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Why video games are the new movies: Call of Duty Black Ops sales top $1B

Move over, Hollywood.

Call of Duty Black Ops video game sales have topped $1 billion since the combat game went on sale on Nov. 9, Activision Blizzard reported today.

The numbers are a land-speed record for the sale of any video game: It’s the fastest $1 billion ever made in the video-game industry. Black Ops broke the previous record set by its predecessor, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, a year ago.

The resuls show that Call of Duty is firmly embedded in the psyche of the modern gamer as a top brand for action games. But the numbers have a far deeper significance — and here’s why even people outside the industry should be paying attention.

Activision Blizzard previously announced the game sold more than $650 million in its first five days, outpacing all records for five-day box office receipts of any movie, according to boxofficemojo.com. A year ago, Modern Warfare 2 hit $550 million in five days.

To date, more than 600 million hours have been logged playing Call of Duty: Black Ops since the game launched. The average player logs on more than once a day and plays for more than one hour each time, according to Microsoft, which operates the Xbox Live online gaming service for the Xbox 360 game console. More than half the time is spent playing online against friends. Those numbers attest to the strong engagement we noted in our own story on Black Ops multiplayer gaming.

“In all of entertainment, only Call of Duty and “Avatar” have ever achieved the billion dollar revenue milestone this quickly,” said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard.  “This is a tribute to the global appeal of the Call of Duty franchise.”

Some of that is marketing bravado, to be sure. But a little bluster is in order when you own a killer franchise in an entertainment category that’s commanding an increasing share of people’s leisure time and spending.

The sales success comes despite turmoil at Activision Blizzard, whose mainstay Call of Duty game studio, Infinity Ward, erupted into litigation earlier this year as the company fired the founders for allegedly trying to start a new company while still employed at Infinity Ward. Black Ops was created by the here-to-fore second-string game studio, Treyarch.

But like moviegoers who sit down for a sequel even if the studio signs up a new director, players evidently don’t care about who makes the game — as long as the game is good.


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  3. [...] when it first launched, even though Activision-Blizzard’s first person shooter blockbuster hit Call of Duty Black Ops came out at around the same time and brought in $1 billion in a month. World of Warcraft’s third expansion generated an estimated $188 million in retail sales in its [...]

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