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Acti Q1: Diablo III beta Q3, new CoD shown in "weeks"

Activision Blizzard has announced a large increase in calendar 2011 Q1 profits, as well as making new announcements related to Call of Duty and confirming a Q3 2011 beta for Diablo III.

Acti boss Bobby Kotick confirmed the 2011 Call of Duty game is about to be announced.

"This year's Call of Duty has a very high bar to exceed," he said. "We believe this year's Call of Duty initiatives will result in the best Call of Duty experiences we have created to date."

He added that more details on this year's game will be announced in the coming weeks, and customers will be excited over the "creative excellence and sheer scale of the game we are making. The game will also be surrounded by the biggest marketing campaign the company has ever delivered.

"The unprecedented online universe that will accompany it will reset the bar for this genre, giving players a new level of immersion, connectivity, community and, of course, epic action," added publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. "The game has exceeded every internal milestone and we look forward to sharing it with you soon."

The company said in its financial release that it's making "robust investment in forthcoming Call of Duty titles, including a micro-transaction game for China," the first mention of the game, and also reconfirmed its "best-in-class digital platform surrounding the Call of Duty franchise," which was shown in New York last week.

The new CoD game is being developed specifically for China.

Call of Duty: Black Ops became the best-selling game of all time in dollars across 360, PS3 and PC in both the US and Europe for the quarter, and was also the top-selling game in both territories for the period, the firm said.

Digital downloads of Black Ops' First Strike map pack were more than 20 percent higher than those for Modern Warfare 2's Stimulus Pack during the comparable period in 2010.

Diablo III beta confirmed for Q3

Escalation was downloaded 1.4 million times on 360 in its first 24 hours of availability. The pack will release "later in the quarter" for PS3, and no mention was made of a PC version.

Activision's much-mentioned Call of Duty online system - developed by Beachhead - will feature "in-game integration" and will bring together console and PC play "for the first time", with no mention of Modern Warfare 3, nor whether Raven and Sledgehammer and its new logo are actually working on the game with Infinity Ward.

More on Modern Warfare 3 is expected sometime soon, possibly before E3.

“On our last call, I told you that we had formed a wholly-owned development studio called Beachhead to lead the creation of an all new connected digital universe to the Call of Duty franchise," said Kotick.

"This platform will include a suite of services and content plans that will unite and ignite the community like never before. The platform will support in-game integration and bring online experiences and console play together for the first time.

"It’s been in development for almost 2 years and we’re very excited about this increased value and excitement we can bring to our community through this platform."

"It is the response to the passion people have for the game, the amount that people want to engage one another in a connected way," said Hirshberg. "We want to create an experience that was amplifying enough to be able to be monetized.

The system will be an "integral part" of this year's Call of Duty game. The Activision execs on the investor call clearly stressed that online play would not become a premium service with the new game.

"We are not attempting to monetize or take any experience away that currently counts as part of the value proposition of buying the game,” said the firm, with Kotick adding that "a lot of new capabilities and services [will be] provided free of charge to our customers."

CFO Thomas Tippl said he didn't expect a Blizzard game to release in 2011, but pointed to "at least" two games from the arm in calendar 2012.

Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime said that World of Warcraft now has more than 11.4 million subscribers worldwide.

The Diablo III beta test is aimed at the third quarter of 2011, Morhaime said. Internal testing started last week.

Black Ops "ftw"

Net income for the quarter stood at $503 million, an increase of 76 percent from $381 million in the previous year.

Revenue for the period, ended March 31, was up from $1.31 billion in 2010 to $1.45 billion this year.

PC revenue rose steeply in the quarter, from $49 million to $129 million, accounting for 9 percent of taken cash compared to 4 percent in Q1 2010.

As EA did last week, Activision boss Bobby Kotick said that, while 50 percent of revenue had come digitally delivered content in the quarter, the company has only "scratched the surface" in terms of downloadable opportunity.

The digital distribution business is the fastest sector in games, the company said.

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