Now that Activision Blizzard has announced its plan to launch a movie and TV studio, Hollywood might want to pay more attention to its hits — including today’s news regarding Call Of Duty: Black Ops III.
In its first three days, the tentpole title generated $550 million in worldwide sales, the company says. That makes it “the biggest entertainment launch this year in any medium, and bigger than any theatrical opening weekend ever,” CEO Bobby Kotick says.
That’s an impressive number, although the movie analogy is misleading if you want to compare the value of the franchises: It pits a $50 per unit game against just the $10 or so tickets a movie sells at the box office — without considering additional revenues from home video, sales into various TV windows, consumer products, and theme parks.
Activision Blizzard told investors last week that it’s launching its studio — with a “near-term initiative” to develop “a robust cinematic universe based on the Call Of Duty franchise” — in order to take advantage of the additional opportunities to squeeze cash from hits.
In addition to the sales report, the company says that Black Ops III set a new record for engagement per player. Fans played more than 75 million hours online in the first three days.
“Call Of Duty is more than a game, it’s a year round passion for a growing base of millions of fans and it’s only gaining momentum,” says Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg.
Although the results are better than analysts expected, Barclays’ Christopher Merwin notes that Black Ops III is “tracking a bit behind” 2012’s Black Ops II. That game generated more than $500 million in sales in just the first 24 hours. He figures consumers will buy about 24 million copies of Black Ops III this quarter vs. 28 million in the same period for its predecessor.
But the new iteration may be more profitable because Activision is selling a lot more digital copies, which cost less than physical games to produce and handle. Merwin estimates that digital accounted for about a third of Black Ops III sales, up from his forecast for 25%.
Activision shares are up 71.6% so far in 2015 and rose 2.5% today.