No Sales Details On ‘Call Of Duty,’ But Activision Shares Jump 11 Percent

Normally, when you successfully release the latest iteration of a blockbuster franchise, it’s a good time to brag. Activision Blizzard says Call of Duty Advanced Warfare has had the year’s biggest launch of any entertainment property. That’s big. But what’s more interesting is what ATVI didn’t say, and how Wall Street is still sending company shares up like an exo-skeleton boost.

In a November 19 release, ATVI called the Advanced Warfare debut “the biggest entertainment launch of the year” in terms of revenueJust to be clear for non-gamers, that means 2014’s biggest launch of any kind of entertainment, including films, music and books.

With barely a month to go in 2014 and no obvious contenders on the game side, and only a couple of light-heavyweight contenders on the film side, the year’s box-office title looks likely to stay with CoD.

In music, Taylor Swift sold 1.29 million copies of her new album, 1989, in its first full week of release, the most of any record since 2002. The sagging music business might have plotzed over those sales, but by comparison with CoD, it’s still a Very Small Number. As for books, well, really. Other than our beloved Deadline followers, does anyone else still read?

Activision trotted out other generally vague but impressive stats in the release:

  • Highest-selling digital launch in console history, according to numbers from the online networks run by Microsoft and Sony and Activision’s own estimates.
  • Intense fan engagement. In the first week, gamers played 370 million online matches and leveled up 200 million times.
  • Increased sales of season passes (which can significantly plump up revenues when hard-core fans buy all of the upcoming additional content such as new game maps and scenarios).

But unlike the game’s previous three releases, Activision didn’t disclose the game’s actual revenue. Last year, that was a very big number indeed, as Activision said it sold $1 billion worth of Call of Duty: Ghosts into its sales channels on opening week.

Topping that, roughly a year into a new generation of Xbox and Playstation consoles as sales of physical copies of all games decline, might be a challenge for anyone. Since its 2003 debut, the franchise has sold more than $10 billion worth of units (188.9 million as of last July, according to Guinness World Records). And though Ghosts sold well, it didn’t review well, getting beaten up by critics. That could have affected sales for the next version.

But Activision says no, and Wall Street has been happy to go along, especially when it was accompanied by news of rising online and Season Pass sales, both seen as future drivers of the company’s income in an increasingly digitized world.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimated 12 million units of the game sold in Week 1, with another 9 million likely to be sold before year end, or about $1.2 billion in revenue. Other analysts are bracketing that estimate, generally putting likely game revenues this year at between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

destinyOf course, the company isn’t floating just on vague but promising talk about CoD. It launched a new franchise, Destinyin the fall that has generated more than $500 million in revenue. That is A Big Deal in an industry even more driven by sequels and reboots than the blockbuster movie business.

Other company bulwarks World Of Warcraft and Skylanders also both successfully refreshed their offerings in the past couple of months, and with big consumer response, further beefing up ATVI’s overall bottom line.

The result: ATVI is up 11 percent since November 19, when that vague release first came out, and about two weeks after the game launched. The company’s shares closed today at $21.73, up 43 cents per share, or 2 percent, on the day. Not a bad six days.

And just to hammer home the sheer scale of CoD’s fan base and franchise engagement, the company also released this mammoth infographic below. Power stats, indeed.

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