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 Call of Duty  sales slow down as casual buyers find entertainment elsewhere
Call of Duty sales slow down as casual buyers find entertainment elsewhere
April 13, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

April 13, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi
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    28 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Previous analyst predictions were right: it looks like ongoing sales of the annual Call of Duty franchise are beginning to slow down.

Life-to-date sales of 2011's entry Modern Warfare 3 are behind where 2010's Black Ops was at this time last year, despite the former having a stronger debut.

While exact sales numbers are not public, analysts at Macquarie Equities say that Modern Warfare 3 volume sales are behind by around 4.2 percent.

Notably, March sales in particular were damning, with last month's sales of Modern Warfare 3 reportedly less than half the amount that Black Ops sold at that time last year.

Analysts at PiperJaffray say that these numbers could indicate significant changes in the market: specifically, the firm believes that casual players -- those who don't necessarily purchase a game at launch -- are buying less games at retail, and are instead using their consoles primarily for video streaming and other forms of media consumption.

Webush Securities analyst Michael Pachter added that March's weak performance could indicate that software sales are becoming more reliant on new releases, meaning consumers are less often buying games after their initial debut.

Publisher Activision Blizzard does not rely entirely on boxed retail sales for Call of Duty revenue. In fact, 34 percent of the company's revenue in its last fiscal quarter came from digital sales, much of that from the 1.5 million annual premium subscribers to its Call of Duty Elite service.


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Comments


Brian Taylor
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Good, people need to see that there are more enjoyable things out there than pointing a gun at strangers and calling them f*****g n*****s all day and night.

Joe Zachery
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OK not sure what that last line is about.
Still it goes to show that people like certain things a little more. Personally I think Black Ops was a funnier game compared to MW3. Maybe others feel the same way.

Jonathan Murphy
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Lol! Well put. From someone who used to play a lot of FPS. The constant 12 year old swearing at me became annoying.

When it becomes a game to see how much money you can get out of the customer you will lose.

Brian Taylor
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Joe, the last line was aimed towards all the racial comments used online and constant bashing, arguing, etc. It does really bring out the worst of people. lol. These games are good, sure, but they're not THAT good. I played MW3 and my place on the leaderboard was 11,000,000+, that's ridiculous. No wonder kids are so ill tempered, impatient and are, in general, a pain in the a**. I'm not saying it's bad parenting, but when I have children, I'm positive they will play games, as it's what I'm studying and want a career in. I'll have them play games that are actually enjoyable without the gun toting, macho man, swearing, this is America BS.

Dan Jones
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Maybe I've just got incredible luck, but I'm not convinced the kinds of behavior you're describing are as quite as common as people usually imply. I'm not saying it doesn't exist; I've certainly experienced the maddening griefers/trolls before. Just not very often.

I think I've got about 100 hours in MW3 so far and I'd estimate about 80% of the lobbies I've been in had nobody speaking on their mics at all. Very occasionally someone might get mad at his teammates after a loss and say some rude things before ragequitting, but I don't recall hearing any racial slurs on XBLA yet this year.

Brian Taylor
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Really Dan? because I have put about 10 hr in MW3 and all I hear is name calling.

Dan Jones
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Heh, well, maybe you're better than I am at the game and people get upset when they play you.

I'm pretty mediocre, so it's possible everyone is nicer because they're in high spirits after destroying me. That's my job: improving everyone else's K/D ratios, one lobby at a time!

Wylie Garvin
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When you sign up for Xbox Live, you can pick different "domains" to be matchmaked in. If you picked "Casual" or something, you probably don't encounter the foul-mouthed 12-year-olds as often. If you identified yourself as a hardcore gamer, you'll get matched against other people who did that too.

I haven't played much on Xbox Live for a couple years, but I remember being matched against lots of foul-mouthed little kids, and plenty of teenagers who called everyone they spoke to a 'n****r' or 'fag'. The Greater Internet F***wad Theory is as true today as it was back then. http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

Megan Quinn
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Infinity Ward built the franchise, we noticed when Activision thought they didn't need them anymore. Metacritic was not kind and it should be seen as a good thing when customers don't adopt a product just because of it's name when the quality slipped.

John Flush
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"Webush Securities analyst Michael Pachter added that March's weak performance could indicate that software sales are becoming more reliant on new releases, meaning consumers are less often buying games after their initial debut."

I find it hard to find new copies 4-6 months out from release anywhere but on Steam. The lack of shelf space and impulse buys at $20-30 bucks are the reason for that trend...

Fiore Iantosca
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This was the LAST CoD game I buy and I regretted it after playing it for a month.

Harry Fields
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You played it for a month... and then regretted it? If you got a month of fun out of a game, I dunno... that's pretty good spend.

k s
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The same people who buy CoD in droves are also the same people who watch movies on a console (regularly). MS is not helping gaming buy pandering to these people, they will never be able or willing to sustain the industry.

