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Numbers show: The  Call of Duty  decline looks real
Numbers show: The Call of Duty decline looks real Exclusive
December 6, 2012 | By Matt Matthews

December 6, 2012 | By Matt Matthews
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

The latest installment of the Call of Duty franchise from Activision Blizzard saw a decline of approximately 14 percent in its first month sales on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, according to the latest U.S. retail sales figures from the NPD Group. That includes 4.5 million units of Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Xbox 360 and 2.9 million on the PlayStation 3, Gamasutra has learned.

Figures for the Nintendo Wii U version of Call of Duty: Black Ops II were not available, nor were figures for the portable PlayStation Vita version, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified.

The publisher had previously announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the Treyarch-developed sequel to 2010's chart-topping Black Ops, had reached over a billion dollars in global sales in its first 15 days on the market.

Last year's version, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, sold a record-setting 8.8 million units on Microsoft and Sony's platforms in its debut month, a 10 percent increase over the 8 million units for the original Black Ops in 2010.

The launch month for Black Ops II, however, included seven fewer days than did the launch month for Modern Warfare. That difference, 12 days this year versus 19 days last year, was commented upon by Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company in a note earlier this week.

Taking that into account, he had expected total units of 7.9 million across all platforms, including the Wii U and handhelds, a decline of 11 percent. Because of the time differential, he cautioned against drawing conclusions about overall Call of Duty sales until the end of 2012.

The current split between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 mirrors exactly the split between the two versions for the original Black Ops. In November 2010, the Xbox 360 version sold 4.9 million units in its launch month, while the PlayStation 3 version sold 3.1 million. In both cases, the sequel has seen a modest decline two years later.

The possible decline of the Call of Duty franchise has been an important topic this year. Launch-to-date retail sales figures through July of this year showed that Modern Warfare 3 was trailing Black Ops by 2.7 million units in the U.S., marking the latter game as a possible peak for the series. With Black Ops II launch figures down significantly on the two main platforms, it does appear that the original Black Ops will maintain its title as the best-selling Call of Duty game in the U.S.

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Isaiah Taylor
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It'll be interesting to see how real this decline is when it's released on Sony/Microsofts next gen consoles. I'm also wondering if consumers are buying less games (in general) due to this generation's worn welcome. In any event, the last Call of Duty I purchased was World At War. I can't imagine detaching and reattaching myself to a new(er) shooter every single year.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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Considering Counter-Strike: g0g0g0 came out a lil while ago and Halo 4 also released, plus Wii U, Windows 8, and tablets really starting to become popular...

FPS'ers are too strong to go away. And CoD is still one of the strongest.

Gryff David
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I've found the FPS genre has become tedious in recent years. The last original idea a Triple A FPS company had was Valve with Portal back in 2007. They've become incredibly repetitive and have basically all blended into a single game, even if they are all from different companies.

Lewis Wakeford
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As much as I'd like to believe that Call of Duty is truly in decline there is a chance this drop is related to BLOPS2 deviating slightly from the standard Call of Duty formula. I know quite a few people that bought all the previous games that didn't buy this one because of the "weird future stuff".

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The only deviation I see in it is the way the campaign plays out based on decision making and achieving or failing objectives. That and those dreadful task force RTS missions. I play on vet and those task force missions are near impossible to complete without some getting use to them first. So I will just skip them this go round and replay them to beat on easy when I'm done with the campaign.

Lucky Red
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The game sold so many copies... Yet it isn't lower than 7mm. I don't think this is a "decline" a decline will be when the game is back to 2-3mm again.

Michael Joseph
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Are these launch numbers trying to tell us that the linear progression has ended? From 2007 to 2010 they added 2 million sales each year on the launch month. Had this continued it would have been near 12 million today.

The bad news then would be if these numbers are less about CoD the game, but of the market. We could argue that games on hand held devices or the web are taking up the slack within the industry, but I personally don't care about those games as a player.

How do you expand the AAA market substantially over the next 5 years or can it even be done?

Kris Steele
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As an owner of Black Ops 1, I didn't see any real must have feature that made me want to get Black Ops 2. I feel kinda the same way I do about the Madden games... I'll buy them every few years but there isn't enough new to warrant a purchase yearly.

Kelly Kleider
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I don't get the title. Comparing last year to this year using data that the article says is not consistent hardly leads to the conclusion that COD is in decline. 12 Days vs 17 Days (difference of about 37%) but the decline it real? It seems like they are arguing that with 37% less time on the shelf BLOPS2 only saw a decline of 11% instead of 37%. Or did I miss something?

Michael DeFazio
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I agree, speculation is fun, but lets at least try apples to apples...

