "Everyone 10+" (age 10 and older), "Teen" (age 13 and over), or "Mature" (age 17 and over). Certain of our titles have received a "Mature" rating. None of our titles has received the "Adults Only" rating (18 and over). If we are unable to obtain the ratings we have targeted for our
products as a result of changes in the ESRB's ratings standards or for other reasons, including the adoption of legislation in this area, our business and prospects could be negatively affected.
Our business, products, and distribution are subject to increasing regulation of content in key territories. If we do not successfully respond to these regulations, our business may suffer.
Legislation is continually being introduced that may affect both the content and the distribution of our products. For example, privacy laws in the U.S and Europe impose various restrictions on the collection, storage and use of personal information. Those laws and regulations vary by territory. In addition, many foreign countries have laws that permit governmental entities to censor the content and/or advertising of interactive entertainment software. Other countries, such as Germany, prohibit certain types of content.
In the U.S, numerous laws have been introduced at the federal and state level which attempt to restrict the content of games or the distribution of such products. For example, legislation has been adopted in several states, and proposed at the federal level, that prohibits the sale of certain games (e.g., violent games or those with "M (Mature)" or "AO (Adults Only)" ratings) to minors. In addition, a number of state legislative bodies in states such as Illinois, California, Michigan, and Washington have introduced various forms of legislation designed to regulate and control sales of video games deemed inappropriate for sales to minors. Some argue that there is a link between video games and violence, which may lead to increased pressure for legislative activity. To date, most courts that have ruled on such legislation have ruled in a manner favorable to the interactive entertainment industry. But in the event such legislation is adopted and enforced, the sales of our products may be harmed because the products we are able to offer to our customers and the size of the potential market for our products may be limited. We may also be required to modify certain products or alter our marketing strategies to comply with new and possibly inconsistent regulations, which could be costly or delay the release of our products.
If one or more of our titles were found to contain objectionable undisclosed content, our business could suffer.
Throughout the history of the interactive entertainment industry, many video games have been designed to include certain hidden content and gameplay features that are accessible through the use of in-game cheat codes or other technological means that are intended to enhance the gameplay experience. However, in some cases, objectionable undisclosed content or features have been found in other publishers' interactive entertainment software products. In a few cases, the ESRB has reacted to discoveries of undisclosed content and features by changing the rating that was originally assigned to the product, requiring the publisher to change the game and/or game packaging and/or fining the publisher. Retailers have on occasion reacted to the discovery of such undisclosed content by removing these games from their shelves, refusing to sell them, and demanding that their publishers accept them as product returns. Likewise, some interactive entertainment software consumers have reacted to the revelation of undisclosed content by refusing to purchase such games, demanding refunds for games they have already purchased, refraining from buying other games published by the company whose game contained the objectionable material, and, on at least one occasion, filing a lawsuit against the publisher of the product containing such content.
We have implemented preventive measures designed to reduce the possibility of objectionable undisclosed content from appearing in the video games we publish. Nonetheless, these preventive measures are subject to human error, circumvention, overriding, and reasonable resource constraints. If a video game we published were found to contain undisclosed content, we could be subject to any of these consequences and our reputation could be harmed, which could have a negative impact on our operating results and financial condition, and our business and financial performance could be significantly harmed.
We engage in acquisitions, and may encounter difficulties in integrating these businesses and therefore we may not realize the anticipated benefits of the acquisitions.
As part of our business strategy we, from time to time, acquire complementary companies or businesses, enter into strategic alliances and joint ventures and make investments to further our business. In the past several years, we have made various acquisitions and entered into joint venture arrangements intended to complement or expand our business, and may continue to do so in the future. The success of these transactions will depend on our ability to integrate assets and personnel acquired in these transactions and to cooperate with our strategic partners. We may encounter difficulties in integrating acquisitions with our operations, and in managing strategic investments. Furthermore, we may not realize the degree, or timing, of benefits we anticipate when we first enter into a transaction. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our involvement in joint ventures decreases our ability to manage risk.
We conduct many of our operations through joint ventures in which we share control with our joint venture partners. Although we often enter into joint venture arrangements in order to share risks with our joint venture partners, these arrangements may decrease our ability to manage risk. As with any joint venture arrangement, differences in views among the joint venture participants may result in delayed decisions or in failures to agree on major issues. There is the risk that our joint venture partners may at any time have economic, business or legal interests or goals that are inconsistent with ours. There is also risk that our joint venture partners may be unable to meet their economic or other obligations and we may be required to fulfill those obligations alone. Failure by us, or an entity in which we have a joint venture interest, to adequately manage the risks associated with any joint ventures could have an adverse effect on the financial condition or results of operations of our joint ventures and, in turn, our business and operations.
We anticipate entering into additional joint ventures with other entities. We cannot assure that we will undertake such joint ventures or, if undertaken, that such joint ventures will be successful or produce the anticipated benefits.
Historically, our stock price has been highly volatile.
The trading price of our common stock has been and could continue to be subject to wide fluctuations in response to many factors, including for example, but without limitation:
In addition, the public stock markets have been experiencing extreme price and trading volume volatility. This volatility has significantly affected the market prices of securities of many technology companies for reasons often unrelated to the operating performance of the specific companies. These broad market fluctuations may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
Subject to certain limitations, Vivendi may sell common stock at any time, which could cause our stock price to decrease.
Vivendi may sell the shares of our stock that it owns, including pursuant to a registered underwritten public offering under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), or in accordance with Rule 144 under the Securities Act. We have entered into an investor agreement with Vivendi, which includes registration rights and which gives Vivendi the right to require us to register all or a portion of its shares at any time, subject to certain limitations. The sale of a substantial number of shares of common stock by Vivendi within a short period of time could cause our stock price to decrease, and make it more difficult for us to raise funds through future offerings of common stock.
Integrating and maintaining internal controls for the combined business may strain our resources and divert management's attention. If we fail to establish and maintain proper internal controls, our ability to produce accurate financial statements or comply with applicable regulations could be impaired.
Prior to the consummation of the Business Combination, Vivendi Games was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivendi and not subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the rules and regulations of any stock exchange. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Vivendi Games will be subject to such rules and regulations. Prior to the consummation of the Business Combination, as described in Item 9A of this Form 10-K, it was determined that Vivendi Games had material weaknesses in its internal control over financial reporting. Integrating and maintaining appropriate internal controls and procedures for the combined business will require specific compliance training of certain officers and employees, will entail substantial costs in order to modify existing accounting systems, and will take a significant period of time to complete.
We are currently in the process of incorporating the internal controls and procedures of Vivendi Games into our internal control over financial reporting, and we expect to be able to perform an assessment of and report on internal control over financial reporting for the year ending December 31, 2009. We may not, however, be efficient in establishing the adequacy of internal controls, and any failure to maintain that adequacy, or consequent inability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis, could increase our operating costs and could impair our ability to operate the business. In the event that we are not able to demonstrate compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in a timely manner, or that our internal controls are perceived as inadequate, or that we are unable to produce timely or accurate financial statements, investors may lose confidence in our operating results and our stock price could decline.
Changes in tax rates or exposure to additional tax liabilities could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
We are subject to income taxes in the U.S. and in various other jurisdictions. Significant judgment is required in determining our worldwide provision for income taxes and, in the ordinary course of business, there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is
uncertain. We are required to estimate future taxes. Although we currently believe our tax estimates are reasonable, the estimate process is inherently uncertain, and such estimates are not binding on tax authorities. The effective tax rate could be adversely affected by changes in the business, including the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in tax elections, and changes in applicable tax laws, as well as other factors. Further, tax determinations are regularly subject to audit by tax authorities and developments in those audits could adversely affect our income tax provision. Should the ultimate tax liability exceed estimates, our income tax provision and net income could be adversely affected.
We are also required to pay taxes other than income taxes, such as payroll, sales, use, value-added, net worth, property, and goods and services taxes, in both the U.S. and various other jurisdictions. Tax authorities regularly examine these non-income taxes. There can be no assurance that the outcomes from these examinations, changes in the business or changes in applicable tax rules will not have an adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.
Our principal corporate and administrative offices are located in approximately 141,836 square feet of leased space in a building located at 3100 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica, California 90405. The following is a listing of the principal offices maintained by us:
Our publishing operations additionally lease facilities in Arkansas, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Canada for purposes of sales and branch offices. We anticipate no difficulty in extending these leases or obtaining comparable facilities in suitable locations and consider our facilities to be adequate for our current needs.
