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Diablo 3 to sell 5 million copies in year 1, predicts analyst

Series has sold over 20 million units to date

Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz expects Diablo 3 to sell five million units in its first year of availability.

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Earlier today, Activision Blizzard announced a May 15 release date for the highly anticipated action RPG.

Creutz said: "Our street-high FY12 EPS estimate of $1.05 assumes first year unit sell-through of 5MM for Diablo III, and assumes that over 1MM of the units incorporate the World of Warcraft 'annual pass' deal which allows WoW players who commit to a one-year subscription to receive Diablo III for free."

The first two Diablo games shipped in 1996 and 2000, and the series has sold over 20 million units to date, including expansion packs.

Cowen & Company continues to rate Activision shares Outperform based on the strength of the publisher's product slate.

Creutz said: "We expect three Blizzard titles to ship over the next twelve months (Diablo III, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria); we expect the new Bungie title to ship in 2013; and we expect Blizzard's new MMO to ship in 2014.

"We also expect Call of Duty to maintain its dominating FPS leadership position, and we believe that the company has a great opportunity to build on its initial success of its Skylanders franchise. Finally, World of Warcraft Western subs continue to appear to be stable vs. year-end levels. We think ATVI shares can outperform the market by 20% over the next 12 months."

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