Microsoft and Sony’s enthusiasm about the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 may not be matched with equally vigorous sales, Activision president Bobby Kotick has warned, admitting that the game publisher is preparing itself for a potential slump come launch. “We continue to face the uncertainties of the console transition” Kotick said during Activision’s financial results call with investors earlier this week, highlighting Nintendo’s struggles with the Wii U as evidence that all is not well with next-gen hardware. The Wii U “has had a very slow start” Kotick pointed out.
The so-called transition Kotick describes is one of an evolving gaming industry, where players aren’t perhaps so wedded to their dedicated, heavy-duty consoles as they were at the launch of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Factor in the remaining questions that surround even Sony’s officially announced PlayStation 4, and Kotick is readying for an uphill struggle.
“There are still many unknown factors,” he explained on the call, “such as pricing, launch dates and quantities, the level of first-party support and, importantly, consumer purchase intent in a world where consoles are no longer just competing with each other, but also with new platforms, such as smartphones and tablets.”
Those mobile platforms have risen in gaming prevalence over the intervening years, with more casual titles at the $0.99 price point in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play market gaining traction on iPhone and Android. Apple’s iPod touch has also become a compelling gaming system, with improvements in the company’s homegrown processors leading to more impressive, near-console-quality titles.
In short, it’s a very different market from what Microsoft and Sony are used to, and one in which Kotick seemingly suspects they may find the reception to the Wii U to be the rule, not the exception. “All of these factors further heighten our concerns heading into the back half of the year,” he concluded, “particularly during the very competitive fourth quarter.”
Activision has already warned that World of Warcraft online multiplayer subscribers are dropping, though the game publisher says it is confident its other projects will maintain sufficient momentum to keep profits up.