On February 8, 2008, the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System filed a lawsuit challenging the Business Combination in the Delaware Court of Chancery. The suit is a putative class action filed against the parties to the Business Combination Agreement as well as certain current and former members of our Board of Directors. The plaintiff alleges, among other things, that our current and former directors named therein failed to fulfill their fiduciary duties with regard to the Business Combination by "surrendering" the negotiating process to "conflicted management," that those breaches were aided and abetted by Vivendi and those of its subsidiaries named in the complaint, and that the preliminary proxy statement filed by the Company on January 31, 2008 contains certain statements that the plaintiff alleges are false and misleading. The plaintiff seeks an order from the court that, among other things, certifies the case as a class action, enjoins the Business Combination, requires the defendants to disclose all material information, declares that the Business Combination is in breach of the directors' fiduciary duties and therefore unlawful and unenforceable, awards the plaintiff and the putative class damages for all profits and special benefits obtained by the defendant in connection with the Business Combination and tender offer, and awards the plaintiff its cost and expense, including attorney's fees.
After various initial motions were filed and ruled upon, on May 8, 2008, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint that, among other things, added allegations relating to a revised preliminary proxy statement filed by the Company on April 30, 2008. Additional motions were then filed, including a motion for preliminary injunction filed by the plaintiff and a motion to dismiss filed by Vivendi and its subsidiaries. On June 14, 2008, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. On June 30, 2008, the court granted Vivendi and its subsidiaries' motion to dismiss, pursuant to a stipulation with the plaintiff, and on July 1, 2008, denied the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction.
On December 23, 2008, the plaintiff filed an amended motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The court granted the motion on January 14, 2009 and the second amended complaint was deemed filed on the same date. The second amended complaint asserts claims similar to the ones made in the original complaint, challenging Activision's Board of Directors' actions in connection with the negotiation and approval of the Business Combination, as well as disclosures made to our shareholders and certain amendments made to our certificate of incorporation in connection therewith. In addition, the second amended complaint asserts that Activision's Board of Directors breached its fiduciary duties in approving and recommending those amendments to the certificate of incorporation. Among other things, the plaintiff seeks certification of the action as a class action, a declaration that amendments made to the certificate of incorporation are invalid and unenforceable, a declaration that our directors breached their fiduciary duties, rescission of the Business Combination and related transactions, and damages, interest, fees and costs.
On February 13, 2009, the defendants filed their opening brief in support of their motion to dismiss all claims in the complaint. The plaintiff's opposition is due on March 31, 2009 and the Company's reply is due on April 30, 2009. No hearing date has yet been set on the motion to dismiss. The Company intends to continue to defend itself vigorously.
In addition, we are party to other routine claims and suits brought by us and against us in the ordinary course of business, including disputes arising over the ownership of intellectual property rights, contractual claims, employment laws, regulations and relationships, and collection matters. In the opinion of management, after consultation with legal counsel, the outcome of such routine claims and lawsuits will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, or liquidity.
Our common stock is quoted on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol "ATVI."
The following table sets forth for the periods indicated the high and low reported sale prices for our common stock. At February 19, 2009, there were 1,857 holders of record of our common stock. For periods prior to July 9, 2008, the reported prices are for shares of Activision, Inc. before completion of the Business Combination. In addition, in July 2008, the Board of Directors approved a two-for-one split of our outstanding common stock and the prices set forth below have been restated as if the split had occurred as of the earliest period presented.
Stock Performance Graph
This performance graph shall not be deemed "filed" for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that Section, and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any filing of Activision Blizzard Inc. under the Exchange Act or the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
The following graph compares the cumulative 69-month total return to shareholders on Activision Blizzard's common stock relative to the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite index and the RDG Technology Composite index. The graph assumes that the value of the investment in the Company's common stock and in each of the indexes (including reinvestment of dividends) was $100 on March 31, 2003 and tracks it through December 31, 2008.
For periods prior to July 9, 2008, the share price information for Activision Blizzard is for Activision, Inc. before completion of the Business Combination. In connection with the Business Combination, Activision, Inc. changed its fiscal year end from March 31 to December 31.
The stock price performance included in this graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
We have neither paid cash dividends in 2008 nor do we anticipate paying any cash dividends at any time in the foreseeable future. We expect that earnings will be retained for the continued growth and development of our business. Future dividends, if any, will depend upon our earnings, financial condition, cash requirements, future prospects, and other factors deemed relevant by our Board of Directors. Although Vivendi Games did not pay cash dividends in 2007 or 2006, Vivendi Games had net transfers to Vivendi of $340 million and $59 million for the years ended December 31, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Also, upon completion of the Business Combination on July 9, 2008, Vivendi Games returned $79 million of capital to Vivendi and distributed its excess cash on-hand, as defined in the Business Combination Agreement, of $79 million to Vivendi.
In July 2008, the Board of Directors approved a two-for-one split of our outstanding common stock effected in the form of a stock dividend ("the split"). The split was paid September 5, 2008 to shareholders of record as of August 25, 2008. The par value of our common stock was maintained at the pre-split amount of $.000001 per share. The Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes thereto, including all share and per share data, have been restated as if the split had occurred as of the earliest period presented.
Issuer Repurchase of Equity Securities (amounts in millions, except number of shares and per share data)
The following table provides the number of shares repurchased and average price paid per share during the quarter ended December 31, 2008, and the approximate dollar value of shares that may yet be purchased under our $1 billion stock repurchase program as of December 31, 2008.
On July 9, 2008, a business combination (the "Business Combination") by and among Activision, Inc., Sego Merger Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision, Inc., Vivendi S.A. ("Vivendi"), VGAC LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivendi S.A., and Vivendi Games, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of VGAC LLC, was consummated. As a result of the consummation of the Business Combination, Activision, Inc. was renamed Activision Blizzard, Inc. For accounting purposes, the Business Combination is treated as a "reverse acquisition," with Vivendi Games, Inc. deemed to be the acquirer. The historical financial statements of Activision Blizzard, Inc. prior to July 9, 2008 are those of Vivendi Games, Inc. (see Note 1 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K). Therefore, 2008 financial data is not comparable with prior periods.
The following table summarizes certain selected consolidated financial data, which should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes thereto and with Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included elsewhere in this Form 10-K. The selected consolidated financial data presented below at and for each of the years in the five-year period ended December 31, 2008 are derived from our Consolidated Financial Statements. All amounts set forth in the following tables are in millions, except per share data.
Activision Blizzard is a worldwide pure-play online, personal computer, console and hand-held game publisher. The terms "Activision Blizzard," the "Company," "we," "us," or "our" are used to refer collectively to the Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
Through Blizzard Entertainment, Inc ("Blizzard"), we are the leader in terms of subscriber base and revenues generated in the subscription-based MMORPG category. Blizzard internally develops and publishes PC-based computer games and maintains its proprietary online-game related service, Battle.net. Through Activision Publishing, Inc. ("Activision"), we are a leading international publisher of interactive software products and peripherals. Activision develops and publishes video games on various consoles, hand-held platforms and the PC platform through internally developed franchises and license agreements. Activision currently offers games that operate on the Sony Computer Entertainment ("Sony") PlayStation 2 ("PS2"), Sony PlayStation 3 ("PS3"), Nintendo Co. Ltd. ("Nintendo") Wii ("Wii"), and Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft") Xbox 360 ("Xbox 360") console systems; the Sony PlayStation Portable ("PSP") and Nintendo Dual Screen ("NDS") hand-held devices; and the PC.
Our Activision business involves the development, marketing, and sale of products directly, by license, or through our affiliate label program with certain third-party publishers. Activision's products cover diverse game categories including action/adventure, action sports, racing, role-playing, simulation, first-person action, music, and strategy. Activision's target customer base ranges from casual players to game enthusiasts, and children to adults. During 2008, Activision released Guitar Hero World Tour and Call of Duty: World at War, and continued to expand its licensed products with titles such as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, its first James Bond title, Quantum of Solace, and several other titles. Activision is currently developing sequels to the Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises, Wolfenstein through id Software, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion through Vicarious Visions, Prototype through Radical, and Singularity through Raven Software, and a yet to be named game for the racing genre, among other titles.
Our Blizzard business involves the development, marketing, sales and support of role playing action and strategy games. Blizzard also develops, hosts, and supports its online subscription-based games in the MMORPG category. Blizzard is the development studio and publisher best known as the creator of World of Warcraft and the multiple award winning Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft franchises. Blizzard distributes its products and generates revenues worldwide through various means, including: subscription revenues (which consist of fees from individuals playing World of Warcraft, such as prepaid-cards and other ancillary online revenues); retail sales of physical "boxed" products; electronic download sales of PC products; and licensing of software to third-party companies that distribute World of Warcraft in China and Taiwan. During 2008, Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion pack of World of Warcraft. Blizzard is currently developing new games, including sequels to the StarCraft and Diablo franchises.
