The best-selling shooter for the last several years has had “Call of Duty” in its title. Now, it looks like another Activision release is going to put an end to that reign.
Activision and developer Bungie will sell at least 15 million copies of the upcoming sci-fi shooter Destiny, according to an estimate from Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz. Every year following the big Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in June, Cowen begins tracking the performance of upcoming games on retail sites like Amazon to get an idea of how excited players are for those games. Destiny has the highest rating in the four-year history of Cowen’s chart. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, meanwhile, is tracking behind the three previous entries in the franchise, and Creutz believes that a lot of that is due to “cannibalization” from Destiny.
“We continue to believe that Destiny is a lock to sell at least 15 million copies,” wrote Creutz. “And we now view 20 million copies as increasingly likely.”
Destiny’s rating on Cowen’s chart is actually higher at this point than either 2012’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II or 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V. Black Ops II went on to sell 25 million copies and Grand Theft Auto V is at 33 million.
“Now, we still think it’s unlikely that Destiny will match the actual unit sales of [Call of Duty: Black Ops II] or [Grand Theft Auto V] due to the cap created by a PS4/Xbox One hardware installed base that we expect to be 25 to 30 million units by year’s end,” wrote Creutz. “We do expect Destiny to spur significant hardware unit sales of PS4s and Xbox Ones, and we expect Destiny to have very high attach rate to new-gen hardware.”
The Cowen analyst team is estimating that nearly one in every two PS4s or Xbox Ones sold may end up paired with a copy of Destiny.
Bungie is running a massive beta test for Destiny that is open to everyone with PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. Demand for the test appears intense, but Activision and Bungie have not released any numbers about how many people are in the game.
As for Activision’s other major shooter, things aren’t looking quite as bright. Creutz notes that Advanced Warfare is on track to sell 80 percent less of what Call of Duty: Ghosts did (at least when compared to where Ghosts was at this point last year).
“This is a pretty shocking result, ” he wrote.”And if it is representative of actual final unit sales, then Activision has a serious problem — even given the likely performance of Destiny.”
Of course, Advanced Warfare’s is potentially out of its groove due to the hype for Destiny. Activision is focusing its outreach and marketing efforts on Bungie’s shooter until it debuts in September. That means Call of Duty’s advertising campaign won’t fully emerge until later in the year, and that could help boost preorders.
“Ultimately, we do not really think Call of Duty is going to wind up selling just around 5 million copies,” wrote Creutz. “And therefore we do think preorders for Call of Duty — and probably other Q4 titles — are likely to accelerate significantly after Destiny’s launch. However, the question is ‘how much.'”
While Destiny is looking like a big win for Activision, it won’t really help the company if it comes at the expense of Call of Duty, which is its marquee, multibillion-dollar franchise.
“We do think that the risks of cross-franchise cannibalization are considerable at this point,” wrote Creutz.