Each year around this time, a new Call of Duty game hits store shelves. But this year, the stakes are even higher with expectations of sales breaking all entertainment-industry records.
Today, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was made available to gamers who want to play the title on all major consoles or the PC. As with previous iterations of the famed franchise, Modern Warfare 3, which was developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, puts gamers into the role of a soldier fighting through battles in the first-person. The game is available for $60.
Even before Modern Warfare 3 launched, there was rampant speculation that the game would be a top-seller. In fact, just last week, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said that he believes Modern Warfare 3 will generate over $1.1 billion in its first six weeks on store shelves, making it the biggest launch the entertainment industry--including games, movies, and music--has ever seen. It's expected to take that crown from last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops.
If Modern Warfare 3 does reach that milestone, it might just be an even sweeter victory for Activision than previous sales records have been, due to the bitter battle it finds itself in with Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3.
Battlefield 3, which provides the same first-person, highly realistic military shooter experience as Modern Warfare 3, launched last month. Prior to its launch, the game was being called, by some, the Call of Duty killer. But it has perhaps been EA's own executives that have been most outspoken about their desire to annihilate Call of Duty.
"If I had to pick the story I'd like to play out next year, we [would] ship a [game with] a 90 [score on Metacritic] and [Activision] ship[s] an 85," EA CEO John Riccitiello told Kotaku in an interview last year, adding that "the way you unseat a market leader is you make a better game a couple of times in a row."
Riccitiello went on to say in an interview with Industry Gamers earlier this year that "all I want to do, if you will, is to have [Call of Duty] rot from the core."
At least on the Metacritic (which, like CNET, is owned by CBS) front, Riccitiello didn't get his wish. The Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3 has a score of 84 on Metacritic; Modern Warfare 3's Xbox 360 version has received a score of 90.
But as the holiday-shopping season fast approaches, both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 will be pitted against each other on store shelves. And it will be up to gamers to vote with their wallets on which title beats the other.
That said, should they be judged in that way? Like in war, must one side win and another lose? Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg certainly doesn't think so.
"This isn't politics. In order for one to win, the other doesn't have to lose," Hirshberg said before attendees at the Gamescom Conference in Germany earlier this year. "This is an entertainment industry, it's an innovation industry and, at best, it's an art form. But we're still a young art form. If we were the movie industry, the movies wouldn't even be talking yet."