Our distribution business consists of operations in Europe that provide warehousing, logistical, and sales distribution services to third-party publishers of interactive entertainment software, our own publishing operations, and manufacturers of interactive entertainment hardware.
Management's Overview of Business Trends
Activision's 2009 scheduled releasesWe expect to launch games based on proven franchises such as Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Transformers, Wolverine, Marvel, Tony Hawk, Wolfenstein, and Ice Age. Games scheduled for release during the quarter ended March 31, 2009 include Guitar Hero: Metallica
for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii in North America; Monsters vs. Aliens worldwide on multiple platforms; approximately 50 downloadable songs for Guitar Hero; and the first map pack for Call of Duty: World at War. The more notable games, among other titles, scheduled for release during 2009 include: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2; Wolverine, based on XMen: Origins Wolverine, which is one of the most popular Marvel characters; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Prototype, an all new and third-person open-world action game; Ice Age 3; DJ Hero, a new line extension of the Guitar Hero franchise; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2; a new racing game developed by Bizarre Creations; a new game based on the Tony Hawk franchise; an all new Wolfenstein; and our new wholly owned first-person action game called Singularity.
Console hardware platformsIn 2005, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 and, in 2006, Sony and Nintendo introduced their respective hardware platforms, the PlayStation 3 and Wii. Activision's plan is to continue to build a significant presence on the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 by expanding the number of titles released on these platforms and hand-held platforms while continuing to market to the PS2 platform as long as it is economically attractive to do so given its large installed base.
Business combination and investmentsWe have engaged in, evaluated, and expect to continue to engage in and evaluate, a wide array of potential strategic transactions, including acquisitions of companies, businesses, intellectual properties, and other assets. On July 9, 2008, we consummated our Business Combination with Vivendi Games. Upon the closing of the Business Combination, Activision, Inc. was renamed Activision Blizzard, Inc. As of December 31, 2008, Vivendi owned approximately 55% of our common stock. Activision Blizzard now conducts the combined business operations of Activision, Inc. and Vivendi Games including Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. See also Note 1 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
To further strengthen our development resources and underscore our commitment as leader in the music-based genre, on September 11, 2008, we acquired Freestyle Games, Ltd., a premier United Kingdom-based video game developer specializing in the music-based genre. Additionally, on November 10, 2008, we acquired Budcat Creations, LLC, an Iowa City, Iowa based video game developer. Budcat Creations is an award-winning development studio with expertise on the Wii and NDS.
International operationsActivision focuses on the growth of the European market through developing localized contents for its Guitar Hero franchises and other franchises or titles in terms of contents and packaging. For the Asian market, Blizzard distributes World of Warcraft through direct operations and licenses. Blizzard has licensing arrangements with The9 to distribute World of Warcraft in China and with SoftWorld in Taiwan. Internet game room players and prepaid cards are also very popular in Asia, particularly in South Korea. Recently, Blizzard has licensed its StarCraft II, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and Battle.net platform to a company affiliated with NetEase.com, Inc. Blizzard and NetEase have also established a joint venture, which will provide support for the operation of the licensed games and Battle.net platform in China. For the year ended December 31, 2008, Blizzard released a Russian language version of World of Warcraft in Russia and expanded its Spanish version into Latin America.
Integration and reorganizationFollowing the Business Combination on July 9, 2008, we have restructured the Vivendi Games businesses to capture cost-synergies and to streamline the combined Activision Blizzard organization. For the first six months of 2009, we expect to continue to incur restructuring expenses mainly relating to severance payments of remaining interim employees who are currently assisting us to exit our non-core operations and under-utilized facilities. We anticipate substantially exiting or winding down our non-core operations and substantially completing our organizational restructuring activities as a result of the Business Combination by June 2009.
For the six months ending June 30, 2009, we anticipate incurring between $20 million and $40 million of additional before tax restructuring charges, and after tax cash restructuring charges
between $15 million and $25 million relating to the Business Combination. Overall, including charges incurred through December 31, 2008, we expect to incur before tax restructuring charges between $113 million and $133 million by June 30, 2009, with an after tax cash impact between $55 million and $70 million. The after tax charges are expected to consist primarily of employee-related severance cash costs (approximately $47 million), facility exit cash costs (approximately $18 million), and cash contract terminations costs (approximately $5 million). Separately, through December 31, 2008, these restructuring charges were partially offset by cash proceeds of approximately $28 million from asset disposals and after tax cash benefits related to the streamlining of the Vivendi Games title portfolio. For the next six months, we anticipate between $2 million to $7 million of further cash proceeds to partially offset future restructuring cash charges. We do not expect these anticipated restructuring expenses to materially effect future earnings and cash flow of Activision Blizzard.
Console online gamesActivision has published games with online functionality that constitutes a more-than-inconsequential separate service deliverable in addition to the product, and in which our performance obligations extend beyond the sale of the game. Vendor-specific objective evidence of fair value does not exist for these online features, as we do not separately charge for this component of these titles. As a result, we recognize all of the revenue from the sale of these titles ratably over an estimated service period. In addition, we defer the costs of sales of these titles to match revenue.
MMORPG online gamesBlizzard published the first expansion pack World of Warcarft: The Burning Crusade, in January 2007 and the second expansion pack, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King in November 2008. We expect these expansions will extend Blizzard's subscription revenues by retaining existing customers and attracting new customers.
Impact of deferred revenues and related cost of salesFor the year ended December 31, 2008, the net impact of deferred revenues and related cost of sales decreased consolidated net revenues and total cost of sales by $713 million and $217 million, respectively. We anticipate, for the year ending December 31, 2009, the net impact of deferred revenues and related cost of sales will decrease consolidated net revenues and total cost of sales by approximately $500 million and $220 million, respectively. As our major releases are planned in the December quarter of 2009, we expect that a majority of the revenues and related costs of sales will be deferred in the December quarter of 2009, and recognized in 2010. However, the actual amount of revenues and cost of sales deferred will vary significantly depending upon the timing of the release of these titles and the sales volume of such products.
Other revenuesActivision is continuing the development of online capabilities for its games. Activision plans to continue to exploit other revenue sources, including downloadable content and in-game advertising for its console games.
Economic conditionsWe continue to monitor the recent adverse changes in economic conditions which may have unfavorable impacts on our businesses, such as deteriorating consumer demand, pricing pressure on our products, credit quality of our receivables, and foreign currency exchange rates.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("U.S. GAAP") requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ from those estimates. The impact and any associated risks related to these policies on our business operations is discussed throughout Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations where such policies affect our reported and expected financial results. The estimates discussed below are considered by management to be critical because they are both important to the portrayal of our financial condition and results of operations and because their application places the most significant demands on management's judgment, with financial reporting
results relying on estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain. Specific risks for these critical accounting estimates are described in the following paragraphs.
Revenue Recognition. We recognize revenue from the sale of our products upon the transfer of title and risk of loss to our customers, and once any performance obligations have been completed. Certain products are sold to customers with a street date (the earliest date these products may be sold by retailers). For these products we recognize revenue on the later of the street date or the sale date. Revenue from product sales is recognized after deducting the estimated allowance for returns and price protection.
Some of our software products provide limited online features at no additional cost to the consumer. Generally, we consider such features to be incidental to the overall product offering and an inconsequential deliverable. Accordingly, we recognize revenue related to products containing these limited online features upon the transfer of title and risk of loss to our customer. In instances where online features or additional functionality is considered more than an inconsequential separate deliverable in addition to the software product, we take this into account when applying our revenue recognition policy. This evaluation is performed for each software product together with any online transactions, such as electronic downloads of titles with product add-ons when it is released.
In instances where the online service is considered more than an inconsequential separate deliverable in addition to the software product, we account for the sale as a "bundled" sale, or multiple element arrangement, in which we sell both the software product and the online service for one combined price. Vendor specific objective evidence for the fair value of the online service does not exist as we do not separately offer or charge for the online service. Therefore, when the online service is determined to be more than an inconsequential deliverable, we recognize the revenue from sales of such software products ratably over the estimated online service period, beginning the month after shipment of the software product. Costs of sales (excluding intangible asset amortization classified as costs of sales) related to such products are also deferred and recognized with the related revenues, including manufacturing costs, software royalties and amortization and intellectual property licenses.
