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Digital-card game Hearthstone played a significant role in helping Activision to a better-than-expected third-quarter, but the publisher is expecting the card battler to grow even further over the next year thanks to its expansion plans.

During a conference call with investors yesterday, Activision Blizzard highlighted how important Android is to Hearthstone. The collectible-card game is already a hit on PC, Mac, and iPad, and the company is planning to release it on Android tablets in the next few weeks. Versions for iPhone and Android follow in early 2015. As successful it is with hardcore gamers (20 million players; high praise from critics), it’s the Android version that could really help take Hearthstone’s profitability to the next level — and that’s all because of a few territories in Asia.

“We’re particularly excited about Android, especially when it comes to China and South Korea,” Blizzard chief executive officer Mike Morhaime told investors. “That’s where Android is the dominate platform.”

While iOS and Android share a portion of the market in many Western territories, Google’s mobile operating system is enormous in China and South Korea, as Morhaime pointed out, but it’s also important in Japan. These are three of the largest mobile-gaming regions in terms of revenues.


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China is on track to spend $2.9 billion on mobile games this year, and that’s already up more than 90 percent from $1.8 billion last year. In Korea, 80 percent of mobile-app spending is on Google Play. Japan has the highest average revenue per download of any country at $6.34.

The country’s with the fastest-growing mobile-gaming sectors in the world are as follows:

  1. South Korea
  2. Japan
  3. China

On top of all that, Blizzard’s games have always performed well in China and South Korea. China is one of the biggest countries in terms of subscriptions to World of Warcraft, and South Korea has a massive competitive-gaming scene that grew up around strategy release StarCraft. That affinity could help Hearthstone, which is based on World of Warcraft and has deep e-sports hooks, excel in those nations.

Hearthstone so far

Getting Hearthstone on Android and into Asia could lead to major growth. It’s already doing well, but it’s not necessarily the moneymaking smash that World of Warcraft is (although nothing really is).

“Hearthstone is a strong hit with 20 million players,” Activision Publishing chief executive Eric Hirshberg told investors. “It has strong engagement and monetization.”

Hearthstone is in the top 50 highest-grossing apps on iPad in important markets like the United States (45), South Korea (19), and Canada (30). While that’s impressive, this is only for iPad and doesn’t include iPhone, which generates more revenue for apps just due to volume. Also, the difference between a top-10 grossing game and No. 45 is actually quite large — and while core gamers love Hearthstone, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the 11th highest-grossing app on iOS.

Of course, Hearthstone has a huge base of players on computer as well. Gamers in China, South Korea, and Japan that play on PC or Mac are likely already enjoying the game.

But finding new players on PC is more difficult than mobile. To play Hearthstone on PC, you need to install the Battle.net client, and getting people to install stuff on their computers is notoriously tricky. Unity Technologies, the company responsible for the Unity development tool and web player that enables high-end games on browsers, has found that people will click through to install a game and give up when they learn they need to download a separate client. Mobile games don’t have that problem because most people are comfortable trusting Apple and Google.

During the conference call with investors, Hirshberg went on to say that the future of Hearthstone’s growth is all about expanding to new platforms and new content. The company found that the Curse of Naxxramas add-on, which introduced a single-player campaign and new cards, was great at getting players to come back.

But Android and iPhone are the key to getting new players to try out Hearthstone in the first place.

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