Amir Sharar
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This casual market always existed. Of course, I'm using the term in the classic sense where console owners would buy nothing more than sports games yearly, or big titles back in the day.

With this in mind, you'll also see Sony "pandering" to the same people by touting DVD playback of the PS2 as a big feature. The goal for all of these companies was to create devices that could do more than just play games. There was always a large segment of the market that didn't buy many games, and to squeeze them for more revenue isn't a bad idea.

k s
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I've almost never used my Xbox as anything other then a game machine but I realize MS and Sony don't care, they're only driven by $$$.

Omar Gonzalez
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With people spending more and more time on FB, Netflix, iOS, Android etc... The $60 price tag is killing AAA, the value proposition has change.

Harry Fields
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I'd argue that the 60$ price tag for a 6 hour singe-player experience is definitely hurting things. Games like Skyrim, hell... I'd pay 100$ for. Not everyone is into the hyper-competitive multiplayer world.

k s
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Harry there are more of us single player gamers then the big publishers think. Oh and 6 hours for $60 is a huge factor.

Buck Hammerstein
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if MW3 sold more during its initial release (the link above says $400 million) than BlackOps ($360 million) then they sold almost 10% more during the first weeks on the market.

doesn't it just seem logical that if 10% more people bought MW3 during the early period of its existence that there would 10% less people buying it months later... and taking into consideration growth in the market (if there were to be any) that the 4.2% decline would still mean an expected result of earlier sales?

i guess greedy folks want "high early sales" followed by "high sales when the game is 5 months old" as well as "high dlc sales" and "high horse armour sales" and maybe some coloured dyes on day one release.

Aaron San Filippo
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Yeah I was wondering that too. Seems like the analysts are kind of missing the big picture?

William Johnson
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I think the real problem is Activision's unhealthy reliance on over saturating a market to the point where it is unsustainable. I half think that this is Activision's way to trying to keep out competitors. After all, the best way to take out Rock Band was to release more Guitar Hero games until no one wanted to play plastic instrument music games anymore.

Maybe ironically EA seems to now be using that same playbook. They are releasing a new Battlefield or Medal of honor every year to try and saturate the modern military shooter. Hell, they even just released SWTOR for the soul purpose of taking a bite out of WoW.

I just don't see this as viable for a strong long term growth of the market. It does go back to my conspiracy theory, that publishers are more interested in hurting each other more then they are interested in making good products and growing the industry.

k s
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"conspiracy theory, that publishers are more interested in hurting each other more then they are interested in making good products and growing the industry"

I'd believe that.

Jeremy Reaban
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I think EA is responsible more for the death in music games. Not just all their Rock Band releases, but the constant stream of DLC - why buy a new game for $60 (or $40) when you could simply buy new songs every single week?

While it didn't sell well, at least Activision tried to expand the market a little by releasing DJ Hero.

And EA is definitely now flooding the market with military shooters - just wait until the ex-CoD guys add to EA's releases.

Brian Taylor
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Man that theory is true, especially in EA's case. I remeber reading about Dead Space 2 prior to release and all they talked about was it's "MW 2 like action sequences", they did the same with SSX, during a trailer or presentation, I can't recall fully. They mentioned that it had more action than a CoD game. These are completely different genres and all they can do is think of how to bring CoD down. They had that CoD link that led to BF3's website, and EA has pulled numerous verbal low blows on Activision, I'm just tired of it. Maybe I didn't pay attention as a child, but I miss the days where I'd pop in Resident Evil on PS1, and spend all night taking turns with my good friend until we escaped the horror of the mansion. Not worrying why I'm lagging all the time, why my shots didn't register, etc.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

William Johnson
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@Dave
I don't totally buy that. I don't think music games are a fad per se. DDR is still just as popular as it ever was. The only thing that made DDR look like it was obsolete was the fact that the market expanded with Guitar Hero.

Essentially, what music games distil down to is a game of simon with alternative controllers. While I don't think its personally very interesting gameplay, it has stood the test of time. But maybe because music games are the purest form of a Skinner Box around, that's why they've stood the test of time. And I do know that Skinner Boxes are highly looked down upon in game design. So maybe your right and they aren't sustainable for much longer then what they were milked for.

But I guess the real question is, how sustainable is the modern military shooter?

Patrick Davis
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I'm hoping for military shooters to go out. Maybe it'll start a surge of Quake and Doom like shooters again. Realism is overrated.

Dave Long
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@ Patrick Davis - realism is most definitely overrated, but the CoD/MW games are hardly more realistic than Quake or Doom - sure, they've got realistic skins, but they're arcade shooters in every sense of the word ;).


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