We consider the World of Warcraft boxed product including expansion packs and other ancillary revenues as a single deliverable with the total arrangement consideration combined and recognized ratably as revenue over the estimated product life beginning upon activation of the software and delivery of the services. Revenues attributed to the sale of World of Warcraft boxed software and related expansion packs are classified as product sales and revenues attributable to subscription and other ancillary services are classified as subscription, licensing and other revenues.
Determining whether the online service for a particular game constitutes more than an inconsequential deliverable is subjective and requires management's judgment. Determining the estimated service period over which to recognize the related revenue and costs of sales is also subjective and involves management's judgment.
Allowances for Returns, Price Protection, Doubtful Accounts, and Inventory Obsolescence. 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 us 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 include, among other things, compliance with applicable trading and payment terms, and consistent return of inventory and delivery of sell-through reports to us. 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 franchise; console hardware life cycle; sales force and retail customer feedback; industry pricing; weeks of on-hand retail channel inventory; absolute quantity of on-hand retail channel inventory; our warehouse on-hand inventory levels; the title's 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 that 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 factors or market conditions change or if management makes different judgments or utilizes different estimates in determining the allowances for returns and price protection. For example, a 1% change in our December 31, 2008 allowance for returns and price protection would impact net revenues by approximately $3 million.
Similarly, management must make estimates of the uncollectibility of our accounts receivable. In estimating the allowance for doubtful accounts, we analyze the age of current outstanding account balances, historical bad debts, customer concentrations, customer creditworthiness, current economic trends, and changes in our customers' payment terms and their economic condition, as well as whether we can obtain sufficient credit insurance. Any significant changes in any of these criteria would affect management's estimates in establishing our allowance for doubtful accounts.
We value inventory at the lower of cost or market. We regularly review inventory quantities on-hand and in the retail channel and record a provision for excess or obsolete inventory based on the future expected demand for our products. Significant changes in demand for our products would impact management's estimates in establishing our inventory provision.
Software Development Costs and Intellectual Property Licenses. Software development costs include payments made to independent software developers under development agreements, as well as direct costs incurred for internally developed products.
We account for software development costs in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards ("SFAS") No. 86, "Accounting for the Costs of Computer Software to Be Sold, Leased, or Otherwise Marketed," ("SFAS No. 86"). Software development costs are capitalized once the technological feasibility of a product is established and such costs are determined to be recoverable. Technological feasibility of a product encompasses both technical design documentation and game design documentation, or the completed and tested product design and working model. Significant management judgments and estimates are utilized in the assessment of when technological feasibility is established. For products where proven technology exists, this may occur early in the development cycle. Technological feasibility is evaluated on a product-by-product basis. Prior to a product's release, we expense, as part of "cost of salessoftware royalties and amortization," capitalized costs when we believe such amounts are not recoverable. Capitalized costs for those products that are cancelled or abandoned are charged to product development expense in the period of cancellation. Amounts related to software development which are not capitalized are charged immediately to product development expense.
Commencing upon product release, capitalized software development costs are amortized to "cost of salessoftware royalties and amortization" based on the ratio of current revenues to total projected revenues for the specific product, generally resulting in an amortization period of six months or less.
Intellectual property license costs represent license fees paid to intellectual property rights holders for use of their trademarks, copyrights, software, technology, music, or other intellectual property or proprietary rights in the development of our products. Depending upon the agreement with the rights
holder, we may obtain the rights to use acquired intellectual property in multiple products over multiple years, or alternatively, for a single product. Prior to the related product's release, we expense, as part of "cost of salesintellectual property licenses," capitalized intellectual property costs when we believe such amounts are not recoverable. Capitalized intellectual property costs for those products that are cancelled or abandoned are charged to product development expense in the period of cancellation.
Commencing upon the related product's release, capitalized intellectual property license costs are amortized to "cost of salesintellectual property licenses" based on the ratio of current revenues for the specific product to total projected revenues for all products in which the licensed property will be utilized. As intellectual property license contracts may extend for multiple years, the amortization of capitalized intellectual property license costs relating to such contracts may extend beyond one year.
We evaluate the future recoverability of capitalized software development costs and intellectual property licenses on a quarterly basis. For products that have been released in prior periods, the primary evaluation criterion is actual title performance. For products that are scheduled to be released in future periods, recoverability is evaluated based on the expected performance of the specific products to which the costs relate or in which the licensed trademark or copyright is to be used. Criteria used to evaluate expected product performance include: historical performance of comparable products developed with comparable technology; orders for the product prior to its release; and, for any sequel product, estimated performance based on the performance of the product on which the sequel is based. Further, as many of our intellectual property licenses extend for multiple products over multiple years, we also assess the recoverability of capitalized intellectual property license costs based on certain qualitative factors, such as the success of other products and/or entertainment vehicles utilizing the intellectual property, whether there are any future planned theatrical releases or television series based on the intellectual property, and the rights holder's continued promotion and exploitation of the intellectual property.
Significant management judgments and estimates are utilized in the assessment of the recoverability of capitalized costs. In evaluating the recoverability of capitalized costs, the assessment of expected product performance utilizes forecasted sales amounts and estimates of additional costs to be incurred. If revised forecasted or actual product sales are less than the original forecasted amounts utilized in the initial recoverability analysis, the net realizable value may be lower than originally estimated in any given quarter, which could result in an impairment charge. Additionally, as noted above, as many of our intellectual property licenses extend for multiple products over multiple years, we also assess the recoverability of capitalized intellectual property license costs based on certain qualitative factors such as the success of other products and/or entertainment vehicles utilizing the intellectual property, whether there are any future planned theatrical releases or television series based on the intellectual property and the rights holder's continued promotion and exploitation of the intellectual property. Material differences may result in the amount and timing of charges for any period if management makes different judgments or utilizes different estimates in evaluating these qualitative factors.
Income Taxes. We record a tax provision for the anticipated tax consequences of the reported results of operations. In accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 109, "Accounting for Income Taxes", the provision for income taxes is computed using the asset and liability method, under which deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the expected future tax consequences attributable to differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases and operating losses and tax credit carryforwards. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. We record a valuation allowance to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount that is believed more likely than not to be realized.
Management believes it is more likely than not that forecasted income, including income that may be generated as a result of certain tax planning strategies, together with the tax effects of the deferred tax liabilities, will be sufficient to fully recover the remaining deferred tax assets. In the event that all or part of the net deferred tax assets are determined not to be realizable in the future, an adjustment to the valuation allowance would be charged to earnings in the period such determination is made. In addition, the calculation of tax liabilities involves significant judgment in estimating the impact of uncertainties in the application of Financial Interpretation No. ("FIN") 48, "Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxesan interpretation of FASB Statement No. 109" and other complex tax laws. Resolution of these uncertainties in a manner inconsistent with management's expectations could have a material impact on our financial condition and operating results.
For a detailed discussion of the application of these and other accounting policies see Note 3 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
Fair Value Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP often requires us to determine the fair value of a particular item to fairly present our Consolidated Financial Statements. Without an independent market or another representative transaction, determining the fair value of a particular item requires us to make several assumptions that are inherently difficult to predict and can have a material impact on the conclusion of the appropriate accounting.
There are various valuation techniques used to estimate fair value. These include (1) the market approach where market transactions for identical or comparable assets or liabilities are used to determine the fair value, (2) the income approach, which uses valuation techniques to convert future amounts (for example, future cash flows or future earnings) to a single present amount, and (3) the cost approach, which is based on the amount that would be required to replace an asset. For many of our fair value estimates, including our estimates of the fair value of acquired intangible assets, we use the income approach. Using the income approach requires the use of financial models, which require us to make various estimates including, but not limited to (1) the potential future cash flows for the asset, liability or equity instrument being measured, (2) the timing of receipt or payment of those future cash flows, (3) the time value of money associated with the delayed receipt or payment of such cash flows, and (4) the inherent risk associated with the cash flows (risk premium). Making these cash flow estimates are inherently difficult and subjective, and, if any of the estimates used to determine the fair value using the income approach turns out to be inaccurate, our financial results may be negatively impacted. Furthermore, relatively small changes in many of these estimates can have a significant impact on the estimated fair value resulting from the financial models or the related accounting conclusion reached. For example, a relatively small change in the estimated fair value of an asset may change a conclusion as to whether an asset is impaired. While we are required to make certain fair value assessments associated with the accounting for several types of transactions, the following areas are the most sensitive to the assessments:
Business Combinations. We must estimate the fair value of assets acquired and liabilities assumed in a business combination. Our assessment of the estimated fair value of each of these can have a material effect on our reported results as intangible assets are amortized over various lives. Furthermore, a change in the estimated fair value of an asset or liability often has a direct impact on the amount to recognize as goodwill, which is an asset that is not amortized. Often determining the fair value of these assets and liabilities assumed requires an assessment of expected use of the asset, the expected cost to extinguish the liability or our expectations related to the timing and the successful completion of development of an acquired in-process technology. Such estimates are inherently difficult and subjective and can have a material impact on our financial statements.
