– ‘Modern Warfare 3’: Blockbuster Sets Video Game Sales Record (USA Today, Nov. 12, 2011):
Modern Warfare 3 takes occupying Wall Street to the extreme.
– Call of Duty: Biggest One Day Entertainment Sales Ever (Forbes, Nov. 12, 2011):
As everyone will know by now Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has broken all sales records in its first 24 hours of release. Sales of over $400 million in the US and UK alone beats any entertainment product release anywhere, ever. This is near an order of magnitude larger than even the largest of Hollywood blockbusters for example.
Activision, the game’s publisher, said that Modern Warfare 3 sales had totalled more than $400 million (£250m) in the first 24 hours in Britain and the United States alone. The game went on sale worldwide on Tuesday.
“We believe the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the biggest entertainment launch of all time in any medium, and we achieved this record with sales from only two territories,” said Bobby Kotick, the chief executive of Activision Blizzard.
He added that the total sales for the Call of Duty series exceeded the box office takings for the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings film series.
As you can see, total sales over all versions also beat the income of the largest Hollywood franchises in total. It has to be said that that’s not bad going for an industry that’s no more than 30 years old: we could just about call PacMan and the like the precursors of the modern video game.
What fascinates me about the industry is the way that it has simply exploded. I was involved on the periphery of it in the early 1990s (I’m even credited as a producer on one game out there) and development budgets were tiny. Sales weren’t all that much better either but it most certainly was possible to make a living doing small scale developments in return for small scale sales. Development costs and sales were in step with each other if you like.
In a way the industry seems to be following the way Hollywood developed: even as it outstrips it in sales. The need for ever higher development budgets leads to needing ever larger sales and ever larger marketing organisations in order to get those sales. Akin in a way to the development of the studio structure that developed in the 20s and 30s in Hollywood. Or indeed in the way things like James Cameron’s movies work now. Huge, vast, budgets and timescales requiring ever wider distribution to make the sums balance in the end.
It’s still possible to make low budget games, just as it is possible to make low budget movies. But they’re a very different world: a low budget movie can be streamed over the net, go to DVD, but is most unlikely to get a widespread screen release. Similarly, you can make and distribute low budget games, but they’ll not get onto the consoles, only onto phones or PCs.
One similarity we won’t see though is the starts of the games starting their own production companies nor having tantrums in their on set caravans. Thankfully.