Train2Game News: Call of Duty: Ghosts day one sales

Call of Duty GhostsActivision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc., announced that the company sold more than $1 billion of Call of Duty: Ghosts into shops worldwide as of day one.

“Call of Duty is by far the largest console franchise of this generation,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “More people have played Call of Duty this year than ever before, logging four billion hours of gameplay. And in the last 12 months, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, including its digital content, generated more revenues than any other console game ever has in a single year. Although it is too early to assess sell-through for Call of Duty: Ghosts, it’s launching at a time when the franchise has never been more popular.”

Millions of people are already playing Call of Duty: Ghosts online. Since its release yesterday, Call of Duty: Ghosts has moved to the number one spot as the most played game on Xbox Live, according to Microsoft. Additionally, Activision confirmed that on the Xbox 360 videogames and entertainment system from Microsoft, average player sessions for Ghosts have been longer than either Black Ops II or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, during the same time period.

Call of Duty: Ghosts launched at fifteen thousand midnight openings around the world. Fans around the world shared their excitement in social media, with Call of Duty-related terms trending an astounding 20 times globally on Twitter in the last 24 hours.

“Ghosts is an amazing game which ushers in the next generation of Call of Duty. The team at Infinity Ward has delivered yet another epic thrill ride in the campaign, and what I think is our best multiplayer game yet,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “This is the must have launch title for the next generation of consoles, and we expect Call of Duty: Ghosts to be the most successful launch title for the Xbox One and PS4 by a wide margin. In fact, according to GameStop, Call of Duty: Ghosts is their most pre-reserved next gen title.”

Pachter predicts Call of Duty: Black Ops subscription charges

Call of Duty: Black Ops subscription charges

Online subscriptions for Call of Duty: Black Ops could be introduced in the near future, according to industry analyst Michael Pachter.  Speaking to Industry Gamers, he said:

“I think everyone will be offered the same multiplayer options for free that they have now.  In addition, I see premium items offered as virtual goods for a modest fee–let’s say $1.”

“There will be special weapons, armour, vehicles, etc. offered, and the quantity will keep growing, in the hopes that some meaningful percentage of gamers who play online multiplayer pony up $1 or $2 per month on virtual goods. “

“I think that the company will “tier” its offering by offering a $5 per month subscription to Black Ops that includes ALL virtual items for free, plus access to all map packs released as long as the player remains active.  There are probably going to be three $15 map packs, so that feature alone has a perceived $45 value, and I’m sure that there will be dozens of virtual items, so the $5 subscriber will perceive some value from subscribing.”

“In addition, the $5 subscriber may be offered exclusive tournaments, game play modes, ladders, achievements, and any other features that Activision can think up to induce them to pony up more money.”

Pachter then went on to say how he believes that in future, Activision will offer a $10 subscription for all Call of Duty games.

“Anyone paying $10 per month gets virtual items, ladders, tournaments, achievements, game play modes and map packs for CoD MW, CoD MW2, Black Ops and World at War, and as long as their subscription remains alive, they will get the next game and the one after that. There are a total of 7 map packs (I think) available now, and will be another 3 next year, so for $10 per month, a player will get all 10 map packs. Not a bad value.

“Next, I think Activision will offer a $15 monthly subscription that is an ‘all access pass’, allowing subscribers to play WoW, StarCraft II (look for monetization there), the new Bungie game (when it comes out), all COD games, and whatever they do with Guitar Hero (maybe free downloads of songs), on an unlimited basis.

“The trick is managing this without destroying sales of the game. They will tread very carefully, and will make sure that they let consumers know that they are NOT taking anything away, but are merely offering a LOT MORE VALUE for a little bit of money.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops made rather a lot of money when it launched last week, and Activision CEO Bobby Lotick has previously made no secret of his desire to make Call of Duty’s online multiplayer a subscription based service.

So Train2Game, do you believe that Activision could really introduce a subscription based service for Call of Duty: Black Ops? If so, would you be willing to pay for it? Or do you think Michael Pachter’s predictions are off the mark?

You can leave your thoughts about a subscription service for Call of Duty: Black Ops here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Call of Duty: Black Ops smashes day one records

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops has shattered n the record for day one sales in the UK, and by a long, long way too.  MCV report that day one sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops in the UK were 14% higher than that of its predecessor, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

While 14% more units of the game were sold, Call of Duty: Black Ops made Activision an extra 22% in sales. Overall, 1.4 million copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops were sold in the UK on November 9th, making £58 million in revenue.

This of course means that Call of Duty: Black Ops is bound to be number one in next weeks UK Chart!

