We all knew Modern Warfare 3 was going to sell well, but who knew how well? Activision announced in a press release (see bottom) this morning that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the fastest ever entertainment property to earn $1 billion, reaching that mark in 16 days. The previous record was held by the blockbuster film Avatar, which made it to $1 billion in 17 days.
That $1 billion mark means that, assuming the default retail price of $60, the shooter event of the year sold over 15 million copies in just over 2 weeks. (The actual number would be lower because of collector’s editions and higher prices in other countries.) Most games would be happy to sell 1 million at all. These amazing sales, in addition to validating Activision’s production policy, also highlight a couple things about the gaming industry. Even though we knew these before, those numbers are pretty strong evidence.
First: We’ve definitely hit the mainstream. Now, obviously video games are a lot more expensive than a ticket to the movies, but it still says a lot that millions of people shell out that $60 in just a couple of weeks. The release of a guaranteed bestseller like Call of Duty is at least as big an event as a blockbuster movie, just not in as wide a market. That will change, too, as today’s kids and 20-something’s get older and enter the older demographics.
Second: Community is a big part of video games. Now, CoD is undeniably a well-made game, but there certainly are contenders which you would think would sell nearly as well. But they don’t. MW3’s biggest contender this year, DICE’s Battlefield 3, sold around 8 million by the end of November – more than a month after it came out. Half as much in twice the time. The reason for this is pretty simple: people buy Call of Duty because, well, everyone else is going to buy Call of Duty. It’s analogous to the situation in the MMORPG genre – everyone plays World of Warcraft because everyone else also plays World of Warcraft. Battlefield 3 as a “CoD-killer” is the same as, say, Rift as a “WoW-killer”. Both of these games are community, multiplayer games. They both have an established fanbase far beyond any of their competitors, and it will be very hard to dislodge either without some serious rebalancing of the status quo. Now, as promised, here’s a copy of the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CALL OF DUTY®: MODERN WARFARE 3™ HITS $1 BILLION MILESTONE IN JUST 16 DAYS Only Entertainment Property To Eclipse Avatar’s 17 Day $1 Billion Record Santa Monica, CA- December 12, 2011 – Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), announced today that Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare™ 3 crossed the $1 billion mark in sales since its launch on November 8, 2011, according to Charttrack and retail customer sell-through information. Highlighting the trend of interactive entertainment gaining a greater hold of audiences worldwide, the game achieved this milestone in just 16 days, eclipsing the record set in 2009 by the feature film “Avatar,” which reached the $1 billion milestone in 17 days. While 2011 box office revenue is on the decline – down 4 percent this year at $9.4 billion, compared with $9.8 billion in 2010 — the number of people purchasing and participating in gaming is on the rise, with no sign of slowing.¹ With more than 30 million gamers, the Call of Duty community now exceeds the combined populations of the cities of New York, London, Tokyo, Paris and Madrid. ¹According to boxofficemojo.com and PricewaterhouseCoopers’Global Entertainment and Media Outlook “Engagement of our Call of Duty audience continues to rise around the world,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “Call of Duty® as an entertainment franchise has made an indelible mark on popular culture and its broad and continued success is further validation that audiences are now valuing interactive experiences over passive experiences. Call of Duty is now amongst that rarified group of sustained franchises like “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Rings” and the National Football League (NFL) that attract or engage tens of millions of people every year or every new release. Our Call of Duty Elite is one of the fastest growing new online service ever with more than six million players registered since its launch November 8, 2011 and over one million premium subscriptions sold to date. By comparison, the premium subscription services of Netflix, Hulu Plus, Sirius XM and Xbox® LIVE®, each reached one million paid subscribers after approximately one year. “Call of Duty has become that rare entertainment franchise that transcends its own genre. Core gamers love it, as our stellar reviews show. But every year, new people are drawn into Call of Duty,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “And while the franchise continues to set records, our fans still seem to want more, demonstrated by our record setting start on Call of Duty Elite. We are committed to helping everyone connect, compete and improve their game, Call of Duty style.” About Activision Publishing, Inc. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Publishing, Inc. is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and leisure products. Activision Publishing is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard which maintains operations in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, China and the region of Taiwan. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Activision Blizzard’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future, including statements with respect to the future of the interactive entertainment industry and the future performance of Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual future results to differ materially from the views expressed in these forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, shifts in consumer spending trends, the impact of the current macroeconomic environment and market conditions within the video game industry, Activision Blizzard’s ability to predict consumer preferences, including interest in specific genres such as first-person action and preferences among competing hardware platforms, competition, including from used games and other forms of entertainment, possible declines in software pricing, product returns and price protection, product delays, adoption rate and availability of new hardware (including peripherals) and related software, rapid changes in technology and industry standards, the cyclical nature of the interactive game market, protection of proprietary rights, maintenance of relationships with key personnel, customers, licensees, licensors, vendors, and third-party developers, including the ability to attract, retain and develop key personnel and developers that can create high quality “hit” titles, and the other factors identified in the risk factors section of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and Activision Blizzard assumes no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Although these forward-looking statements are believed to be true when made, they may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of Activision Blizzard or of the overall interactive entertainment industry and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations. ACTIVISION, CALL OF DUTY and MODERN WARFARE are registered trademarks and CALL OF DUTY MW3 is a trademark of Activision Publishing, Inc. All other trademarks and trade names are the properties of their respective owners. Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. “PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Wii and Nintendo DS are trademarks of Nintendo.