Like clockwork, Activision Blizzard announced a new Call of Duty game. But this one is going to be very different.
The company said in its earnings release today that it will launch a Call of Duty online micr0-transaction game for players in China. That’s a big deal since it marks the first move to launch Call of Duty as a free-to-play game in Asian markets, where users prefer to play a game for free and pay real money in small amounts for virtual goods. Call of Duty Black Ops is the best-selling game of all time, the company said today.
The company said it will create a “best in class digital platform” surrounding the Call of Duty franchise. A new Call of Duty game is expected to debut sometime this fall and Activision Blizzard said it hopes to release more details in the coming weeks. The company said it will launch an immersive title and that the game so far has exceeded every internal milestone in its development.
“Today, Call of Duty is part of the cultural landscape,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, in a call with analysts.
Last quarter, the company announced it has created a new Call of Duty studio called Beachhead, which will create a connected “digital universe” for online fans. The company will have in-game integration of Beachhead’s platform and bring online experiences and console play together for the first time. It has been in development for more than two years. Beachhead’s purpose is to create an energized community that can be monetized, Hirshberg said. Beachhead’s efforts will be part of the major release of a Call of Duty game coming this fall. The plan is to continuously provide content online on a year-round basis.
Activision Blizzard said that Black Ops players have logged more than 1.2 billion hours of online game play and that Black Ops is now the top-selling video game of all time for the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the PC. The number of online players playing Black Ops is 33 percent higher than the number that played the prior year’s title, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, for the first five months after each game’s release. The number of quarterly downloads of Call of Duty Black Ops First Strike — the first map pack for Black Ops — was 20 percent higher than the first map pack for the prior game as well. On average, First Strike players have been playing 58 minutes a day in online games since Feb. 1. That compares to 55 minutes a day spent on Facebook.
Activision Blizzard is working on a new Call of Duty game and will release more details in the coming weeks. Once they launch, it will market them with the biggest marketing budget the company has ever had. The company’s main goal is creating a big splash with its console and stand-alone PC games based on the series. On that front, Activision Blizzard is creating a new Call of Duty digital platform, which will be a hub for Call of Duty fans much like Battle.net is a hub for StarCraft II fans.
Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, said on the earnings call that he believes this year’s Call of Duty effort will constitute the best experience for fans that the company has ever created. Call of Duty is growing on every measure of engagement. The hours of online play, consumer awareness and intent, size of the community, sales and other measures are all growing. And Call of Duty has 10 million fans on Facebook.
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