‘Call of Duty’ Sets Sales Record

By on November 20, 2012

Activision Blizzard Inc. ATVI +1.71%said sales of “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” the latest in its war-simulation-shooting series of games, topped $500 million in retail sales during its first day on the market.

Activision’s ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’ hit store shelves today as the holiday season started early for game enthusiasts. Will ‘Call of Duty’ slow down sales of recently-released ‘Halo 4’? Dan Gallagher reports on digits. Photo: Activision.

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The game, which puts players front and center in near-future wars in American cities, went on sale Nov. 13, a week after Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.78%released “Halo 4,” its latest space-age alien-shooting-adventure title. That game, which was in development for four years and cost an estimated $40 million to produce, had more than $220 million in sales in its first 24 hours of availability despite being exclusively available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 videogame console.

“Call of Duty,” by comparison, was launched on both the Xbox and Sony Corp.’s 6758.TO +0.12%PlayStation 3, and it will be on Nintendo Co.’s 7974.OK -2.62%upcoming Wii U console. Both games cost about $60 apiece.

Activision’s stock rose 4.7% to $11.06 following the news Friday.

AFP/Getty ImagesCustomers wait in a Game Stop store in Universal City, Calif., to buy ‘Call Of Duty: Black Ops II.’

Activision, based in Santa Monica, Calif., said the $500 million in global retail sales came after millions of fans had attended more than 16,000 midnight openings for the game at retail stores world-wide.

“Every November we do more than just the launch of a game, we kick off an annual, unofficial but world-wide phenomenon called the “Call of Duty” season,” Eric Hirshberg, head of the company’s Activision Publishing arm, said.

Game-industry veterans are looking to the two titles, as well as games like Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s UBI.FR +3.96%action-adventure game “Assassin’s Creed III,” to reverse a protracted slump in retail-videogame sales that has led to overall sales contractions for nearly a full year.

Analysts have blamed both a lack of new titles and stale videogame hardware for the falling sales, saying new consoles like Nintendo’s Wii U should help to energize customers.

“One month of contraction is not a good thing, and we’ve been swimming upstream in this category since December,” Paul Raines, chief executive of GameStop Corp., said in a recent interview.

The lack of certainty around customer interest in both the Wii U and traditional videogames has made investors nervous, however, leading shares of Activision to have fallen by more than 10% and stock in Electronic Arts Inc. EA +5.06%to have declined by more than a third so far this year.

“Even the analysts can’t forecast this business—it’s unbelievable,” Mr. Raines added.

Regardless of overall industry sales, concerns over whether the latest in a string of annual installments for “Call of Duty” could perform have been calmed for now. Last year’s “Call of Duty” title, “Modern Warfare 3,” rang up $400 million in sales in North America and the U.K. during its first day on the market. That game went on to top $1 billion in sales within its first 16 days, beating a record set by the box-office sales of “Avatar,” the feature film that reached that milestone within 17 days.

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