Activision is expecting Call of Duty: Black Ops to sell around 20 per cent less than last year's Modern Warfare 2, according to guidance released as part of the publisher's financial results last week.
That's the conclusion of Cowan & Company's Doug Creutz, who also suggested that the publisher is being conservative with estimates of non-GAAP guidance between 72-74 cents per share for the full financial year
"This includes an assumption that the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops comps negatively against last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, despite the fact that on several pre-release metrics cited by management Black Ops is tracking ahead of Modern Warfare 2," Creutz told investors.
"We think management's guidance implies Black Ops units down roughly 20 per cent versus Modern Warfare 2," said Creutz.
Revising Cowan's guidance to 77 cents per share, Cruetz claimed that "our non-GAAP estimate assumes Black Ops is down 10 per cent versus Modern Warfare 2, so we think management is taking a more conservative stance for guidance purposes."
At the very start of the year, Activision's Mike Griffith said that he didn't expect Black Ops to perform as well as Modern Warfare 2, in part due to tough comparisons.
In August, CEO Bobby Kotick revealed that Activision was pumping more money into the launch of Black Ops than any other game the publisher has released, leading some to assume it expected the game to outsell last year's release.
Another analyst, Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan, suggested the game will sell around 13 million units this year, held back by competition, a slower market for boxed product and lower review scores.
"We were somewhat relieved that the company quite clearly stated that it did not model Call of Duty: Black Ops to sell more units than last year's blockbuster title, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2," he wrote.
"Press reports saying that the company expected the "biggest launch ever" were consistently misconstrued, and the company was widely credited with claiming that this year's version of the game would outsell last year's. While it is conceivable that the new version could outsell the last one, we think such a result is unlikely, due to significantly steeper competition, likely overall industry sales declines, and the likelihood that Black Ops will receive a lower Metacritic score than its predecessor.
"This year's game faces competition from holiday sales of Medal of Honor and Halo: Reach, both quite competitive in the shooter genre."
He added: "Notwithstanding our concerns about the likely Metacritic score for Black Ops, we fully expect the game to sell in line or above our estimate of 13 million units, or three million below Modern Warfare 2."
Call of Duty: Black Ops is released tomorrow, with multiple retail outlets opening stores at midnight to begin selling the game to eager fans. There has also been something of a price war, with a variety of game stores and supermarkets offering the game at a heavy discount in exchange for traded-in copies of titles such as Fallout: New Vegas and Medal of Honor.