Although the bulk of sales are going to happen in the first 12 days, you could wait at least another 5 days to make it seem like you aren't really looking for controversy/headlines (The video game industry is in decline because it's biggest cash cow is in decline)...

It's kinda like stopping Nathan's Hotdog eating contest at 7 minutes (instead of 10) and counting the comparing dogs ate (@7 minutes) to that of last year (@ 10 minutes)...

yeah one can speculate how they compare, but is it an apt comparison?

Tyler Shogren
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Not to shabby considering they're all essentially the same game.

Lyon Medina
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Honestly and I don't ussually put in "purely" opinion based comments a lot, but, I hate the COD franchise "as is". It's just a bad game in my opinion, but hey I know tons of people buy it. For what some reason I honestly cannot grasp.

Now from a objective view point. Games are valued by demand of the public. With so much competition this year alone, the demand may have not been there.

Matt Cratty
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I'm with Lyon on this one. Utterly mystified.

GameViewPoint Developer
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@Lyon/Matt They buy them for the multiplayer aspect.

But regarding the above figures I would put it like this, and this is only regarding the multiplayer aspect. MW2 was a great game, Black Ops 1 sold on the back of MW2 being good, Black Ops was also good, but then it all went down hill...MW3 sold as well as it did purely on the basis of MW2 and Black Ops being very good multiplayer games...MW3 is basically the same as the 2 previous games, but with slightly different (more complex) maps, Black Ops2 is basically the same as the MW2/Black ops1/MW3...although not as good as any of them, but the decline in sales I would put down to peoples reaction to MW3, not Black ops 2...regarding MW4/Black ops3...I suspect sales will not decline because these games will probably be on the next generation of consoles and as such most of the owners of these consoles will want the first dedicated COD for that machine hence lots of sales....however if MW4/Black ops3 are not big improvements on the previous games, I suspect MW6/Black ops4 will again see a decline in sales.

Lyon Medina
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Hey, I thank you for taking the time to write all of that out. I really didn't need a synopsis though as I had already played every single itteration. (I only have missed out on B:Ops 1).

Also I know as bad as this sounds MW6 is a complete possibilty at this point. Thinking about that just makes me wonder what the difference really could be? More guns? More players? Better Graphics? I dont think the formula of COD will ever really change.

-Soap Box- All opinionated junk. Read at your own risk.

Really its not that the COD series doesn't have any variation that bothers me. Halo in general has been the same game for many years, and I very much love that game. Its the fact game feels to easy to just not be skillful, and the campaigns do not feel more than just cinematic center peices that have no real depth to them other than just skin deep visuals, and atrocious AI. (I litterally sat a checkpoint and watched more than a 100 AI "assist characters" just run in and constantly die. Just why? Why are they so idiotic?)

I so strongly feel about this that it just pains to me to see the simalarities I see in the COD franchise make its way into other games. (Halo, BattleField, Medal Of Honor) I have personally "started" to dislike these other franchises.

If I wanted to play a COD style game I would play COD. Innovation lacks by trying to replicate the succes of another product. People say never try to reinvent the wheel, but I ask what is the wheel?

I want to say alot more, but hey I don't write for Gamasutra. haha So I will end this here.

Jason Prescott
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I think what we are seeing is not a slowing of the franchise but a sales correction based on the Modern Warfare 3 title. There is a lot negative feedback from the gaming community in regards to connection issues, balance and a generally lack-luster map selection. It doesn't help that some of those very same problems have made it into Black Ops 2, most specifically the connection problems (brought on by lag compensation). With money being tighter, game companies can't disregard these opinions any more.

Dan Jones
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I'm not sure how widespread this trend is, or what effect it could have had, but more than one of my friends who are diehard CoD multiplayers were hesitant to buy Black Ops 2 at launch because they both said they felt like they weren't done with MW3 multiplayer yet.

Of course, they DID both buy Black Ops 2 within the week, and have now switched over... but it's possible there are others out there who just aren't ready to move on every November, and maybe this time they just kept playing the game they already owned. Also, MW3 has some pretty killer maps, some of which required map pack purchases. Could be folks don't want to engage in what they perceive as a "trade down" to a game with fewer maps.

I would be very interested to see the numbers of players who are still playing MW3 multiplayer right now, a month after Black Ops 2's launch, and contrast that with the number of players who were still playing the original Black Ops a month after MW3's launch.

Stanley de Bruyn
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Well I still Play BF3 but also Blops2 and lookin out for farcry3. So to much games but limited time to play.
So blops2 has lot more competition. So is actualy doing very well.

Darren Coleman
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It's about time this happened, hopefully this means fps games will have to think a little and stop recycling their old ones now