With games like Fallout 4 and Halo 5: Guardians topping headlines as of late, it’s easy to forget about a little game that drops each November called Call of Duty. This year’s entry – Call of Duty: Black Ops III – from developer Treyarch may have flown under the radar of some but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the numbers.
Activision Blizzard on Wednesday revealed that Black Ops III raked in more than $550 million in its first three days, making it the biggest entertainment launch of 2015 thus far which includes theatrical box office, music and book launches.
Activision said worldwide sales rose significantly over the previous two years as digital downloads of the game across next generation consoles increased nearly 100 percent. On the PlayStation 4, Black Ops III set a new record as the best-selling digital full game by units sold in the console’s (short) history.
The publisher added that gamers logged over 75 million hours of online play during launch weekend. That’s more hours per player than any Call of Duty game on record according to Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg.
While impressive, it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with strategically-worded public relations material here which certainly clouds the game's true level of success.
In 2012, for example, Activision said Black Ops II generated $500 million in worldwide sales in its first 24 hours. That’s certainly more impressive than $550 million spread over three days but you’d never hear Activision say as much. What’s more, it’s a bit unfair to compare a $50 video game launch to a movie ticket that costs at most $12-13 (and doesn’t include revenue from DVD / Blu-ray sales, licensed consume products and other contributions). Activision's figures no doubt include sales of special edition bundles like the $199.99 Juggernog Edition or the $429.99 PlayStation 4 bundle, further boosting its haul.
Then again, we need to take into account the fact that Activision is selling way more digital copies than before, saving the company loads of money on the manufacturing and shipping of physical retail versions.
All things considered, $550 million over three days is an impressive amount no matter how you slice it, even for a franchise that may be suffering from fatigue. What would be more interesting to know, however, is exactly how many copies were sold during the three-day period. The odds of Activision releasing that figure, however, are incredibly slim at best.