Tag Archives: atvi

New Hearthstone X-Pack Leaked, Blizzard Crits Earnings, DA:I on EA:A, Etc.

king krush


Hearthstone “Lost Secrets of Un-Goro”


This week the new x-pack for Hearthstone may have been leaked by a voice actress resume, as reported on the Hearthstone subreddit.

The new card set appears to be themed from the Un-Goro crater area. This means a fertile green jungle with dinosaurs, Night Elf history, crystals, and scientists.

So basically a lot of my favorite things, except the insects. Those things are annoying! I turned back every time I reached Un-Goro in WoW, looking for better adventuring options elsewhere.

I do play Hunter sometimes in Hearthstone, and Hunter might make a comeback from the bottom of the current insanely unbalanced game. Existing dinosaurs in Hearthstone are typically Beast cards (i.e King Krush shown above.)

(I have the beautiful and hungry-looking King Krush card for Hunter, but it isn’t really playable.)

We also learned that Blizzard will finally balance the game a bit – at the end of February, not long before the next X-pack. You can do the math on that.


Gaming Stocks


Activision Blizzard (ATVI) stock ended Friday up 18% on better than expected earnings, crazy user statistics, and the announcement of plans for a $1B (?) stock buyback over the coming months.

So this was a good day. I think I spent $170 on Hearthstone last year, and Blizzard gave me like 200% cash back, plus a dividend.

On the other hand, my venture into Rambus (RMBS) two weeks ago was ill-timed, so I lost 6% on a medium bet. Rambus received a strong upgrade of support from J.P. Morgan yesterday, however, and it’s clearly coming back. Now would have been a better time to buy.

After a bit of experience my policy is to hit it, then hold or forget. This is a forget. I listened to the conference call live with the CEO and CFO, and I was unimpressed. Many other chip companies killed it this quarter while Rambus squeaked by using non-GAAP accounting. It seemed sketchy to my intuition.

I also mentioned Pepsi (PEP) two weeks ago, and it has surged strongly since then, but I’m wary of the inflated U.S. market. If you look at a long-term chart, the curve on the S&P is just too steep (etc. etc.).

There has to be a FOMO effect at this point, and Trump believers are notoriously dumb. 51% actually believe the (mythical) Bowling Green Massacre is real, and a reason why we need a travel ban.

Another question mark over Pepsi is Mondelez (MDLZ), which said last week in their earnings report that the U.S. environment for snack sales last quarter was very challenging, with strong promotions/discounts.


Dragon Age: Inquisition


This week I was looking for a new game, and I noticed DA:Inquisition is now on EA:Access for $5/month! This is by far the best deal I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to exploring EA Access games for a few months until Un’Goro, then Mordor.

Cheers and have a good weekend. Time for dragon slaying, and maybe a little courtly romance. Who knows.

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Elf In Real Life: A Tree Is Injured! And Gaming News Update.

tree bus

My last post was four months today. Here is a quick update.

Yesterday a bus driver in Tennessee flipped a school bus full of kids into a tree, killing five children and injuring several others.

My first thought when seeing this news was to worry about the tree. How badly was the tree injured? Will it survive? I doubt if any of those humans care about the poor tree, which is the real victim of human carelessness.

So I’m making progress in becoming more like a real-life elf.


LotRO


I’ve also reached cap and geared up a 105 elf Warden and 105 elf Rune-Keeper in LotRO. I’m multi-boxing up a 90 Captain right now on a second account, and then I’ll be ready for Mordor.

LotRO has a Mordor map in-game now, which looks really grim, deadly, and impressive.

Who knows when that expansion will happen, but supposedly Turbine has extended the license for at least one more year. The end of LotRO is not immediately imminent.


Hearthstone


I’m playing Hearthstone now. I reached rank 14 tonight. I am balancing my anxiety meds to relax enough to not get stressed, but not be a zombie-like bad player either.

Blizzard finally released a female priest hero! And she’s an elf!! I was lucky enough to have an Amazon Prime membership to get Tyrande. (I’ve since cancelled that.)

I like Tyrande’s portrait, which isn’t as angry-boobed as the original female heroes, and her voice is nice and calm. I bless everyone I play – and then squelch them so they can’t taunt or otherwise spam immature human emotional emotes.

