The official word from Activision is that “… the company sold more than 1$ billion of Call of Duty: Ghosts into retail stores worldwide as of day 1.” This number reflects the substantial number of copies purchased by retail outlets to try and meet the demand for the game, not the amount of money made from people actually buying the game. The publisher also reports that the game is the top next-gen pre-order title, the top game played on Xbox live and set a new mark among Call of Duty titles for highest average time played on day 1. What does this mean to the gaming world? It means that Activision Blizzard has one of the best PR departments in the world, and not much else at this point.
Nobody is disputing that the Call of Duty franchise is THE money making franchise in all of videogame history. And they could very likely be on their way to breaking the records set a little over a month ago by Take-Two Interactive’s Grand Theft Auto V release. That record is set at $800 million on day one, and $1 billion by the third day. So we have one publisher offering $800m in consumer sales on day 1 as its statistic, and another claiming 1$ billion in sell-in (to retailers) numbers. Activision UK senior brand manager Kevin Flynn did not pull any punches in an interview with MCV, saying “congratulations to the team at Rockstar for their success… We look forward to getting the record back before the next GTA title.” So we have all the makings of a classic heavyweight fight, but how do we know who won?
As of 10:15 PM Wednesday night, we don’t. We have two sales figures from the two camps, but they don’t compare. It is the equivalent of looking at a baseball box score and finding out that the Giants scored 5 runs, and the Dodgers had 12 hits. Those are certainly accurate numbers, but with no final score, we don’t really know anything. I am sure that we will know more in the coming days, but right now we only know that Activision has been very clever in how it has reported its numbers to media outlets. Many people, including those writing for various news outlets, have misinterpreted the news as $1 billion dollars in actual consumer sales, which doesn’t bother the Call of Duty camp at all.