Activision Says ‘Destiny’ Broke Day 1 Sales Record For A New Video Game Franchise With $500M

Everyone expected initial sales to be big — but few thought they’d be this big. Worldwide retail and first-party orders for the multiplayer shooter game Destiny yesterday topped $500M, Activision Blizzard says today. That tops the previous record for a new franchise set in May by Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. If you add sequels, both still trail last fall’s Call Of Duty: Ghosts, which had more than $1B in Day 1 sales, and Grand Theft Auto V, which had more than $800 million.

“Since the beginning, we’ve been confident that our investment and belief in Destiny would pay off,” Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg says. “But not many people believed we’d be able to say it did so on Day 1…. We have more confidence than ever that Destiny will become one of the iconic franchises of this generation, and Activision’s next billion-dollar brand.”

Destiny benefited from its makers’ track record:  developer Bungie created the Halo franchise, which Destiny echoes in its look and story. Halo made Microsoft’s original Xbox a viable game console, and remains one of the top five game franchises of all time.

Analysts also are impressed by Destiny‘s initial performance. The $500M wholesale number indicates sales of about 10M units “which far exceeds our bullish expectations,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says. He’s particularly surprised because reviewers didn’t have a chance to see the game until the day before its release and were “asked to play through to a certain level milestone that takes days to achieve before posting their final reviews.” That means the first full reviews likely will begin to appear tonight. “Should the game receive reviews in line with our 88-92 average Metacritic score expectation, the game will likely exceed our lifetime [sales] estimate by a substantial amount.” He currently projects sales of as many as 18M units assuming it has an average Metacritic score over 90.

Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia says investors expected sales to hit about 12M this year — but early trends point to 15M. “Some of the more optimistic feedback we have received is even suggesting the potential for Destiny to reach Call Of Duty levels (~20M units), though over a longer period,” the analyst says. If it hits 15M this year then it would probably add about a dime to Activision’s per share earnings, lifting them to $1.29.

But Activision investors apparently subscribe to the belief that you should buy on the rumor, and sell on the news: The company’s stock price — which rose 36.6% over the last 12 months — is down 1.2% in mid-day trading.

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