Assessment of Impairment of Assets. Management evaluates the recoverability of our identifiable intangible assets and other long-lived assets in accordance with SFAS No. 144, "Accounting for the
Impairment or Disposal of Long-lived Assets," which generally requires the assessment of these assets for recoverability when events or circumstances indicate a potential impairment exists. We considered certain events and circumstances in determining whether the carrying value of identifiable intangible assets and other long-lived assets may not be recoverable including, but are not limited to: significant changes in performance relative to expected operating results; significant changes in the use of the assets; significant negative industry or economic trends; a significant decline in our stock price for a sustained period of time; and changes in our business strategy. In determining if an impairment exists, we estimate the undiscounted cash flows to be generated from the use and ultimate disposition of these assets. If an impairment is indicated based on a comparison of the assets' carrying values and the undiscounted cash flows, the impairment loss is measured as the amount by which the carrying amount of the assets exceeds the fair value of the assets. The decision to dispose of certain assets of the non-core operating segment as part of our restructuring plan following the Business Combination was considered to be an indicator of impairment under SFAS No. 144. We performed an impairment test on the long-lived assets of the non-core operating segment and determined that an acquired trade name was impaired. As a result, an impairment charge of $5 million was recorded as part of restructuring costs. Other than this event, during 2008, we did not perform any other impairment tests of our long-lived assets as there were no significant and adverse underlying changes to our expected operating results or other indicators of impairment. Other than the $5 million impairment of the acquired trade name, we determined that there was no other impairment of long-lived assets for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006.
SFAS No. 142, "Goodwill and other Intangibles" ("SFAS No. 142") requires a two-step approach to testing goodwill for impairment for each reporting unit. Our reporting units are determined by the components of our operating segments that constitute a business for which both (1) discrete financial information is available and (2) segment management regularly reviews the operating results of that component. SFAS No. 142 requires that the impairment test be performed at least annually by applying a fair-value-based test. The first step measures for impairment by applying fair-value-based tests at the reporting unit level. The second step (if necessary) measures the amount of impairment by applying fair-value-based tests to the individual assets and liabilities within each reporting unit.
To determine the fair values of the reporting units used in the first step, we use a discounted cash flow approach. Each step requires us to make judgments and involves the use of significant estimates and assumptions. These estimates and assumptions include long-term growth rates and operating margins used to calculate projected future cash flows, risk-adjusted discount rates based on our weighted average cost of capital, future economic and market conditions. These estimates and assumptions have to be made for each reporting unit evaluated for impairment. Our estimates for market growth, our market share and costs are based on historical data, various internal estimates and certain external sources, and are based on assumptions that are consistent with the plans and estimates we are using to manage the underlying business. If future forecasts are revised, they may indicate or require future impairment charges. We base our fair value estimates on assumptions we believe to be reasonable but that are unpredictable and inherently uncertain. Actual future results may differ from those estimates.
Stock-Based Compensation. We estimate the value of employee stock options on the date of grant using a binomial-lattice model. Our determination of fair value of share-based payment awards on the date of grant using an option-pricing model is affected by our stock price as well as assumptions regarding a number of highly complex and subjective variables. These variables include, but are not limited to, our expected stock price volatility over the term of the awards, and actual and projected employee stock option exercise behaviors.
For more detailed information about Activision Blizzard's accounting policy for the measurement of fair value of financial assets and financial liabilities and information about the financial assets and financial liabilities, see Notes 3 and 17 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
Consolidated Statements of Operations
Special NoteThe consummation of the Business Combination has resulted in financial information of Activision, Inc. being included from the date of the Business Combination (i.e. from July 9, 2008 onwards), but not for prior periods.
The following table sets forth certain Consolidated Statements of Operations data for the periods indicated in dollars and as a percentage of total net revenues (amounts in millions):
Operating Highlights (amounts in millions)
Each of our segments' net revenues increased for the year ended December 31, 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. In North America, Activision Blizzard was the #1 console and hand-held software publisher in dollars for the quarter ended December 31, 2008, according to The NPD Group. Blizzard's net revenues also increased for the year ended December 31, 2007, compared to the same period in 2006. The increases in 2008 and 2007 were mainly attributable to:
The above increase in 2008 was partially offset by year over year strengthening of the U.S. Dollar in relation to GBP, EUR, AUD, KRW, and SEK which impacted international net revenues, particularly in the December quarter of 2008. We estimate that the change in foreign exchange rates decreased reported consolidated net revenues by approximately $112 million for the year ended December 31, 2008.
Our segments' operating income for the year ended December 31, 2008 was driven by the following:
Partially offset by:
Blizzard's operating income for the year ended December 31, 2007 increased when compared to the year ended December 31, 2006 mainly attributable to the successful release in multiple markets of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (which had higher operating margins than the typical PC or console release), coupled with the implementation of new cost controls in the areas of sales and
marketing and general and administrative expenses. This was partially offset by higher expenses for incentive plans and increased product development spending.
Cash Flow Highlights (amounts in millions)
For the year ended December 31, 2008, the following major cash activities occurred:
On November 5, 2008, we announced that our Board of Directors authorized a stock repurchase program under which we may repurchase up to $1 billion of our common stock. Under this program, we may repurchase our common stock from time to time on the open market or in private transactions, including structured or accelerated transactions. In December 2008, we repurchased approximately 13 million shares of our common stock. At December 31, 2008, we had approximately $874 million available for utilization under the buyback program and no outstanding stock repurchase transactions. The repurchase program may be suspended or discontinued by the Company at any time.
Results of OperationsYears Ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006
Special NoteThe consummation of the Business Combination has resulted in financial information of Activision, Inc. being included from the date of the Business Combination (i.e. from July 9, 2008 onwards), but not for prior periods.
The following table details our consolidated net revenues by geographic area for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006 (amounts in millions):
Geographically, consolidated net revenues increased in all regions for the year ended December 31, 2008 compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006 as a result of the following:
Net Revenues by Platform
The following table details our net revenues by platform and as a percentage of total consolidated net revenues for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006 (amounts in millions):
MMORPG net revenues increased for the year ended December 31, 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 as a result of the continued growth of World of Warcraft, including the successful launch of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King in the fourth quarter of 2008. According to The NPD Group, Gfk, and Charttrack, Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was the #1 PC title by dollars in North America and Europe. MMORPG net revenues increased for the year ended December 31, 2007 compared to the same period in 2006 as a result of the continued growth of World of Warcraft, including the successful release of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade in January 2007.
Net revenues from various consoles and hand-held platforms increased for the year ended December 31, 2008, compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006 due to the following:
Cost of Sales
The following table details the nature of our cost of sales in dollars and as a percentage of total consolidated net revenues for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006 (amounts in millions):
For the year ended December 31, 2008, cost of sales increased compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006 primarily due to:
Product Development (amounts in millions)
For the year ended December 31, 2008, product development costs increased compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006. The increase was primarily attributable to the following:
Sales and Marketing (amounts in millions)
For the year ended December 31, 2008, sales and marketing increased compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006. The increase in sales and marketing was mainly the result of:
Restructuring Charges (amounts in millions)
In the September quarter of 2008, we implemented an organizational restructuring as a result of the Business Combination. This organizational restructuring is to integrate different operations and to streamline the combined Activision Blizzard organization. The implementation of the organizational restructuring resulted in the following restructuring charges: severance costs, contract termination costs, fixed asset write-off on disposals, impairment charges on acquired trade names, prepaid royalties, intellectual property licenses, impairment charges on goodwill and loss on disposal of assets/liabilities. We communicated to the affected employees and ceased use of certain offices under operating lease contracts. We anticipate substantially exiting or winding down our non-core operations and substantially completing the organizational restructuring activities as a result of the Business Combination by June 2009.
See Note 8 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for more detail and a roll forward of the restructuring liability that includes the beginning and ending liability, costs incurred for the year, cash payments, and non-cash write-downs.