I pre-ordered the Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan expansion and bought 40 packs of Old Gods cards. Those cards gave me Twin Emperor Veklor, but C’Thun priest seems not too great against actual good decks in ranked play.

I crafted N’Zoth with the leftover dust though, enabling deathrattle decks. N’Zoth is a long-term keeper to use in Standard and in future Wild Mode for as long as Hearthstone is alive (unless the card gets nerfed, in which case I have the option to get 100% dust back.)

I’m not too excited about the Gadgetzan expansion yet, but clearly it will enable some new deck ideas, like secret mage, jade golem rogue, and more.


Activision Blizzard Stock


$ATVI has taken it on the face lately, the same as Electronic Arts stock. I was not in either of these stocks during this recent downturn, which was exacerbated by Trump’s victory, causing fears of a China trade war, which could slaughter gaming companies, and all tech companies doing big business in China.

I’ve nibbled half back into Activision Blizzard at this week, prepared to buy more if the stock goes down another 10%. I’m just surprised it took this long for the stock to crash this far. Apparently there are concerns now about Call of Duty sales in the UK. Or something.

I’m also still holding Chinese stock in Tencent, the world’s largest game company, which remains up 10% since I bought it. NVidia soared 25% on stunning results this quarter, but unfortunately I sold it along with Electronic Arts at the pre-election recent market top, which apparently was not the top for some stocks.

Also last week, I initiated small long-term positions in Facebook and Home Depot on their respective big selloffs.

Home Depot’s gain has matched Blizzard’ loss in the last week, so I’m breaking even as the market goes up. That’s never a great feeling. I’m also fairly exposed to potentially devastating Trump trade warfare between the U.S. and China (thus Home Depot), and warfare against an open internet.

Overall market valuations are very stretched right now compared to historical bull markets, but some analysts say tax breaks will boost the market significantly in terms of the current high P/E multiples.


Trump Presidency


Trump currently has his crazy truck in reverse on all of his major policy promises, except maybe NAFTA. He is even moderating on climate change already.

If he does follow through with bringing back the coal industry and making Sarah Palin the interior secretary (drill baby, drill), then a Trump presidency may actually be good for trees. (Surely he isn’t building his Mexico wall out of wood.)

Trees love carbon dioxide! They turn it into oxygen, and that’s how we are all breathing and alive right now. So go ahead and burn coal, President Trump. The polar ice caps will melt, the sea levels will flood the coasts, and the coral will die, but the trees will survive just fine.


Mighty Blizzard: Meet Stock Market Meltdown

S&P500 image
This week was one of the worst in stock market history. Major indices lost over 6%, with the Dow losing over 1000 points.

China’s growth is slowing down. The U.S. dollar is strengthening. Prices of oil and other commodities are still in decline. This brings a risk of financial triggers for countries that rely on oil and raw materials exports, which brings risk to the world financial system.

I watched oodles of CNBC this week, and I’ve never heard the Wall Street boys so defeated. Even the bullish opinions sound like slick salesman B.S. or clinging desperation. The pessimism is actually a plus. If everyone is already out, how much more money can leave the market?

More. Large U.S. outflows have been observed from foreign countries. Some analysts suggest heavy European selling. Every Joe and Jane will see their 401k funds melting, and they’ll pull their money on Monday. Today some analysts mentioned that the market never bottoms on a Friday.

Jim Cramer talked about Blizzard on Mad Money on Tuesday. He said Activision-Blizzard’s 27 billion valuation was undervalued and even “ridiculously cheap”. Cramer spoke highly of Bobby Kotick, who he knows from the old days.

Cramer also spoke highly of NVidia. I personally thought Microsoft and NVidia were played out in terms of news catalysts. I was wrong.

Microsoft popped today on an announcement of a plan to make their own SIM cards for a new phone service for Windows 10. Jim Cramer thinks there is still positive news ahead for Nvidia, at least for two more quarters.

On Wednesday, Cramer spoke on Electronic Arts. He called EA “more problematic”, and said to stick with Blizzard. This general idea was echoed in an analyst report on EA yesterday. Cowen predicted a very strong quarter for EA in mobile, however, with possibly 50% sequential revenue growth.

