Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) has been a hot investment. The world’s second largest gaming company has seen its shares jump over 17% since last Friday.
The catalyst has been the purchase of Vivendi’s majority stake. The resulting reduction in uncertainty, combined with the upcoming console refresh, has lifted shares to a multi-year high.
Yet, despite Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI)’s recent resurgence, there are reasons to be skeptical of the company’s long-term future.
Activision isn’t a player in mobile
Unlike its rival Electronic Arts, Activision has no major mobile games. Instead, the company has remained firmly married to the traditional gaming paradigm — consoles and PCs.
Titles like Call of Duty regularly lead the console industry, while games like World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo remain immensely popular (and profitable) PC franchises.
But Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) has no made attempt at breaking into the mobile gaming a world — a market of over 100 million gamers in the US alone. And it likely won’t anytime soon. On the company’s last earnings call, CEO Bobby Kotick downplayed the trend towards mobile gaming, saying that they just “don’t see anything” that would support a shift to mobile.
So far, that’s been to Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI)’s credit. While companies like EA and Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) have entered new markets, Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) has been the better investment.
A new gaming paradigm?
On its face, Kotick’s observation is a bit simplistic. While Zynga has floundered, indie companies like King have made millions. Candy Crush, King’s recent megahit, is projected to bring in over $200 million in the next year, largely from in-app purchases.
At the same time, struggling Japanese gaming companies like Square Enix have planned to shift their focus to the mobile market, leveraging lesser development costs to spearhead a turnaround campaign.
But the biggest threat to Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI)? The industry could be on the verge of change that few see coming.
Apple and Google could dominate the console market
First with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iOS, and later with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android, the two tech titans came to dominate the global smartphone business, squashing rivals like BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) in the process.
Could Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) be next? It’s certainly possible.
In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is developing its own Android-powered console, following a recent trend that has seen a flurry of cheap Android consoles such as the Kickstarter-backed Ouya.
Despite initially selling out, the Ouya has been widely criticized for its technical shortcomings. But any Android-powered console from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) would not have the limitations of an indie project.
Meanwhile, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been rumored to be working on a TV for years. Such a device would likely run iOS and have access to Apple’s extensive library of apps. When (or if) the device appears, it will more or less offer an all-in-one TV-video game console.
There’s already intense developer interest for such a device. Earlier this year, Nat Brown, one of the co-creators of the original Xbox, predicted that Apple would steamroll the console players if it chose to enter the market.