Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AGTurbo Says: Call of Duty Sales Numbers

Call of Duty is a series that defies expectations. In 2003, Call of Duty started as a PC-exclusive WWII shooter. It is now one of the largest franchises in videogame history. AGTurbo takes a look at Call of Duty's historic sales in a new feature we're calling AGTurbo Says.

Where it all started.

In 2003, Call of Duty won many Shooter of the Year awards, and some Game of the Year, but most of them were swept up by KOTOR. Both of those games lost to Halo for PC Game of the Year at the first Spike VGAs. The injustice will live in infamy for a couple hundred people. Back to Call of Duty, while Infinity Ward was making the PC version, Treyarch was responsible for the console versions of Call of Duty 1 and Call of Duty 2 on the PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox.
The original Call of Duty used some great game mechanics that have been used in every main installment of Call of Duty since. One of them being the "aiming down the sight" mechanic. In most FPSes, this is now an industry standard. Another neat effect in Call of Duty was shell shock. The screen would get disoriented with grenades and artillery going off in close distances.

Call of Duty was a moderately successful World War 2 FPS, selling a couple of million units. Call of Duty games were coming out when there wasn’t much competition. Usually Medal of Honor was its main competitor. Call of Duty was on par with Medal of Honor in financial success. Call of Duty 2 was the most successful launch game for the Xbox 360 selling 250,000 units the first month of launch. Call of Duty 3, made by Treyarch managed to sell over 5 million units becoming the most successful main installment of Call of Duty to date. What helped was great multiplatform sales on Wii and PS2. The 360 sales were ok. For PS3, the PS2 outsold it. The main reasons for this is because in 2006, the cheapest version of the PS3 was $500. Also Call of Duty 3 is the most successful selling game on the Wii, when the Wii was a relatively new system, and the gimmick didn’t wear out. Since COD 3, sales on the Wii have had diminishing returns.

They'll never see you coming.

When Call of Duty 4 came out, it changed everything about FPS and its series. Before Modern Warfare, there was no such thing as a multimillion selling contemporary warfare game. On paper it had every right to fail. However, it shattered expectations. The single player had some of the most amazing set pieces devised in games. It didn’t feel like “Well this is Call of Duty 2 set pieces with a palette swap.” The multiplayer was very fun with the kill streaks, perks, and short respawn wait. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare as itself almost doubled the total unit sales of Call of Duty. There was an extra 8 to 10 million people that bought Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare that never bought the previous games. Call of Duty 4 managed to sell over 16 million units worldwide on 360, PS3, and PC.

The next game; Call of Duty World at War, was not as well highly received as Modern Warfare, but it did very well. It was developed by Treyarch, while Infinity Ward took the year off the develop MW2. While World at War did sell less than COD4 on 360 and PS3, it sold roughly the same if you include the PS2 and Wii ports of the game. Even though World War 2 seems cliché with the glut of World War 2 games 1999 to 2005, Call of Duty World at War is the most sold WW2 FPS of all time. Medal of Honor Frontline, the most successful World War 2 shooter of last generation only sold half as much as World at War. Call of Duty World at War did introduce a lot of people to a World War 2 shooter.  World at War’s 3 map packs sold over 9 million units. COD 4 only had 1 map pack.

I'm sure he's fine.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 was a game many people were anticipating because it was developed by Infinity Ward and the sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The casuals and the more informed Call of Duty fans were anticipating this game. This is when Call of Duty became a super mega franchise. MW2 had a record $310 million day one sales, $550 million 5 day sales, and hit one billion dollars of revenue in 64 days. While the single player was not as revolutionary as COD4, the multiplayer was greatly expanded upon. According to Activision Q1 2011 financial statement  MW2 sold over 22 million units, which is 7 million more units than COD4. What is significant about this is how many newcomers were introduced to the Call of Duty series, and most of the newcomers to the series do not have much interest playing the older games in the series. MW2 2 map packs managed to sell over 11.5 million as of September 2011.

Call of Duty Black Ops was also made by Treyarch, while all of their previous Call of Duty games were nothing but World War 2 shooters. What made this Call of Duty unique is that it was a new setting, not bound by World War 2. There was no sequel setting to set its basis in compared to MW1 to MW2. Call of Duty Black Ops managed to set sales records despite being developed by Treyarch and not a direct sequel of  a previous Call of Duty game.

This goddamned level.

Black Ops managed to get $360 million day one sales, $650 million day 5 sales, and reached 1 billion in sales in 42 days. Black Ops had 4 different map packs, compared to MW2 2 map packs, and sold a lot way more map packs. Activision when comparing Black Ops map pack sales to MW2, Black Ops sold 30% more map packs comparable to MW2. Black Ops managed to outsell Modern Warfare 2 in 5 months. What took Modern Warfare 2 to sell over 18 months. August 2010, Activision announced Black Ops sold over 25 million units. Which still shows that there is a new base of player getting introduced to Black Ops without playing MW2. Black Ops by an Activision report sold over 18 million map packs by August 2011, not counting the last map pack that released in September. Not only Black Ops is selling more copies than MW2, they are also selling more DLC map packs.

Once again with the release of  sub brand strength of Modern Warfare, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 made, $400 million day one sales, $775 million 5 day sales, and reached 1 billion in revenue in 16 days. More than double Black Ops, and almost quintuple that of  Modern Warfare 2. With map packs coming and new people being introduced to Call of Duty, it is poised to overtake Black Ops in under 5 months. If COD Elite works wonders for Activision, the DLC content will outpace the revenue from Black Ops.

Call of Duty is selling so well, and grabbing a new base so well, it is getting to the point, where more than half of all the people that have played the latest installments of Call of Duty haven’t played Call of Duty 4 which is responsible for where Call of Duty is today.  Of the top 10 most sold games of this PS3, 360 console generation, 6 are multiplatform, and 5 of those are Call of Duty. Call of Duty became a series that sold a couple million copies a year, to 15 million copies per year, to a series that sells over 25 million copies per year.

Yes, votre his position.
What has helped Call of Duty greatly is not having a spin off game. For Call of Duty it is one main game a year, and it is marketed as such. Also the quality of Call of Duty games are solid and is acceptable to the average Call of Duty fan. There is a good action packed campaign, solid co-op mode, and excellent multiplayer. What is essential for Call of Duty’s growth is a group of friends own consoles and play Call of Duty, they get more friends that have consoles and they play Call of Duty together.

Despite internet hatred and if 2 to 4 million fans were true to their word and never bought any Call of Duty games since MW2 or COD4, there is more people going into Call of Duty instead of leaving it. The current fan base of Call of Duty now is significantly different than the Call of Duty fan base 4 years ago. Call of Duty since 2007 has defied almost every trend. Treyarch once considered a B-Team of Call of Duty, is no longer in Infinity Ward’s shadow. Their game Black Ops managed to outsell MW2 which at the time was the fastest selling game of all time. Even MW3 with 70% of the Infinity Ward development team leaving and being co developed by Sledgehammer games, Call of Duty sold faster than ever, in such a way that the brand name of Call of Duty is more important than the creators. With the success of Modern Warfare 3, the series gets to thrive for another year.

AGTurbo knows everything you didn't know you didn't know. Follow him on Twitter @AGTurbo9000.

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