Cramer is not always right of course. A valid trading strategy is to do the opposite of everything he says. A year ago this month in January, he was recommending Kinder Morgan (KMI) and recommending against Valero (VLO).

Of all the bad CNBC stock advice I saw in 2015, only Karen Finerman’s repeated recommendations of SunEdison (SUNE) ended worse.


Video Game Stocks As “Sin Stocks”


I’ve heard a few Wall Street analysts recommend RJ Reynolds this week, a stock which has risen strongly this week while most other stocks fell. It has a good dividend, but I assume the real reason is because it’s a traditional “sin stock”.

Sin stocks are supposed to do well in a recession. According to the article, they are “businesses that provide an outlet for consumers”. They also have deeper margins than traditional consumer plays.

Sin stocks include alcohol, tobacco, gambling/casinos, and weapons. Really? It sounds like a new category of sin stock needs to be added, since that’s pretty much a definition of video games: addictive, with lots of gambling mechanics and as many guns as possible.

As Jim Cramer mentioned today on Mad Money, Constellation Brands (the brewer of Corona, etc.), reported a stellar quarter and the stock rocketed yesterday. I don’t see why video game stocks shouldn’t also outperform.

I sold Nvidia, Microsoft, TAN (solar ETF), and Electronic Arts in previous weeks closer to their tops. The question is when to buy them back. Yesterday I pushed 50% back into EA, but it’s important to have major patience.

The solar ETF is a trickier trap since it’s influenced so heavily by politics, oil, and having 25% of its holdings in China.

Some big name money managers are calling this another major financial crisis, on par with the 2008 Great Recession, which lasted 18 months. That seems as good as anything for a worst-case scenario timetable.

Other people are saying the severe oversold conditions are a setup for a “multi-week rally”. I don’t see why the S&P should break the “crowning top” pattern until other bearish patterns, like oil and Dow transports, are broken first, but anyway, that’s enough of that.

Happy Friday, time to stock up on sins.


New Year 2016: Looking Forward And Back

Pink Bed

I spent New Year’s on social media. I didn’t feel too alone. I was in bed with my computer. One time I told my guild in LotRO that I couldn’t do a dungeon run because I was ‘playing in bed’.

This image is what I mean, boys.

Last week I purchased Divinity: Original Sin on sale on Steam. It’s a really polished game, and I was having fun exploring and solving puzzles. At level two I was suddenly told that I was the saviour of the world, and the enemy is a void dragon.

I haven’t played Divinity in several days. I was also dying too much in fights. The same formula made me quit Skyrim: dragons, dying, and ‘chosen one’.


Looking Back At 2015


This was Activision Blizzard‘s year. They were called out yesterday on CNBC as up 92% on the year, the third best performing stock in the S&P 500. They were also cited on Bloomberg as the winner of Christmas based on Call of Duty sales. COD won’t match Star Wars, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Meanwhile, EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront debut was a critical fizzle, a disappointing lump of pretty-looking mediocrity according to this kitty’s most trusted Jedi of truth-telling.

Acti-Blizz also bought King Digital for a ridiculous sum of course, and the breaking news today is their purchase of Major League Gaming.

I’ve mentioned on this blog the large amount of debt Blizz is carrying already. Can they really crush it as the 1000-pound gorilla, or can nimbler studios pull the rug from under Blizzard’s efforts to counter the outflow from WoW?

Even though EA’s stock has sold off on their latest (perceived) IP fumbling, it might still be a better long-term investment, especially if Star Wars sales numbers are solid with casual console players.

Some high-profile Wall Street analysts are making this prediction, calling EA a strong buy in its current trough. I sold at 72. I’ve learned to not sell Blizzard.

Of course, the stocks will now probably go in opposite directions because that’s what happens to the stupid kitty.


What I’m Looking Forward To In 2016


Mafia 3 ~ Not. I’ve been looking forward to this game for two years, but Take Two ruined it. They turned the classy, artsy feel of this game into a knuckle-head brutality fest.

I can’t even bear to watch that trailer again to compound this kitty commentary.

It looks like they just GTA-ified this great franchise. That means it’s GTA, but they changed the Italian ‘family’ into a ‘family’ Lousiana style – or something.

