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Leading the pack: Activision Blizzard's 2012 prospects

Despite a perception that Activision Blizzard leans solely on its largest properties, the giant has plenty of tricks up its sleeve for the coming couple of years.

There's no hiding the fact that Activision has tightened its focus to huge, safe bets, but, unlike some of the other major players, it has a solid plan in mind which remains quite independent of new hardware.

Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer still have their hands full producing Modern Warfare 3 DLC, which is likely to be extended as long as it continues to sell like hotcakes - which will probably be several months yet.

Licensed games have a poor reputation but Activision has two good ones for the summer. Beenox seems to be doing some clever things with The Amazing Spider-man, having been given a free hand to do as it liked. The open-world adventure is expected in June, alongside the next movie.

In August, we'll see Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. It's not a movie tie-in, but continues High Moon's own Transformers canon; the latest developer diary certainly makes it look like a love letter to the IP.

In the autumn, Activision will continue to build on its newest success in the form of Skylanders: Giants. Last year's massive toy-and-game gamble really paid off, to the point that Activision now rates Skylanders alongside Call of Duty, so expect a big marketing push, spin-offs and more.

Speaking of big guns, the heavyweight is, of course, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, due in November 2012. It should be noted that Activision doesn't just rely on the franchise's regular sales performance (which has hit tens of millions three times in a row) but also its ongoing digital proliferation as a service, as Elite helps drive continuing engagement - and DLC sales.

It's a small but solid line-up for the rest of calendar 2012, having already kicked off well with Diablo III. Looking on, Blizzard is expected to drop a bomb before the end of the year in the form of World of Warcraft's Mists of Pandaria expansion.

Although the full import may not be as obvious to the consumer, Blizzard will probably also launch the Arcade this year. This digital marketplace has the potential to go massive, and Blizzard has it lined up alongside the likes of Diablo III's auction house as part of its online money-making strategy.

Moving onto calendar 2013, things get much hazier. Blizzard has a number of projects which may or may not surface, as the publisher, more than practically any other, works to its own schedule. We'll probably get Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. The RTS, increasingly important to eSports, is growing serious financial legs again.

Although it's not a major release as such, Blizzard All-Stars (recently known as Blizzard DOTA) is going to be an important part of the modding and MOBA communities, and maps created for it will form part of the upcoming Arcade.

It will be hugely surprising if we don't see both a new Call of Duty and a new Skylanders during 2013, and according to recent information we'll finally find out what Bungie's been up to all this post-Halo time, with the first (potentially Xbox-exclusive) Destiny.

That's not the only reveal we should see from Activision Blizzard over the next few years, though; the twin publisher has several known but unannounced projects on the go which should be reaching maturation. For one thing, there's the long awaited new Blizzard MMO, codenamed Titan.

Former DJ Hero developer FreeStyle Games is working on a secret new project, while Vicarious Visions has at least three.

Perhaps most excitingly, Neversoft has been toiling away on a new shooter for quite some time, as job ads confirm - although there's some question as to whether the studio may be jobbing for Destiny or Call of Duty.

Finally, Prototype 2's reasonable but not stellar performance means Radical Entertainment may find itself without a sequel to lead into; the studio is hiring for DLC support, probably for Prototype 2, but also a couple of concept artists, suggesting it may be working up a brand new pitch.

There's no hiding the fact that Activision has tightened its focus to huge, safe bets, but, unlike some of the other major players, it has a solid plan in mind which remains quite independent of new hardware. Blizzard's PC focus and hugely loyal fanbase positions it perfectly to manage the console hardware transition, and Activison can count on platform holders to woo the Call of Duty juggernaut. Trust Uncle Kotick and Grandpa Morhaime; Acti Blizz will weather the sto- no, I just can't do it.

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