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Call of Duty: Black Ops II won't break sales records, "needs new console hardware"

Analysts see a strong performance but not better than the first Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops II will face stiff competition this holiday season and while Activision Blizzard is already seeing high pre-order figures, the sales bar was set enormously high by the first Black Ops (over 25 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling game of all time in the US, UK and Europe). Does Black Ops II have a chance to break any records? Analysts don't believe so.

"I don't think Modern Warfare 3 is going to sell more than the last Black Ops, so I doubt that this one will break a record. I think that Call of Duty is a phenomenon, selling way more than 20 million units annually, and it's unrealistic to think that number can grow meaningfully with each annual release," Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter told GamesIndustry International.

"I think games like Call of Duty need new console hardware - developers are working with 7-year-old technology in an environment when tablets and smart TVs will soon be just as powerful"

Colin Sebastian

Colin Sebastian of RW Baird agrees. "We are forecasting Black Ops 2 to sell roughly the same number of copies as Modern Warfare 2 in 2011 [22 million copies worldwide - ed.]. Call of Duty is the only mass market core video game and the console industry continues to consolidate around a small number of top franchises. Halo 4 is a potential wrinkle in the ointment with a November launch, but on the flip side, GTA V likely not shipping until March helps," he told us.

Interestingly, Sebastian believes that AAA games like Black Ops II at this point really need new hardware to shine. "Overall, I think games like Call of Duty need new console hardware - developers are working with 7-year-old technology in an environment when tablets and smart TVs will soon be just as powerful," he commented.

On the flip side, EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich said we shouldn't underestimate the appeal of Call of Duty, and Activision's marketing muscle.

"The entire HD market is very soft at the moment, and it is understandable that retailers, publishers, and analysts are likely to be conservative on any Black Ops II forecast. Whether Black Ops II sets any records this year will depend entirely upon the overall engagement of HD consumers, which is largely out of the control of Activision and Treyarch," he said.

Divnich continued, "Every year we question whether the Call of Duty franchises can set new records, and for the last four years they have proven us wrong. Personally, I wouldn't under-estimate Activision, even against the odds of a more torpid HD market this holiday season."

Billy Pidgeon of M2 Research thinks there's a chance for Black Ops II to set a record as well.

"Call of Duty should continue to do very well and is likely to continue to break records as it will sell into a larger installed base of consoles," he stated. "I think other big hits will also continue to perform strongly until we get into the console transition and enthusiast spending begins to shift towards hardware again."

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James Brightman avatar

James Brightman

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James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.

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