In gaming, sales numbers are the king statistic. It is a number that shapes what developers and publishers can do and it is important for each company’s future plans. Call of Duty had, for a long while, been atop the leader board year in, year out, until Rockstar Games swooped in and stole the crown from Activision‘s head a few weeks ago by garnering a staggering $1 Billion sales in just 3 days with the long-awaited release of Grand Theft Auto V. Activision vowed to reclaim the world record, even with declining sales for the series and lowered expectations for Ghosts.
So you can imagine the surprise when Activision announced that they had sold a billion’s worth of Call of Duty: Ghosts in just 24 hours. It is a rather perplexing stat, due to the cooler critical reception to Call of Duty: Ghosts and the game having a divided release between the current and next generation. When taken on face value, the stat holds up. Activision did sell a billion dollar’s worth of the games but on closer inspection, the sales were “into retail stores worldwide as of day one” as opposed to consumers.
This is a statistic that is just begging to be misinterpreted by the press and gamers alike. Indeed, it already has been, creating a little confusion amongst gamers with several outlets already getting the wrong end of the stick when it comes to comparing sales figures. At least for the moment, Call of Duty:Ghosts has not overtaken Grand Theft Auto V, otherwise Activision would have released consumer sales up front. After all, it took time for Take-Two Interactive to release official consumer sales for GTAV along with their quarterly financial earnings reports.
Still, there’s no questioning the numbers of the franchise to date, namely last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, or the popularity of it and Call of Duty: Ghosts online. It’s not only the most popular game on Xbox Live, but average player sessions are longer than any previous COD game. The franchise, according to analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen & Company, is review proof:
“We think CoD has become such an embedded franchise that it is somewhat review-proof. We think of CoD as being like EA’s Madden NFL, which continues to sell similar unit numbers year in and year out, regardless of reviews; Madden’s Metacritic has ranged as low as 78 in recent years. Given that CoD changes only incrementally from year to year, we think reviewers have become increasingly less likely to give very high review scores due to a certain degree of ennui with the franchise.”
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard:
“More people have played Call of Duty this year than ever before, logging four billion hours of gameplay. And in the last 12 months, Call of Duty®: Black Ops II, including its digital content, generated more revenues than any other console game ever has in a single year. Although it is too early to assess sell-through for Call of Duty: Ghosts, it’s launching a ta time when the franchise has never been more popular.”
Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing:
“Ghosts is an amazing game which ushers in the next generation of Call of Duty. The team at Infinity Ward has delivered yet another epic thrill ride in the campaign, and what I think is our best multiplayer game yet. This is the must have launch title for the next generation of consoles, and we expect Call of Duty: Ghosts to be the most successful launch title for the Xbox One and PS4 by a wide margin. In fact, according to GameStop, Call of Duty: Ghosts is their most pre-reserved next gen title.”
The billion dollar figure is still impressive and represents the brand power of the shooter franchise from sheer retailer expectations alone. Activision and Infinity Ward do however, have the reputation and momentum of their flagship franchise to worry about. The profits for the game will be astronomical with its sales, even if it sells less, and it did have a much smaller budget than Grand Theft Auto 5. It also has split its release with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game, delayed until each respective console’s release. While gamers can trade in their games for a small upgrade price, some will be holding off until the next generation’s launch to get into the game.
While Call of Duty: Ghosts may not have beaten Grand Theft Auto V‘s record – at least as far as we know – once every version of the game is out and DLC begins to be released, Activision will have almost certainly taken a fair purse. But will Ghosts beat out the sales of its predecessors? Its reviews took a bit of a dive.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available now on PC, PlayStation, Wii U and Xbox One. It will be available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on launch.