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Activision Blizzard Inc. (ACTG-Q) was able to hold onto subscribers of its most profitable game, "World of Warcraft," in the first quarter and the largest video game publisher in the United States raised its earnings outlook for the year.
The game maker now expects earnings per share of 95 cents US per share on revenue of $4.53 billion, which is below Wall Street's expectations of 97 cents per share on revenue of $4.57 billion.
Investors closely watch subscriber numbers for "World of Warcraft" because the franchise is the company's most profitable business and generates a steady stream of recurring revenue from millions of users who pay $15 a month to play it.
The game, which is 7 years old, has seen its subscriber numbers steadily decline in recent quarters. Activision managed to keep its first quarter "World of Warcraft" subscribers static at 10.2 million compared with last quarter. But it lost subscribers compared with a year ago, when it had 11.4 million players.
The company posted total revenue of $1.17 billion compared with $1.5 billion a year ago for the three months ended March 31. Its net income dropped to $384 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with $503 million, or 42 cents per share a year ago.
Adjusted for the deferral of digital revenue and other items, the company said net income fell 57 percent to $67 million, or 6 cents per share. Wall Street analysts were expecting 4 cents per share on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Activision Blizzard cut 600 jobs in February. Activision, which employed 7,300 people at the end of 2011, acquired its Blizzard unit from Vivendi in 2008.
The company said that game development schedules will not be affected by the job cuts and it was on track to launch its upcoming game, "Diablo III," on May 15.