WALMART DISPLAYS: USA Today reported late last week that, following two mass shootings, Walmart (WMT) had decided to remove violent video game displays and signs from its stores. Workers at Walmart locations were given a memo that called for "immediate action" to remove signing and displays that "contain violent themes or aggressive behavior," according to USA Today's Kelly Tyko, who noted that Walmart officials had confirmed the memo's authenticity. "We've taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and this action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment," Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said. Company officials said earlier last week, however, that the retailer will not stop selling firearms, the author notes. ''There's been no change in policy,'' Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said.
ATVI EARNINGS: Last Thursday, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) released its results for the second quarter, reporting Q2 adjusted earnings per share of 53c on net bookings of $1.21B, compared to analysts' estimates of 26c and $1.19B, respectively. Monthly Active Users, or MAUs, for the quarter were 327M, with the company's King segment, responsible for the "Candy Crush" series of mobile titles, reporting 258M MAUs. In terms of player investment, Activision Blizzard said it delivered roughly $800M of in-game net bookings in Q2, with year-over-year growth in in-game net bookings from "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush."
Looking ahead, Activision said it expects Q3 adjusted EPS of 20c and net bookings of $1.1B, compared to analysts' current estimates of 27c and $1.22B, respectively. In addition, the game maker raised its FY19 adjusted EPS view to $2.02 from $1.85 and reaffirmed its net bookings view for the year of $6.3B. Analysts currently expect the company to report FY19 EPS of $2.16 on net bookings of $6.32B.
ESA LOOT BOXES: On Wednesday, the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, announced that several video game industry leaders are announcing new initiatives to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases, particularly with respect to microtransactions and loot boxes. The ESA said that the major console makers -- namely Sony (SNE), Nintendo (NTDOY), and Microsoft (MSFT) -- are committing to new platform policies that will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items. Such required disclosures will also apply to game updates, if the update adds new loot box features. The ESA added that the precise timing of this disclosure requirement is still being worked out, but the console makers are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.
The association also said that several of its publisher members already disclose the relative rarity or probability of obtaining in-game virtual items from purchased loot boxes, and other major publishers have agreed to do so no later than the end of 2020. Such publishers include Activision Blizzard, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), Ubisoft (UBSFY), Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (T), and Wizards of the Coast (HAS).
NINJA GOES TO MIXER: Video game streamer Richard Tyler Blevins, more commonly known by his online alias Ninja, announced two weeks ago that he would be streaming exclusively on Microsoft's Mixer platform instead of Amazon's (AMZN) Twitch. According to media reports from this past weekend, Ninja chastised Twitch for allowing other streamers to promote themselves on his now inactive channel, as a pornographic video was the number one recommendation of channels that visitors to Ninja's old URL saw. Ninja claimed in a video posted to Twitter that there were other changes and behavior that he and his team took as parting shots as he left Twitch.
OTHER STORIES TO WATCH:
- Polygon's Ana Diaz reported Friday that "Fortnite" creator Epic Games is being sued in a class action suit over security breaches that let hackers access personal data of Epic Games accounts. Investors in Epic include Tencent (TCEHY), Disney (DIS), and KKR (KKR).
- According to esports and gaming consultant Rod "Slasher" Breslau, ESPN and ABC made the decision not to air the TV broadcast of the XGames Apex Legends EXP Invitational that was scheduled for this past weekend in response to the recent mass shootings.
- Meanwhile, Electronic Arts announced yesterday that "Madden NFL 20" had the highest final week of pre-orders in franchise history and that well over half of week one sell-through units were digital.
- GameInformer reported that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot confirmed that a new game in the "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell" franchise is in the works.
- Meanwhile, GameInformer's Joseph Stanichar reported on Friday citing Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad that Activision has sold 3.8M copies of "Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice" to retailers just over fourth months after its release.
"Game On" is The Fly's weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.