According to Activision, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a smashing success. Shortly after Advanced Warfare’s release, Activision called it the “biggest entertainment launch of 2014” (although the company didn’t elaborate on what exactly that means). More recently, Activision issued a press release claiming that Advanced Warfare is the best-selling game of the year.
So, everything’s hunky-dory at the house that Modern Warfare built, right? Not so fast. While the latest sales report from the NPD Group confirms that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare beat heavy-hitters like Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Super Smash Bros. for November’s top spot, the game sold 27% fewer copies than its predecessor, Call of Duty: Ghosts, did over the same time period.
That’s a problem. Activision hoped that Advanced Warfare would actually sell better than Ghosts, and that obviously didn’t happen. Even worse, Advanced Warfare marks the third straight entry in the Call of Duty franchise to sell fewer copies than the title before it; taken cumulatively, the series’ sales have dropped over 50% since Modern Warfare 3 came out in 2011. Ouch.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Activision, of course. Blizzard titles like World of Warcraft and Hearthstone are performing better than expected and Activision’s still on track to meet its yearly revenue projections. Activision also says that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the best-performing digital release in console history; while analysts don’t have access to digital sales data, making this claim hard to verify, it’d make sense. Digital distribution has seen a huge upswing in popularity over the last couple of years, and Call of Duty is still a huge franchise, even if it’s not the juggernaut it once was.
Still, the trend has to be upsetting for Activision; for years, Call of Duty was the cornerstone of Activision’s empire, and while Destiny proved to be quite popular, it doesn’t seem quite ready to take over as the publisher’s flagship franchise. Interestingly, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare actually sold more copies on the Xbox 360 than on any other platform. It remains to be seen whether or not that’s a result of the older device’s massive install base or if, for whatever reason, Call of Duty simply isn’t engaging owners of the latest generation of consoles.
Side note: four of the top ten games in November’s NPD report (Grand Theft Auto 5, Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon Omega Ruby, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection) are remakes of older titles. For gamers wondering why publishers continue to recycle old material instead of producing something new, well, that’s the reason right there.