Two of the biggest gaming publishers in the business, Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts, have shared new numbers about how much money their games make from microtransactions–and it’s a lot.
Activision Blizzard measures microtransactions through a bucket called “in-game net bookings,” and these reached $956 million for the quarter ended March 31. That’s up by $162 million (+20 percent) from $794 million during the same period last year.
Specifically, Activision said microtransaction sales for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare–the highest selling Call of Duty game of all time–during the quarter “more than doubled” compared to microtransaction sales for Black Ops 4.
Modern Warfare’s microtransactions come in part from the game’s battle pass, which is shared with the free-to-play battle royale game Warzone. Activision regularly releases new customization items to buy outside of the battle pass, too, including various marijuana-related items to celebrate 4/20. Modern Warfare was notable from a monetization standpoint, as it ditched the franchise’s traditional season pass model in favor of giving all maps away for free, and replacing the Season Pass with the Battle Pass.
Activision Blizzard also made a lot of microtransaction money from Call of Duty: Mobile‘s Season 5 release. This new launch led to the “highest monthly in-game net bookings” for the game since Season 1, Activision Blizzard said.
Activision Blizzard also generates microtransaction revenue from basically all of its other games, including World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and of course, its numerous mobile games from subsidiary King (Candy Crush).
Moving to Electronic Arts, the company measures microtransactions through a label called “live services.” For the quarter ended March 31, EA made $789 million from live services, which is down from $845 million from the same period last year (which benefited from the launch of Apex Legends). For the trailing 12 months, EA has been a whopping $2.779 billion from live services. This is not a full or a complete picture of how much money EA makes from microtransactions, as revenue from mobile ($138 million) and full-game downloads ($190 million) are not counted toward live services.
EA also commented on the microtransaction revenue, saying last year’s Q4 figures benefitted from the launch of Apex Legends, making it a difficult comparison. On the brighter side, EA said its Ultimate Team modes “grew strongly.”
“The year-on-year decrease is driven by the massive launch of Apex Legends a year ago, offset by growth across the rest of our live services. Ultimate Team grew strongly through fiscal 2020,” EA said.
In 2018, EA CEO Andrew Wilson spoke about how EA is committed to microtransactions–so long as they are handled responsibly and in a fair manner.
“Going forward, we believe that live services that include optional digital monetization, when done right, provide a very important element of choice that can extend and enhance the experience in our games,” Wilson said. “We’re committed to continually working with our players to deliver the right experience in each of our games and live services.”
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