General and Administrative (amounts in millions)
For the year ended December 31, 2008, general and administrative costs increased in absolute amount and decreased as percentage of consolidated net revenues compared to the same periods in 2007 and 2006. The increase was mainly attributable to the consummation of the Business Combination, which resulted in general and administrative expenses from Activision, Inc. of approximately $125 million, (including integration and transaction expenses of $29 million) being included from the date of the Business Combination, but not for prior periods. The increase was partially offset by reduced salary and benefit costs as a result of the implementation of our organizational restructuring.
Investment Income (Loss), Net (amounts in millions)
Our cash, cash equivalents, and investment portfolio, comprised primarily of cash and cash equivalents, was $3 billion at December 31, 2008. Vivendi Games maintained a net payable balance with Vivendi at December 31, 2007 and 2006. Investment income for the year ended December 31, 2008, was primarily derived from the interest income from investments in money market funds, mark-to-market gains on our outstanding currency forward contracts, and an unrealized gain on a put option from UBS AG ("UBS"), compared with net interest expense for the past two years.
Income Tax Benefit (amounts in millions)
The effective tax rate was (43)%, (30)%, and (31)% for the years ended December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006, respectively. For the year ended December 31, 2008, the tax benefit as a result of a net loss before income taxes was increased primarily due to the recognition of the Federal and California Research and Development tax credit and IRC 199 Domestic Production Deduction in 2008. For the years ended December 31, 2007 and 2006, the tax benefit as a result of net income (loss) before income taxes was offset by tax benefits from net operating losses surrendered and the release of valuation allowances.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
Sources of Liquidity (amounts in millions)
In addition to cash flows provided by operating activities, our primary source of liquidity was $3 billion of cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2008. Through the Business Combination, Activision, Inc.'s cash and cash equivalents of approximately $1.1 billion became part of Activision Blizzard's balances and we received $1.7 billion of cash from Vivendi in exchange for issuance of shares of our common stock. With our liquid investment portfolio and expected cash flows provided by operating activities, we believe that we have sufficient liquidity to meet daily operations in the foreseeable future. We also believe that we have sufficient working capital (approximately $3 billion at December 31, 2008), as well as availability under our credit facilities, to finance our operational requirements for at least the next twelve months, including purchases of inventory and equipment, the funding of the development, production, marketing and sale of new products, to finance the acquisition of intellectual property rights for future products from third parties, the restructuring activities, and to fund the stock repurchase program we announced on November 5, 2008.
On November 5, 2008, we announced that our Board of Directors authorized a stock repurchase program under which we may repurchase up to $1 billion of our common stock. Under this program, we may repurchase our common stock from time to time on the open market or in private transactions, including structured or accelerated transactions. We will determine the timing and amount of repurchases based on our evaluation of market conditions and other factors. The repurchase program may be suspended or discontinued by the Company at any time. We purchased 13 million shares for $126 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, leaving approximately $874 million available for purchases under the program at December 31, 2008.
Cash Flows from Operating Activities
The primary drivers of cash flows from operating activities have typically included the collection of customer receivables generated by the sale of our products and our subscription revenues, offset by
payments to vendors for the manufacture, distribution and marketing of our products, third-party developers and intellectual property holders and to our employees. A significant operating use of our cash relates to our continued investment in software development and intellectual property licenses. We expect that we will continue to make significant expenditures relating to our investment in software development and intellectual property licenses. Our future cash commitments relating to these investments are detailed in Note 18 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
Cash Flows from Investing Activities
The primary drivers of cash flows used in investing activities have typically included capital expenditures, acquisitions of privately held interactive software development companies and publishing companies and the net effect of purchases and sales/maturities of investments. The goal of our investments is to minimize risk and maintain liquidity while maximizing returns, funding anticipated working capital needs, and providing for prudent investment diversification.
For the year ended December 31, 2008, cash flows provided by investing activities were primarily the result of the reverse acquisition of Activision, Inc., partially offset by cash paid for capital expenditures, and the acquisitions of Freestyle Games, Ltd. and Budcat Creations, LLC.
Due to uncertainties surrounding the timing of liquidation of our auction rate securities ("ARS"), which are comprised of debt obligations secured by higher education student loans, all our investments in such securities were classified as long-term investments in our Consolidated Balance Sheets at December 31, 2008. Liquidity for these auction rate securities is typically provided by an auction process which allows holders to sell their notes and resets the applicable interest rate at pre-determined intervals, usually every 7 to 35 days. On an industry-wide basis, many auctions have failed, and there is, as yet, no meaningful secondary market for these instruments. Each of the auction rate securities in our investment portfolio at December 31, 2008 has experienced a failed auction and there is no assurance that future auctions for these securities will succeed. An auction failure means that the parties wishing to sell their securities could not be matched with an adequate volume of buyers. In the event that there is a failed auction, the indenture governing the security requires the issuer to pay interest at a contractually defined rate that is generally above market rates for other types of similar instruments. The securities for which auctions have failed will continue to earn interest at the contractual rate and be auctioned every 7 to 35 days until the auction succeeds, the issuer calls the securities, or they mature. As a result, our ability to liquidate and fully recover the carrying value of our auction rate securities in the near term may be limited or not exist. In August 2008, certain affiliates of Citigroup, Inc. ("Citi") and UBS through which we own our auction rate securities, announced agreements in principle with various state regulatory agencies and the SEC, to address their clients' liquidity issues arising from the auction failures. On August 7, 2008, Citi announced that it would use its best efforts to provide liquidity solutions to its institutional investor client who invested in auction rate securities by the end of 2009.
On November 14, 2008, we accepted an offer from UBS, providing us with rights related to our ARS held through UBS (the "Rights"). The Rights permit us to require UBS to purchase our ARS held through UBS at par value, which is defined as the price equal to the liquidation preference of the ARS plus accrued but unpaid dividends or interest, at any time during the period of June 30, 2010 through July 2, 2012. Conversely, UBS has the right, in its discretion, to purchase or sell our ARS at any time until July 2, 2012, so long as we receive payment at par value upon any sale or disposition. If auctions continue to fail, we expect to sell our ARS under the Rights. However, if the Rights are not exercised before July 2, 2012 they will expire and UBS will have no further rights or obligation to buy our ARS. So long as we hold our ARS, they will continue to accrue interest as determined by the auction process or the terms of the ARS if the auction process fails.
UBS's obligations under the Rights are not secured by its assets and do not require UBS to obtain any financing to support its performance obligations under the Rights. UBS has disclaimed any assurance that it will have sufficient financial resources to satisfy its obligations under the Rights.
The fair value of auction rate securities through UBS and Citi totaled $55 million and $23 million, respectively, at December 31, 2008.
Based on our other available cash and expected operating cash flows and financing, we do not anticipate that the potential lack of liquidity on these investments will affect our ability to execute our current business plan.
Cash Flows from Financing Activities
The primary drivers of cash flows provided by financing activities have historically related to transactions involving our common stock, including the issuance of our common stock to employees and the public and the purchase of treasury shares. We have not utilized debt financing as a significant source of cash flows. However, if needed, we may access and utilize the credit facilities that are described in "Credit Facilities" in Note 18 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
For the year ending December 31, 2009, we anticipate total capital expenditures of approximately $118 million. Capital expenditures will be primarily for computer hardware and software purchases and various corporate projects.
We have revolving credit facilities with our Centresoft subsidiary located in the UK (the "UK Facility") and our NBG subsidiary located in Germany (the "German Facility"). The UK Facility provides Centresoft with the ability to borrow up to 12 million Great British Pound Sterling ("GBP") ($18 million), including issuing letters of credit, on a revolving basis at December 31, 2008. The German Facility provides for revolving loans up to 1 million Euro ("EUR") ($1 million) at December 31, 2008. No borrowings were outstanding against the UK Facility or the German Facility at December 31, 2008.
At December 31, 2008, we maintained a $35 million irrevocable standby letter of credit required by one of our inventory manufacturers to qualify for payment terms on our inventory purchases. The letter of credit was undrawn at December 31, 2008.
At December 31, 2008, our publishing subsidiary located in the UK maintained a EUR 25 million ($35 million) irrevocable standby letter of credit. The standby letter of credit is required by one of our inventory manufacturers to qualify for payment terms on our inventory purchases. The standby letter of credit does not require a compensating balance, is collateralized by substantially all of the assets of the subsidiary and expires in February 2009. No borrowings were outstanding at December 31, 2008.
On April 29, 2008, Activision, Inc. entered a senior unsecured credit agreement with Vivendi (as lender). At December 31, 2008, the credit agreement provides for a revolving credit facility of up to $475 million. No borrowings were outstanding at December 31, 2008.
