Big 'WoW' at Vivendi
By Robert Levine, Fortune

(Fortune Magazine) -- In 2002, Vivendi (Charts) shopped its anemic games division but couldn't find a buyer. Major layoffs followed. Now the unit has become Vivendi's star: In the second quarter, sales at Vivendi Games jumped almost 30 percent over the previous year, helping drive the company's overall revenue growth to 4.8 precent - a big jump over expectations.

The game changer was Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, a "massively multiplayer online game" that lets devotees interact in a Dungeons & Dragons-like fantasy realm. Often abbreviated as WoW, it has 6.5 million users worldwide who bought the packaged game and now pay a subscription fee (about $15 a month in North America).

Others, such as Sony (Charts) with Everquest, have enjoyed some success with similar games, but not on the scale of WoW, which has more than a million subscribers in North America. The game is now so popular that some analysts believe it is choking off its rivals. "This is a combination of the right product, the right timing, and the right execution," says Michael Pachter, a gaming analyst at Wedbush Morgan.

Vivendi's failure to sell its games division will probably continue to pay off. This fall Blizzard will release an expansion pack - World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade - which should keep subscribers interested. And the game will soon enter a business that has long been closer to Vivendi's heart: A World of Warcraft movie is now in the works.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.