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Bottom line: If you would like to see microtransactions go the way of the dodo, don't look to Activision. This year the publisher broke record earnings numbers, including in-game sales. In fact, cosmetics, DLC, subscriptions, and loot boxes were the majority of Activision Blizzard's income by a fair margin.
Activision Blizzard released its fourth-quarter earnings and 2021 financial results earlier this week. According to the numbers, the company had record-breaking growth. Net revenues in Q4 were $2.16 billion, a seven-percent increase over the third quarter but a 10-percent year-over-year decline.
While the dip for the quarter is unfortunate, the beleaguered company did well overall. Activision ended its 2021 fiscal year earning $8.8 billion—a nearly $800 million windfall over FY2020, which was also a record breaker. These figures are surprising considering the ongoing sexual harassment proceedings and the announcement of significant delays for flagship games Diablo IV and Overwatch 2. Couple that with the fact that sales for the Call of Duty franchise were down last year, and it's a wonder Activision Blizard had its best year ever.
Activision Blizzard announces Fourth-Quarter and 2021 financial results: https://t.co/T0gppqquDG— Activision Blizzard (@ATVI_AB) February 3, 2022
"I'm so incredibly proud of our teams for their commitment and passion as we continued to engage the world through epic entertainment in 2021," said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in a statement. "As we look to the future, with Microsoft's scale and resources, we will be better equipped to grow existing franchises, launch new potential franchises and unlock the rich library of games we have assembled over 40 years. Our 370 million players around the world and workplace excellence remain our focus. For investors, our recently announced transaction is the culmination of three decades of providing superior shareholder returns."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Activision's breadwinner was not even a game; it was microtransactions, as usual. The 2021 fiscal year recorded $5.1 billion for net in-game sales. This income includes DLC, WoW subscriptions, and any cosmetic items or loot boxes in any of its games.
That figure is a staggering 61 percent of Activision's total net sales and is a $250 million increase YoY. It is clear from these figures that microtransactions—at least with Activision—are here to stay.
"For the year ended December 31, 2021, Activision Blizzard's net bookings were $8.35 billion, as compared with $8.42 billion for 2020," read the report. "In-game net bookings were $5.10 billion, as compared with $4.85 billion for 2020."
Last year was the second consecutive year that Activision broke revenue records. For FY2020, net revenue amounted to $8.09 billion. It is no wonder that Microsoft is willing to fork over an industry record of $68.7 billion for the company.