Activision's Call of Duty rebounds with $800 million launch weekend
This year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is making a massive impact, with Activision Blizzard announcing that the new game earned $800 million in sales in its first three days of full release.
Why it matters: It's a sure sign of recovery for gaming's biggest annual franchise, after an uncharacteristically poor performance of last year's Call of Duty Vanguard, which drew blame for softer game sales worldwide throughout 2022.
- A booming Modern Warfare II could push momentum the other way.
Details: Activision didn't share unit sales, favoring the opening weekend revenue approach it has trumpeted nearly every year since the series' inception.
- The previous high mark was the $775 million set for 2011's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, across the five days of its launch. Note that, adjusted for inflation, that total would exceed $1 billion today.
- Modern Warfare II is likely benefitting from some contemporary factors, including the newly elevated $70 price point for the game and Activision's unusual decision to offer MWII's single-player mode for eight days prior to the game's official launch, for those who pre-ordered.
- It also helps that Modern Warfare is the most popular of Call of Duty's sub-franchises, featuring its most popular characters and a setting that appears to be better received than last year's World War II.
Bear in mind: Even last year's slumping Vanguard has ranked as the second best-selling console or PC game in the U.S. in the last 12 months.
- But Activision was visibly unhappy with its performance, refraining from issuing a launch-weekend press release and telling investors the game missed its mark.
The plotlines launched by Modern Warfare II, beyond its huge sales, are plentiful:
- The game’s use of skill-based matchmaking, which links players of similar proficiency in CoD’s popular multiplayer modes has thrilled some gamers. But it’s infuriated top streamers who complain that it makes playing the game too stressful (and, presumably, less entertaining for their viewers to watch).
- Shock moments in the game’s globe-trotting special forces story mode, like when the player is tasked with pointing a gun at concerned civilians to “de-escalate” a situation, have stirred numerous pieces on the messages this top gaming franchise sends about guns and the deployment of military power.
- The discovery that the PlayStation 5 disc version of the game contains just 70MB of data — requiring a download of more than 100GB to play the whole game — turned heads. Publishers have shown an increased willingness to tie physical copies of games to digital downloads, stressing players with limited bandwidth and making it harder for games to be preserved offline in the future.
- The game’s graphics have dropped jaws but infuriated owners of a hotel in Amsterdam who are upset about their establishment’s inclusion.
Looming nearby is the specter of Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision, still waiting on approval of regulators who are, in part, factoring in the value of Call of Duty.
- In a filing to the U.K. competition regulator a few weeks ago, Microsoft floated the possibility that Vanguard’s struggles proved Call of Duty might not be mighty forever.
- More recently, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told interviewers at Same Brain that Microsoft would sell Call of Duty on PlayStation as long as there are PlayStations.
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