Analyst firm Cowen & Company expects upcoming Blizzard title Diablo III to sell 5 million units in its first year on sale.
Blizzard revealed today that Diablo III will launch on May 15, with presales of the game now available via the official website. The game is one of the biggest highlights on Activision Blizzard's release list for 2012, and is developed by the company behind mega-franchises StarCraft and World of Warcraft.
Cowen analyst Doug Creutz suggests Diablo III will sell 5 million within its first year. World of Warcraft players can receive Diablo III for free by purchasing a World of Warcraft Annual Pass, and Creutz says that around 1 million of that total will come from this deal.
However, Creutz said that Cowen & Co is not attributing "meaningful impact" to Activision's financial results with regards to the game's real-money auction house system, as he notes that the firm cannot yet predict the popularity of the system.
The Diablo franchise, including expansion packs, has sold over 20 million units life-to-date. The original Diablo debuted in 1996.
Creutz also explained in his latest report that he continues to rate Activision Blizzard's shares as 'Outperform' thanks to the company's strong upcoming line-up of games, including the aforementioned Diablo III, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.
In particular, he noted that the Call of Duty series will continue to dominate the FPS space, while Activision's Skylanders franchise will build on its initial success.
He also said that Western World of Warcraft subscriptions are finally stabilizing, after the game saw sub numbers drop last year. Overall, Creutz believes Activision's shares will outperform by 20 percent over the next 12 months.