Black Ops to sell 20% less than Modern Warfare 2

Activision conservative on sales projections on eve of latest Call of Duty franchise release

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.

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Latest comments (14)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 9 years ago
Funny, I think Black Ops looks more interesting to me.
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Likewise. It has a nostalgic feel to it
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
I think this is just Activision being very conservative. Pretty much everything out there suggests BLOPS will - at least initially - outsell even MW2. Even guys I know who were disappointed by MW2 and are getting tired of the CoD series are still excited by this.
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Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive9 years ago
I think they're being prudent about this. Last year there was no MoH to compete. There is now and some customers will not want to switch to BLOPS just yet. The overall games sales have dropped as well so all in all I think it's appropriate they are not expecting higher sales than MW2.
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Albert Schmidt Game News Reporter 9 years ago
I find that hard to believe. I think based on the promotions, hype and things that have been added for longevity. This title will outsell MW2 and be the next 'gold standard' for a FPS based shooter. That is of course my own view based on everything I have read out there.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
But they know it will sell well, and make loads of money, I can see why they'd rather be prudent and exceed expectation, rather than get carried away and have to explain a shortfall to shareholders.
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Frank Anderson Website commentator 9 years ago
"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."

The comment about Black Ops being the "biggest launch ever" came from Activision's earnings call and was taken from Activision's own Dan Amrich who was directly quoting statements while covering the call via Twitter (@OneOfSwords). So, I don't see how it could have been "consistently misconstrued" by the press.

This is an example of why I hate it when people get quotes from analysts. Sure, they give great quotes, but they often don't have a clue what they are talking about other than the stat sheets they are looking at.
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David Rider Publisher, Hustler UK9 years ago
The new Xbox dashboard update makes it a lot harder for those snotty little glitchers to hook up their Jtags, so maybe a fair number will stick to cheating on MW2 nah.

I think Activision are being very conservative. If BLOPS fixes even half of the multiplayer issues MW2 had, then it'll sell by the bucket load.

What interests me more is that so may of my friends are buying titles like this purely for the MP online experience. How long before Activision bites the bullet and releases a pure MP experience (with pricing to match, no doubt?). I reckon we'll see it next year.
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Andrew McNeish Studying Games designer, Train2Game9 years ago
Its all a case of under promise over deliver. If they say they dont expect it to do well and it does then great. If it performs a bit under MW2 then thats what they predicted and they dont need to look stupid.
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Andrew Lee Pearson Studying Game Designer, Train2Game9 years ago
I wonder how many games will be sent back because of this can't play the game even though I have it here in front of me...
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Emmanuel Cortez9 years ago
the units are a little to conservative but i think that overall call of duty black ops has the potential to outsell modern warfare 2 but really it all comes down to those first reviews and product satisfaction that will lead this game selling beyond or expected units.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology9 years ago
it will be very interesting to see first week sales of this game.....also i wonder if the review will be bias toward it becuase it part of the call of duty series....
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Kirill Yarovoy Game designer / Narrative designer / Writer 9 years ago
Can someone shoot Michael Pachter already? His random attempts to "analyze & predict" rarely match the reality and this started to annoy me long ago, just like Jack Thompson with his pathetic attempts to play against games.

Who cares about what those analyst says?

Black Ops could have better sales & reviews than COD Modern WarFAIL 2, for one simple reason - it have dedicated servers and much better pc version of game, also it have more gameplay variability, and as far as i know it would not be as short as WarFAIL 2 was (which was short because Activision decided to have half of game for Modern Warfare 3 even before MW2 was finished, it was quite obvious after end of game) and its story perhaps would not be so stupid as MW2 was, so i doubt it would have lower scores.

In fact MW2 was much worse than MW & WAW at many aspects, except few very well directed scenes like death of astronaut, death of ghost & roach & emi explosion, and final knife battle, all the rest sucked hard comparing to previous CODs.

Also dont forget one simple rule: Even mediocre crap could receive "best ever score" if will put a lot of investment & effort into Advertising of this crap.
MW2 itself as well as such games as MGS 4 & Peace Walker (which both honestly dont deserve 10 of 10 and worse than any previous MGS titles which never received such a perfect scors) & such movies like Nolan's Inception (which is poorly written, have a lot of logical mistakes, no background story of characters and technology, and big damn problem with character's motivation + half of movie is very poor and pathetic action... The Matrix did both philosophical & action scenes 100 times better than this so called "best movie in history") is prove of this concept.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
I'm sorry Kirill; that may be your opinion, but are you out to rubbish as many popular products as you can in one concise post?

I fail to see any "mediocre crap" which have received "best ever" scores. I agree that MW2 was a over-hyped (I found the MP quite unbalanced, and the SP was a bit too bombastic and unsubtle for my tastes), but I think you're confusing a disappointing game for an average one.
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