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Games publisher Activision Blizzard saw a 19 per cent revenue gain in the first quarter, as sales from its mobile unit King and the popularity of online multiplayer game Overwatch counterbalanced a drop in sales from its console business.

First-quarter revenues were $1.7bn, ahead of the company’s guidance. Net income was 17 per cent higher at $426m, with earnings per share up 25 per cent to 57 cents.

After disappointing sales of Infinite Warfare, last year’s installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Activision Blizzard said that orders for the next game in the series, set during the World War II, were “off to a very strong start”.

Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s chief executive, said that previews of Call of Duty: WWII and Destiny 2 had been “very well received by fans”.

Shares in Activision Blizzard, which have rallied by almost 50 per cent in the year to date, were down about 2 per cent to $52.00 after-hours.

King, maker of the Candy Crush series of games, saw a 129 per cent increase in net sales for the first quarter year-on-year, while Activision, which publishes Call of Duty, was down 40 per cent over the prior year.

Blizzard’s Overwatch is now a “billion-dollar franchise”, the company said, with more than 30m players and a new e-sports league that Mr Kotick hopes could help make his company into the ESPN of competitive video-gaming.

Other games publishers are benefiting from a shift to mobile.

Zynga, the social-gaming company that also reported earnings on Thursday, saw its shares rise 5 per cent after-hours, thanks to a better-than-expected first quarter. Overall sales were up 4 per cent to $194.3m, compared with Wall Street’s forecasts of $191.5m. Mobile revenues were up 19 per cent year on year, as its audience grew 16 per cent to 18m daily active users on smartphones and tablets. Net losses for the quarter narrowed from $26.6m to $9.5m.

Zynga has regained momentum in part thanks to Zynga Poker. However, it will soon face more competition in “social casino” apps from King, which Activision Blizzard said plans to launch a game in the genre through a partnership with PlayStudios.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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