DEC. 5, 2012 • Call of Duty: Black Ops II is keeping up with past installments in the franchise. Activision Blizzard reports that the action title took in $1 billion in worldwide revenue within 15 days. It took Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 a total of 16 days to accomplish the same milestone last year. By comparison, Call of Duty: Black Ops took 42 days to reach $1 billion in sales in 2010, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) needed 64 days.
Impact: After so many installments in the Call of Duty franchise, as well as the disruption caused by the falling out with the former Infinity Ward principals, there have been many questions how long this series could maintain its popularity with gamers. This was a bigger question mark for Modern Warfare 3, as one of Activision’s other studios, Treyarch, has developed the Black Ops games all along. What Black Ops II’s performance shows is that the franchise is holding steady. Still, we wonder what will be the saturation point for consumers with the every other year release pattern for both Modern Warfare and Black Ops. Like sports games, the shooter genre is somewhat more resilient to saturation than some other segments, and the successful migration to console has been a major factor in both growing the Call of Duty user base, as well as bringing in a wider age demographic. Yet saturation is still a worry. While Modern Warfare 3 indeed hit $1 billion in sales faster than Black Ops, by Jan 2012 its sales had slowed down compared to what Black Ops was selling by Jan 2011 forward. In short, Modern Warfare 3 had a bigger launch but thinner tail than Black Ops. With Black Ops II initial sales ramping up slightly faster than Modern Warfare 3, it is highly likely that due to the brand’s popularity, core and mainstream gamers are making their purchases earlier in the product lifecycle, while in total, fewer of the less dedicated gamers and casual gamers who may have bought Call of Duty in the past will buy in. Also working against the comp numbers is the platform mix. Both Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3 had Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii and DS SKUs. Black Ops II is only on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U. While DS and Wii sales were relatively small compared to HD consoles and PC sales, their contributions still added up. Black Ops II only having a Wii U SKU selling into a brand new and small initial install base to replace DS and Wii creates additional downward pressure on those essential trailing revenues.