In the normal course of business, we enter into contractual arrangements with third-parties for non-cancelable operating lease agreements for our offices, for the development of products, and for the rights to intellectual property ("IP"). Under these agreements, we commit to provide specified payments to a lessor, developer or intellectual property holder, as the case may be, based upon
contractual arrangements. The payments to third-party developers are generally conditioned upon the achievement by the developers of contractually specified development milestones. Further, these payments to third-party developers and intellectual property holders typically are deemed to be advances and are recoupable against future royalties earned by the developer or intellectual property holder based on the sale of the related game. Additionally, in connection with certain intellectual property rights acquisitions and development agreements, we commit to spend specified amounts for marketing support for the related game(s) which is to be developed or in which the intellectual property will be utilized. Assuming all contractual provisions are met, the total future minimum commitments for these and other contractual arrangements in place at December 31, 2008 are scheduled to be paid as follows (amounts in millions):
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
At December 31, 2008 and 2007, Activision Blizzard had no relationships with unconsolidated entities or financial parties, such as entities often referred to as structured finance or special purpose entities, which would have been established for the purpose of facilitating off-balance sheet arrangements or other contractually narrow or limited purposes, that have or are reasonably likely to have a material future effect on our financial condition, changes in financial condition, revenues or expenses, results of operation, liquidity, capital expenditure, or capital resources.
We maintain internal control over financial reporting, which generally includes those controls relating to the preparation of our financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP. We also are focused on our "disclosure controls and procedures," which as defined by the SEC are generally those controls and procedures designed to ensure that financial and non-financial information required to be disclosed in our reports filed with the SEC is reported within the time periods specified in the SEC's rules and forms, and that such information is communicated to management, including our principal executive and financial officers, as appropriate, to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.
Our Disclosure Committee, which operates under the Board of Directors-approved Disclosure Committee Charter and Disclosure Controls & Procedures Policy, includes senior management representatives and assists executive management in its oversight of the accuracy and timeliness of our disclosures, as well as in implementing and evaluating our overall disclosure process. As part of our
disclosure process, senior finance and operational representatives from all of our corporate divisions and business units prepare quarterly reports regarding their current quarter operational performance, future trends, subsequent events, internal controls, changes in internal controls, and other accounting and disclosure-relevant information. These quarterly reports are reviewed by certain key corporate finance executives. These corporate finance representatives also conduct quarterly interviews on a rotating basis with the preparers of selected quarterly reports. The results of the quarterly reports and related interviews are reviewed by the Disclosure Committee. Finance representatives also conduct reviews with our senior management team, our internal and external counsel and other appropriate personnel involved in the disclosure process, as appropriate. Additionally, senior finance and operational representatives provide internal certifications regarding the accuracy of information they provide that is utilized in the preparation of our periodic public reports filed with the SEC. Financial results and other financial information also are reviewed with the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors on a quarterly basis. As required by applicable regulatory requirements, the principal executive and financial officers review and make various certifications regarding the accuracy of our periodic public reports filed with the SEC, our disclosure controls and procedures, and our internal control over financial reporting. With the assistance of the Disclosure Committee, we will continue to assess and monitor, and make refinements to, our disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting.
Recently Issued Accounting Standards
In December 2007, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued Statement of Financial Accounting Standards ("SFAS") No. 141 (revised 2007), "Business Combinations" ("SFAS No. 141(R)"). SFAS No. 141(R) expands the definition of a business combination and requires acquisitions to be accounted for at fair value. These fair value provisions will be applied to contingent consideration, in-process research and development and acquisition contingencies. Purchase accounting adjustments will be reflected during the period in which an acquisition was originally recorded. Additionally, the new standard requires transaction costs and restructuring charges to be expensed. Furthermore, to the extent the Company has changes to its uncertain tax positions associated with any subsidiaries acquired in previous business combinations for which goodwill exists subsequent to December 31, 2008, such changes to the uncertain tax positions will be recorded in the Company's Consolidated Statements of Operations rather than as a reduction in goodwill, which was the accounting treatment in place prior to the adoption of SFAS 141(R). SFAS No. 141(R) is effective for the Company for acquisitions closing during and subsequent to the first quarter of 2009.
In June 2007, the FASB ratified the Emerging Issues Task Force's ("EITF") consensus conclusion on EITF 07-03, "Accounting for Advance Payments for Goods or Services to Be Used in Future Research and Development." EITF 07-03 addresses the diversity which exists with respect to the accounting for the non-refundable portion of a payment made by a research and development entity for future research and development activities. Under this conclusion, an entity is required to defer and capitalize non-refundable advance payments made for research and development activities until the related goods are delivered or the related services are performed. EITF 07-03 is effective for interim or annual reporting periods in fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2007 and requires prospective application for new contracts entered into after the effective date. The adoption of EITF 07-03 did not have a material impact on our Consolidated Financial Statements.
In March 2008, the FASB issued Statement No. 161, "Disclosures about Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities-an amendment of FASB Statement No. 133" ("SFAS No. 161") SFAS No. 161 changes the disclosure requirements for derivative instruments and hedging activities. Entities are required to provide enhanced disclosures about (a) how and why an entity uses derivative instruments, (b) how derivative instruments and related hedged items are accounted for under Statement No. 133 and its related interpretations, and (c) how derivative instruments and related hedged items affect an
entity's financial position, financial performance, and cash flows. The guidance in SFAS No. 161 is effective for financial statements issued for fiscal years and interim periods beginning after November 15, 2008, with early application encouraged. SFAS No. 161 encourages, but does not require, comparative disclosures for earlier periods at initial adoption. The adoption of SFAS No. 161 did not have a material impact on our Consolidated Financial Statements.
In April 2008, the FASB issued FASB Staff Positions ("FSP") SFAS No. 142-3, "Determination of the Useful Life of Intangible Assets" ("FSP FAS 142-3"). FSP FAS 142-3 amends the factors an entity should consider in developing renewal or extension assumptions used in determining the useful life of recognized intangible assets under SFAS No. 142, "Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets" This guidance for determining the useful life of a recognized intangible asset applies prospectively to intangible assets acquired individually or with a group of other assets in either an asset acquisition or business combination. FSP FAS 142-3 is effective for fiscal years, and interim periods within those fiscal years, beginning after December 15, 2008, and early adoption is prohibited. The adoption of FSP FAS 142-3 did not have a material impact on our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Our management currently believes that inflation has not had a material impact on continuing operations.
Market risk is the potential loss arising from fluctuations in market rates and prices. Our market risk exposures primarily include fluctuations in interest rates, currency exchange rates, and market prices. Our views on market risk are not necessarily indicative of actual results that may occur and do not represent the maximum possible gains and losses that may occur, since actual gains and losses will differ from those estimated, based upon actual fluctuations in interest rates, currency exchange rates, market prices, and the timing of transactions.
Interest Rate Risk
Our exposure to market rate risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to our investment portfolio. We do not use derivative financial instruments to manage interest rate risk in our investment portfolio. Our investment portfolio consists primarily of debt instruments with high credit quality and relatively short average maturities and money market funds that invest in such securities. Because short-term securities mature relatively quickly and must be reinvested at the then current market rates, interest income on a portfolio consisting of cash, cash equivalents, or short-term securities is more subject to market fluctuations than a portfolio of longer term securities. Conversely, the fair value of such a portfolio is less sensitive to market fluctuations than a portfolio of longer term securities. At December 31, 2008, our cash and cash equivalents, and short-term investments included money market funds and mortgage-backed securities of $2,609 million and $7 million, respectively. We have $78 million in auction rate securities at fair value, which are classified as long-term investments, at December 31, 2008. Most of our investment portfolio is invested in short-term or variable rate securities. Accordingly, we believe that a sharp change in interest rates would not have a material effect on our short-term investment portfolio.
Currency Exchange Rate Risk
We transact business in many different foreign currencies and may be exposed to financial market risk resulting from fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates. Currency volatility is monitored frequently throughout the year. To mitigate our risk from foreign currency fluctuations we enter into currency forward contracts with Vivendi, generally with maturities of twelve months or less. . We expect to continue to use economic hedge programs in the future and may use, in addition to currency forward contracts, derivative financial instruments such as currency options to reduce financial market risks if it is determined that such hedging activities are appropriate to reduce risk. We do not hold or purchase any foreign currency contracts for trading or speculative purposes. The following procedures are designed to prohibit speculative transactions:
In addition, Activision Blizzard may hedge foreign currency exposure resulting from foreign currency denominated financial assets and liabilities, consisting primarily of intercompany receivables and payables, and earnings.
