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Analyst: Call of Duty suffering a case of "shortened tail"

PiperJaffray analyst Michael Olson says big name games not maintaining lifetime sales

Analyst Michael Olson, of PiperJaffray, has pointed the finger for low retail revenues at the Call Of Duty series' falling lifetime sales.

While no-one can dispute the success of the series, he argued the games aren't selling as many or for as long as previous iterations.

"We believe big name titles are no longer able to sustain 'fat tails.'" he told Gamasutra.

"This 'thinning tail' phenomenon is driven by 1) casual gamers leaving the market, 2) a steeper pre-sale and up-front curve, and 3) cannibalisation from the pre-owned market."

He pointed out that the latest Call Of Duty title, Modern Warfare 3, will probably sell less than half of Black Ops total, and coming in as the eighth largest selling game in March 2012, as opposed to Black Ops fifth place spot last year.

He also predicted a 26 per cent drop in software sales when NPD Group results are published later today.

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Latest comments (4)

Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 4 years ago
Would not suprise me at all. Activision and EA seem to have a very narrow view of games and have used these franchises to sustain them for far too long.

I don't think it's so much a case of casual gamers leaving the market and causing the thinning tail as it is normal and hardcore gamers simply getting fed up with being sold the same thing year on year. After all COD was never a game that casual players were into in any numbers.

The dinosaurs of the industry are starting to go the way of the last set i.e. towards extinction. Closing their studios one by one to try to maintain an artificially high profit margin based on a small set of dwindling franchises.

Never has the cliche "adapt or die" been so true.
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Rolf Moren Freelance Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
Well, as a whole I would expect that the fat tails would thin down in todays marketplace but of the the reasons given only the second would be a part of it. Fat tail in the CoD case would be dependant on the quality of the multiplayer gameplay to keep people interested in the long run and I'm not sure that "more of the same" will do for another game.

We also have to take the fact that BF3 released at the same time into the equation. Two huge games, with the same core player base, releasing basically at the same time will of course change the dynamics of an economic model.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
"He pointed out that the latest Call Of Duty title, Modern Warfare 3, will probably sell less than half of Black Ops total"

Perhaps I am mistaken but I believe MW3 has already outsold Black Ops.

And he's basing his figures on the March NPD monthly placement of the two titles (a difference of only 8th and 5th) and the overall reduced revenue of the industry. I really don't see how in the world you can make such an inference based on just those 2 factors.
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Benjamin Royce Games Testing recruiter, Lionbridge4 years ago
I agree with Peter and Rolf I cannot see casual gamers affecting the figures as much as how crowded the market place was this Christmas with EA finally having a good alternative add in Batman, Skyrim, Gears of War, and Deus Ex all within a few months and I think you have alot closer to the true reason than any of Mr Olson's suggestions
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