Call of Duty: Black Ops II Explosion

Activision’s biggest franchise is still pulling in the megabucks.

In its first 24 hours at retail, Call of Duty: Black Ops II sold through more than $500 million at retail worldwide, according to Acitivision estimates. That’s a big day for any product, and this illustrates why so many other publishers chase after Treyarch and Infinity Ward with me-too clones of gaming’s most lucrative first-person shooter. Black Ops II is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC for $59.99. A Wii U version is due out Sunday.

“With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row,” said Activision Blizzard chief executive officer Bobby Kotick.  “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for Harry Potter and Star Wars, the two most successful movie franchises of all time.  Given the challenged macro-economic environment, we remain cautious about the balance of 2012 and 2013.”

While Kotick is being a bit silly comparing game sales to movies — while film tickets are getting pricey, they’re nowhere close to a $60 game — but in terms of raw cash, this franchise produces more money than most blockbuster films.

“Call of Duty has become more than a product people buy, it’s a brand people buy into. And every November we do more than just the launch of a game, we kick off an annual, unofficial but worldwide phenomenon called the Call of Duty season,” said Eric Hirshberg, Activision Publishing’s CEO. “I want to thank our incredible team at Treyarch for making an amazing game, everyone at Activision for making this brand a force of nature and our retail partners for their unprecedented support of this franchise. But most importantly I want to thank our millions of fans for their continued support and loyalty and for making us better every day.”

Activision will continue to pull in more from this franchise as it goes to sell $49.99 season passes for downloadable content. It will also surely have a new game in the series ready for next year from the Infinity Ward team.

The publisher is also making a move into the Asian market with a free-to-play version co-developed by Chinese company Tencent called Call of Duty Online.