The publishing giant has already pushed Singularity, the upcoming shooter from Raven, into 2010 and shareholders are apparently getting antsy over the possibility that Blizzard's long-awaited StarCraft 2 may also run into delays. The game was originally intended to be released by the end of 2009 but Brean Murray analyst Jess Lubert says that prospect now looks highly unlikely. "The beta testing for StarCraft hasn't started yet," he said. "If it starts in August and takes 5-6 months, then launching the game this year is next to impossible."
Todd Greenwald of Signal Hill echoed those comments, saying, "While it is not inevitable that StarCraft 2 is delayed, the speculation is running rampant that this is the case."
Activision still has one of the industry's strongest lineups of holiday releases, however, and one game in particular that could mitigate the impact if StarCraft 2 slips: Modern Warfare 2. Doug Creutz of Cowen & Co. predicts the game could move 8.5 million units while Greenwald says it could surpass ten million. "Depending on mix, Modern Warfare 2 strength should mitigate any StarCraft 2 delay, and then some," he said.
And while uncertainty about the holiday schedule, coupled with slowing North American game sales and difficulties getting World of Warcraft relaunched in China, have taken a toll on the company, Lubert said that a confirmed release date for StarCraft 2, regardless of whether or not it makes the holiday window, would take a lot of the pressure off the company. "Even without StarCraft, I think Activision should be able to get to their current guidance for the year. But without StarCraft, getting an upside to that number might be challenging," Lubert said. "I just think investors need that certainty of when it will ship, and it will remove this overhang."