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Call of Duty sets record in video game industry

Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 racked up more than $400 million in sales on its first day in stores in North America and the United Kingdom, setting a video game industry record.

tech reviews Updated: Nov 12, 2011 12:57 IST
Liana B. Baker

Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 racked up more than $400 million in sales on its first day in stores in North America and the United Kingdom, setting a video game industry record.

Activision's biggest holiday title sold 6.5 million units in a single day after going on sale early this week, surpassing last year's record of 5.6 million units or $360 million in sales. The version of the game released last year, called "Call of Duty: Black Ops", went on to rake in $1 billion in less than two months. But Activision shares closed 2 percent lower on a day the market was up, suggesting investors doubt it can sustain this sort of momentum in coming years for its biggest console game.

Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said the first-day pop came as no surprise to Wall Street. "If Activision had sold 8 million units, that would have been a surprise, but investors are already thinking up the next catalyst for Activision," Bhatia said.

Chief Executive Bobby Kotick told Reuters in an interview on Friday the company will be able to expand the "Call of Duty" franchise by offering fans new game content each month over the Internet, and having them pay for it with annual subscriptions. Along with the console game, Activision is releasing "Call of Duty Elite," a subscription service that costs $50 annually and offers extra online content, including apps for mobile devices. "What you're likely to see is a shift over time in the whole economic model for these kinds of games. It looks more like 'World of Warcraft' than anything else," he said referring to the company's other big franchise.

Players of the fantasy role-playing game "World of Warcraft" pay Activision Blizzard each month to play the game, which creates a steady revenue stream. The franchise generated $1 billion in revenue for the company last year and is closely watched by analysts.

Activision shares fell earlier this week when the company reported it had lost 800,000 World of Warcraft players, overshadowing the company's better-than-expected earnings forecast for the year. Shares of Activision, the largest U.S. video game company, closed 2.08 percent or 27 cents lower at $12.71 Friday on the Nasdaq.