Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 continues its multibillion-dollar march. The game's publisher, Activision Blizzard, announced that the latest release in the first-person shooting series surpassed the $1 billion mark in just 16 days since its Nov. 8 debut.
By comparison, last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops did not exceed $1 billion in sales until about a month after its release. That game went on to become the top-selling video game of all time, with more than 25 million copies sold.
Activision would not reveal the exact number of copies of Modern Warfare 3 that have sold, but it is estimated at about 16 million.
"What is exciting is it seems as though people who never played a video game before are looking at Call of Duty and saying, 'OK, this is the one I want to play,'" says CEO Bobby Kotick.
The game's Hollywood production levels, online community and the comedic TV advertisements starring actors Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill and NBA star Dwight Howard help pull in newcomers, Kotick says. "The appeal is broadening," he says. "When people think about their entertainment choices this is now a category that has more mass appeal than it ever had before."
Kotick noted that Modern Warfare 3 also outpaced, by one day, the ascent of James Cameron's 3-D film Avatar to $1 billion in 2009. "This is a mass medium," he says. "It has arrived."
Whether Modern Warfare 3 overtakes Black Ops remains to be seen, says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. Black Ops continued to sell well into 2011.
Modern Warfare 3 was the best-selling game in November, according to market-tracking firm NPD Group. That game and other hits such as No.2-selling The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks, helped lift total video game software sales 15 percent to $1.67 billion, compared with $1.45 billion in November 2010.
That increase in sales, coming in a year when sales have dropped below 2010 totals, is "a very good sign that the games business is doing well," Kotick says.
Pachter expects the industry to return to annual growth of 2 percent or 3 percent. That is not the 10% annual growth seen during the rise of music games and the Nintendo Wii. "But it should make people feel comfortable that Zynga is not taking over the world."
Social-gaming company Zynga, creator of CityVille, is slated to go public later this week.
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