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Activision Blizzard just had its best year ever, thanks largely to Blizzard

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Money, money, money, money ... money

Overwatch Junkrat screenshot
Junkrat in Overwatch.
Blizzard Entertainment

2016 was a great year for Activision Blizzard — in fact, the publisher tallied revenue of $6.61 billion for the full year, a record in the company’s history.

The figure came from Activision Blizzard’s full-year earnings report today. It’s up 42 percent over 2015’s total of $4.66 billion. Digital revenue provided a major boost to the company’s bottom line: It came in at $4.87 billion — also a record — which was almost double the figure from 2015, and 74 percent of Activision Blizzard’s total revenue.

Consider those two numbers together: Last year, Activision Blizzard made more money from digital channels alone than it made in total during 2015. That increase makes sense, considering that the company’s $5.9 billion acquisition of King — the Stockholm-based mobile game publisher behind the Candy Crush series — closed in late February.

Another major contribution to Activision Blizzard’s revenue was the banner year that Blizzard had in 2016, during which the company happened to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Blizzard released Overwatch in May, and the first-person shooter has since become “the most successful intellectual property in our company’s history,” said Thomas Tippl, Activision Blizzard’s chief operating officer, during an investor call today. Last month, Overwatch reached the milestone of 25 million registered players, becoming Blizzard’s fastest game ever to hit that mark.

Blizzard’s net revenue for 2016 came in at $2.43 billion, making up 39 percent of the entire company’s revenue. For reference, the Activision part of Activision Blizzard — which publishes titles like Destiny, Call of Duty and Skylanders — provided 36 percent of Activision Blizzard’s revenue. (King delivered the remaining 25 percent.)

Games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft, along with the Call of Duty franchise, played a big part in raising Activision Blizzard’s digital revenue for the year. The company said that it pulled in a record $3.6 billion of revenue from in-game content, up 125 percent year-over-year (excluding King, the figure was still up 30 percent). That includes sales of items such as Overwatch loot boxes, Call of Duty supply drops and World of Warcraft pets.

In case you forgot about World of Warcraft, the August release of the Legion expansion — the MMO’s sixth — boosted the game’s monthly active users by 10 percent year over year. Total play time for World of Warcraft during the fourth quarter of 2016 was even higher than in the third quarter, when Legion debuted, and was the highest total in the last four years for any non-launch quarter. On top of all of that, Hearthstone had its best-ever monthly active users for the year, up more than 20 percent over the previous high.

There are a lot of numbers in this article, but here’s one sentence that should sum up how popular Activision Blizzard games were last year: “In 2016, consumers spent approximately 43 billion hours playing and watching Activision Blizzard content, on par with Netflix and over one-and-a-half times Snapchat.”

Update (Feb. 11): We’ve edited the story to clarify references to Activision Blizzard, the parent company, versus its subsidiary Activision.