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Activision Is Racking Up Points


But Electronic Arts is struggling to keep the power on.

If you had any doubts about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, erase them now.

Activision's (ATVI) state-of-the-art bang-bang truly delivers the steak after months and months of sizzle. Sure to sell many, many millions of copies, MW2 already ranks as one of the best-reviewed games of all time -- not that gamers needed much convincing to pick up this title.

MW2 is easily one of the best games of this console generation, ranking up there with the likes of Take-Two Interactive's (TTWO) Bioshock and Grand Theft Auto IV, Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy, and Sony's (SNE) Uncharted 2. And for sheer bombast and excitement, it blows away any of this year's blockbuster action flicks like Star Trek and Transformers 2.

I had so much fun playing MW2 this morning that I almost didn't write this article!

And this game couldn't come at a better time for Activision. Between the stinky economy, the slowdown in music games, and the bursting of the Wii bubble, the video-game industry has had a pretty rough year.

The only guaranteed sellers left are big-name, blockbuster franchises, and they just don't get any bigger than Call of Duty. Activision's strategy of relying upon a few mega-titles of exceptional quality may not be particularly exciting -- but now is not the time to gamble.

And then we have Electronic Arts (ERTS).

EA reported okay second-quarter earnings yesterday, but the stock's getting smacked down today on lousy guidance -- something that's ticking me off since I covered my short position going into the quarter.

Lesson learned: Don't ignore a solid, evidence-backed thesis in fear of a one-day pop.

EA also made some major announcements. First, it's acquiring social-gaming company Playfish for $275 million in cash with the potential for further incentives.

Secondly, it's eliminating 1,500 employees, 1,300 of them as part of a restructuring plan.

Finally, it's drastically cutting the number of new titles it will release next year in an effort to focus on higher-profit franchises.

Expanding further into social/casual gaming can be a good thing. Cutting costs can also be a good thing. But doing too many things at once is not.

The core problem at EA remains - -it's just far too complicated a company!

On top of managing its expansive product lineup, EA now has to integrate an acquisition and fire a fifth of the employee base while figuring out how to reinvigorate its tired product lineup -- a big challenge given that a whole bunch of titles were just put on the chopping block.

It also has to navigate industry trends ranging from the Apple's (AAPL) iPhone boom to the rise of cloud-based gaming models. It's all just too much to manage.

So ignore the analysts recommending that you buy the dip. Until there's real evidence of earnings visibility, the stock is going nowhere.

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Positions in ATVI, TTWO
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