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Call of Duty: Black Ops II debuts at midnight openings around the world (photo gallery)

Once a year, the world goes bloodthirsty. It happened again today as Activision Blizzard launched Call of Duty: Black Ops II around the globe at midnight store openings.

Dressed in military gear (or like zombies), fans came out in droves for special events, multiplayer tournaments, and celebrations. Above, the event in Toronto, Canada, featured a bunch of zombies in military garb. Midnight launches have become such a tradition as video game marketers try to turn their games into real cultural phenonena. Activision said that more than 16,000 retailers around the globe held midnight openings, compared to 10,000 for Halo 4.

All indications are that Black Ops II will match last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, last year’s title, which was the fastest-selling game of all time. Black Ops II preorders are running ahead of Modern Warfare 3. It will be a test to see whether Black Ops II can beat Halo 4, which sold 4 million units and $220 million-worth in its first 24 hours (up from $200 million for Halo: Reach, released in 2010).

So far there don’t appear to be any complaints about multiplayer server access. I’ll be interested to see if Call of Duty and Halo 4 can lift retail sales of games in the month of November. We’ll see if retail can grow again or not as social, mobile, and online games steal market share from it.

Call of Duty has been the top seller during the holiday period each year since 2008, according to the NPD Group. Liam Callahan, an analyst at NPD, said that Call of Duty was 14 percent of all retail game software sales last holiday. Call of Duty has more than 30 million active fans.

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[Image credits: Call of Duty blog]


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