At December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2007, the net notional amount of outstanding forward foreign exchange contracts was $126 million and $14 million, respectively. A pre-tax net unrealized gain of $3 million for the year ended December 31, 2008 and a pre-tax net unrealized loss of $2 million for the year ended December 31, 2007 resulted from the forward foreign exchange contracts with Vivendi and were recognized in the Consolidated Statement of Operations.
Item 8. CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA
Other financial statement schedules are omitted because the information called for is not applicable or is shown either in the Consolidated Financial Statements or the Notes thereto.
1) Definition and Limitations of Disclosure Controls and Procedures.
Our disclosure controls and procedures (as such term is defined in Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e) under the Exchange Act) are designed to reasonably ensure that information required to be disclosed in our reports filed under the Exchange Act is (i) recorded, processed, summarized, and reported
within the time periods specified in the SEC's rules and forms and (ii) accumulated and communicated to management, including our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosures. A control system, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable assurance that it will detect or uncover failures within the Company to disclose material information otherwise required to be set forth in our periodic reports. Inherent limitations to any system of disclosure controls and procedures include, but are not limited to, the possibility of human error and the circumvention or overriding of such controls by one or more persons. In addition, we have designed our system of controls based on certain assumptions, which we believe are reasonable, about the likelihood of future events, and our system of controls may therefore not achieve its desired objectives under all possible future events.
2) Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures.
Our management, with the participation of our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, has evaluated the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures at December 31, 2008, the end of the period covered by this report. Based on this controls evaluation, and subject to the limitations described above, the principal executive officer and principal financial officer concluded that, at December 31, 2008, our disclosure controls and procedures were effective to provide reasonable assurance that information required to be disclosed by the Company in the reports that it files or submits under the Exchange Act is (i) recorded, processed, summarized, and reported on a timely basis, and (ii) accumulated and communicated to management, including our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosures.
3) Management's Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting as such term is defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) under the Exchange Act. Our management, with the participation of our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness, as of December 31, 2008, of our internal control over financial reporting using the criteria set forth by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission ("COSO") in Internal ControlIntegrated Framework. Based on this evaluation, our management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2008.
Management excluded the internal control over financial reporting of Vivendi Games, Inc., which was acquired by the Company during 2008 in a purchase business combination, from its assessment of the Company's internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2008. The acquired Vivendi Games, Inc. businesses, which includes Vivendi Games' subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., and business units and divisions that the Company has exited or is winding down such as Sierra Online and Vivendi Games Mobile, represented approximately 4% of the Company's consolidated total assets as of December 31, 2008 and 46% of its consolidated net revenues for the year then ended.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risks that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies and procedures may deteriorate.
The effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2008 has been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm, as stated in their report included in this annual report on Form 10-K.
4) Changes in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
There have not been any changes in our internal control over financial reporting during the most recent fiscal quarter that have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect our internal control over financial reporting.
5) Other Information
As noted above and described in more detail in Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, during the year ended December 31, 2008, the Company completed its Business Combination with Vivendi Games.
Prior to the consummation of the Business Combination on July 9, 2008, Vivendi Games was a wholly owned subsidiary of Vivendi S.A. As a wholly owned subsidiary operating as a business unit within the Vivendi S.A. group, Vivendi Games had not historically prepared financial statements for separate stand-alone purposes, had its taxable income processed within the Vivendi U.S. tax returns and did not maintain an external financial reporting group or tax group. Internal controls were determined to be adequate to comply with Vivendi S.A.'s internal reporting requirements under International Financial Reporting Standards. For purposes of inclusion in Activision's proxy statement related to the Business Combination, Vivendi Games prepared U.S. GAAP stand-alone financial statements for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2007 and 2006, and these stand-alone financial statements were issued after the announcement of the transaction. As previously disclosed, it was determined that the following matters constituted material weaknesses as it related to those stand-alone financial statements. A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the Company's annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.
As previously disclosed, in connection with the preparation of its financial statements, on a stand-alone U.S. GAAP basis, for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2007 and 2006, Vivendi Games did not properly design and/or operate effective controls to detect certain errors in the preparation, classification and disclosure of its financial statements; additionally, Vivendi Games did not properly design and/or operate effective controls to detect certain errors in the preparation of the stand-alone tax provision and related tax disclosures in its financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2007.
Subsequent to the consummation of the Business Combination on July 9, 2008, Activision Blizzard management became responsible for establishing and maintaining the combined Company's internal control over financial reporting, including financial statement preparation and reporting and tax provision preparation and reporting.
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to the sections of our definitive Proxy Statement for our 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, entitled "Proposal 1Election of Directors," "Executive Officers and Key Employees," "Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance," "Corporate Governance MattersCode of Ethics for Senior Executive and Senior Financial Officers" and "Corporate Governance MattersBoard of Directors and CommitteesAudit Committee" to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to the sections of our definitive Proxy Statement for our 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, entitled "Executive Compensation," "Director Compensation," and "Compensation Committee Report" to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to the sections of our definitive Proxy Statement for our 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, entitled "Equity Compensation Plan Information" and "Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management" to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to the sections of our definitive Proxy Statement for our 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, entitled "Certain Relationships and Related Transactions" and "Corporate Governance MattersBoard of Directors and CommitteesDirector Independence" to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to the sections of our definitive Proxy Statement for our 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, entitled "Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm's Fees" to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Pursuant to the requirements of Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the registrant has duly caused this report to be signed on its behalf by the undersigned, thereunto duly authorized.
Date: February 27, 2009
Pursuant to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, this report has been signed below by the following persons on behalf of the registrant and in the capacities and on the dates indicated.
To Board of Directors and Shareholders of Activision Blizzard, Inc.:
In our opinion, the accompanying consolidated balance sheet and the related consolidated statements of operations, shareholders' equity and cash flows, present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its subsidiaries at December 31, 2008, and the results of their operations and their cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2008 in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. In addition, in our opinion, the financial statement Schedule II Valuation and Qualifying Accounts presents fairly, in all material respects, the information set forth therein for the year ended December 31, 2008 when read in conjunction with the related consolidated financial statements. Also in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2008, based on criteria established in Internal ControlIntegrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO). The Company's management is responsible for these financial statements and financial statement schedule, for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, included in Management's Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting appearing under Item 9A. Our responsibility is to express opinions on these financial statements, on the financial statement schedule, and on the Company's internal control over financial reporting based on our integrated audit. We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement and whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audit of the financial statements included examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements, assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, and evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, and testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk. Our audits also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinions.
As discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements, in 2008, the Company changed the manner in which it recognizes revenue associated with sales of The Burning Crusade expansion pack, which was released in January 2007.
A company's internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company's internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (i) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (ii) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (iii) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company's assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
As described in Management's Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting, management has excluded Vivendi Games, Inc. from its assessment of internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2008 because it was acquired by the Company in a purchase business combination during 2008. We have also excluded Vivendi Games, Inc. from our audit of internal control over financial reporting. Vivendi Games is a wholly-owned subsidiary whose total assets and total net revenues represent 4% and 46%, respectively, of the related consolidated financial statement amounts as of and for the year ended December 31, 2008.
/s/ PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
To the Shareholders and Board of Directors of Vivendi Games, Inc.:
We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheet of Vivendi Games, Inc. ("Vivendi Games," as described in Note 2) as of December 31, 2007, and the related consolidated statements of operations, changes in shareholders' equity and cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2007. Our audits also included the financial statement schedule on page F-64 for the two years in the period ended December 31, 2007. These financial statements and financial statement schedule are the responsibility of the Company's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and the financial statement schedule based on our audits.
We conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. We were not engaged to perform an audit of Vivendi Games' internal control over financial reporting. Our audits included consideration of internal control over financial reporting as a basis for designing audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of Vivendi Games' internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, we express no such opinion. An audit also includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements, assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, and evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.
In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Vivendi Games, Inc. as described in Note 2 as of December 31, 2007, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the two years in the period ended December 31, 2007, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Also, in our opinion, the related financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic consolidated financial statements taken as a whole, presents fairly in all material respects the information set forth therein.
As more fully described in Note 2, beginning in 2008, Vivendi Games retrospectively changed the manner in which it recognizes revenue associated with sales of The Burning Crusade expansion pack, which was released in January 2007.
/s/ Ernst & Young LLP
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these Consolidated Financial Statements.
The accompanying notes are an integral part of these Consolidated Financial Statements.