I just know I won’t be playing as that bicep-busting caveman. Goodbye forever, handsome Vito. Thankfully we have another shooter –

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 ~ Yes! I recently found out the game offers a choice of gender! Can this kitty love Acti-Blizz even more? I hope so. Thank you Blizzard. I’m looking forward.

Dogma: Eternal Night ~ The Kickstarter for this vampire-themed labor of love failed miserably this month, and it’s looking more like a shiny pipe dream. I hope those guys get hired by the big companies with zero balls to spend real money on vampires.

You know who you are. (Massively coverage.)

Everquest: Next ~ Who knows! You’re better off watching kitten videos on Youtube than watching EQN news.

More Hearthstone ~ More Hearthstone unless I have heart failure. I hit rank 15 again and quit this month. I feel like I can go a lot higher with my Dragon Priest (yes, I’m aware of the irony).

Hearthstone is giving me a panic attack. That’s the problem. I wish I could just relax and play Hearthstone, with no more anxiety than tossing a ball at a wall for an hour.

The World of Warcraft Movie ~ I’m skeptical I can enjoy this without knowing the lore but who knows. Blizzard is already building a movie studio so this first film needs to be profitable, right? Otherwise a movie studio would be a bad idea.

In other news, this was an all-time record year for Hollywood with 11 billion box office sales in North America. So maybe Blizzard is crazy like a goblin, a very wealthy goblin.

Since I’m ‘meh’ about Black Desert, Blade and Soul, and Camelot Unchained, that’s about it. I’m still working on my ‘bi-adventure’ game project. Here is an image of my first map.

Happy gaming and best wishes for the new year.

adventure map

More Reading: Massively’s 2016 post.


Blizzard Shocks Wall Street, Microsoft Shocks The XBOX

Last night, Blizzard announced shocking revenue growth with strength across its product lineup (except WoW). Activision Blizzard stock is up over 13% today. Congratulations to everyone who didn’t sell the stock recently like this stupid kitty.

Here are some highlights from the Blizzard earnings release for the second quarter of 2015:

  • On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s net revenues were $759 million, as compared with $658 million for the second quarter of 2014.
  • “Our audience size and the total amount of time people spend with our franchises continue to grow. In the second quarter, our monthly active usersB grew by 35% year-over-year, and the time our communities spent playing our games grew by 25% year-over-year”. – Bobby Kotick
  • Destiny now has over 2 billion hours of gameplay since launch, which amounts to an average 100 hours of gameplay for each of Destiny’s over 20 million registered players.
  • On April 2, 2015, Blizzard Entertainment launched Blackrock Mountain(TM), the second Adventure for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The release of Hearthstone on iOS and Android smartphones followed on April 14, 2015. Key engagement metrics, which were already very strong, nearly doubled year over year, largely on account of the new content and new platforms.

Electronic Arts is up 5% today in sympathy, so this kitty is not totally forlorn. And Blizzard still has over 4 billion in long-term debt, compared to EA’s ~600 million.

Yesterday I watched the Microsoft presentation at Gamescom. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. XBOX One will be updated with Windows 10 in November.
  2. Microsoft Cloud has 20x the computing power to stream a game than an XBOX One.
  3. XBOX One will also receive DVR capability, so you can record shows from TV and store on an external hard drive. You can schedule on the go, and all shows on this DVR can then be streamed to any of your Windows 10 devices. This is coming in 2016.
  4. Microsoft showed a DirectX12 demonstration. DirectX12 is just one of the ways Win10 was built for gaming. In Windows 10 you can record and share your favorite clips with a built-in game DVR, no special hardware or software.
  5. Built-in XBOX app in Windows 10. Voice and text chat, PC to console. Start game on one device, continue on another. Cross-buy feature. Anything you purchase can also cross-play. You can play on either Windows or XBOX platform, stream from PC to anywhere in home network.
  6. Scalebound. A new action RPG, on foot or on the back of a dragon. You play as a guy with draconic powers in search of a dangerous artifact. You play with a companion, except your companion is a ridable dragon that fights and talks with the main character. I’ve recently lamented the fact that dragons are too often just plain big monsters in video games, so this is a nice-looking change.
  7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. A new side scroller with heavy RPG elements. Simultaneous release on XBOX One and Windows 10, and gamers on both platforms can can play together.