The news of Call of Duty: Black Ops record breaking achievements in the UK comes after Activision hailed the release as the biggest entertainment launch in history. The publishing giant say that  5.6 million copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops have been sold in the USA and UK, compared to Modern Warfare 2’s 4.7 million copies.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is of course pleased with the success of Call of Duty: Black Ops

“There has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records for two consecutive years and we are on track to outperform last year’s five-day global sales record of $550 million,”

“The game’s success underscores the pop culture appeal of the brand. Call of Duty: Black Ops is the finest game that Treyarch has ever made and raises the bar for online gameplay by delivering the deepest and most intense Call of Duty experience yet. The Call of Duty franchise has over 25 million players around the world that are engaged in billions of hours of online gameplay, and we are committed to supporting them with new content and features on a more frequent and regular basis.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops generally received very positive review scores, while retailers have been trying to out do each other in order to encourage strong sales.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the success of Call of Duty: Black Ops? Is the game well deserving of its massive sales, or has the success of Call of Duty: Black Ops just been down to a massive hype campaign by Activision? Or perhaps it’s a combination of the two?

You can leave your thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Call of Duty ‘premium service’ and insulting indie devs. Activision alienate people…again

Call of Duty Black OpsYou wouldn’t want to be working in Activision’s PR department right now would you? It seems like every time CEO Bobby Kotick – or anyone else at the top of the company – opens their mouth they agitate gamers.

Last week, Bobby Kotick suggested that audiences would like to pay in order to watch CGI game cinematics. This wasn’t well received by gaming forum users anywhere on the internet. On the plus side, the Activision CEO calmed previous, self caused, fears last week by stating there are no plans to make Call of Duty: Black Ops, or any future Call of Duty games, a subscription based service.

So that’s the end of any discussion about any extra charges for a Call of Duty game, right?

Wrong!

Activision has revealed that that a ‘premium’ Call of Duty service is in the pipeline. The plans were revealed by Activision COO Thomas Tippl at the Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. Technology Conference, report CVG. Tippl says Activision want to offer “more choice” as the company looks to “extend revenue models”

“I don’t think there’s a one size fits all…. There’s no doubt that we are looking to extend recurring revenue models and in many ways we have already accomplished that – even on Call Of Duty, although it takes a different form than subscription” He said.

“Every year we have a great game, so every year we have recurring revenues that has a lot of zeros attached to it. We are expanding revenue during the in-between periods with additional content we’ve sold very successfully with map packs.”

“As we look into the future, there are new and innovative service offerings that could give players more choice. What we’re not going to do is take anything away from players that they used to get today for the price they get it for today. I don’t think that would be a good and smart business decision.

“But I think we have a lot in our pipeline that we believe will provide great value for our players. So I think there’s continued opportunity to expand the player base and to provide them with service offerings and products that can also enhance revenue growth.”

If you’re not familiar with business speak, this basically translates to “we want to add to what you get, but you’ll have to pay for it” Of course, Activision have experimented with ‘additional services’ with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 downloadable Stimulus and Resurgence packs, which despite costing over £10  each sold rather well. Bobby Kotick echoed Tippl’s remarks, more or less cementing the plans in the process:

“As long as we keep providing value – whether it’s in services, or new content or things like virtual items… There’s so much we can do to provide value to our customers,” he said.

“They’re willing to pay us for it and I think giving multiple entry points to consumers to figure out how to exactly play the game is something that’s really important to building our audiences.”

Bobby KotickUnfortunately, these aren’t the only remarks from Bobby Kotick that are extremely likely to annoy people. The Activision CEO has extraordinarily claimed that Bungie are “the last remaining high quality independent developer in the world” Yes, Kotick went there.

Who knows what excellent independent developers including the likes of Valve, Gearbox, Rebellion, Ninja Theory, Epic, Level 5, Insomniac think about think about Kotick’s comments, but gamers themselves are outraged and saddened by what he’s said.

Bobby Kotick’s comments  about Bungie compared to other developers in full are as follows:

“Bungie are a very unusual company, they’re probably the last remaining high quality independent developer. It’s very hard to [pauses]… that has sort of has institutional skills and capabilities. And they’re a real company.”

“When they started the process of looking for a new partner, they’d been in business with Microsoft. They had a vision for a product they wanted to create that needed certain skills and capabilities – that Microsoft had some of.”

“But as they started to go and look at the obvious candidates, they realised that no company other than Activision had the skills that they needed to be successful for the vision of that product. These are things that you never would have envisioned five years ago.”

“Blizzard had 2,500 people in customer service and support just for World Of Warcraft. How you train them, how you manage them, how you organise them… how you use CRM tools in delighting and satisfying the expectations of your audiences.. It’s something no other company [Bungie] talked to [could offer].”

So Train2Game, what do you think about Activisions latest plans for charging for Call of Duty? Good business sense or money grabbing greed? And do Kotick’s comments about independent developers show that he and Activision are completely out of touch with the rest of the games industry?

As usual, you can leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum.

Online passes, subscription fees, and charging for CGI… Are publishers out of touch with gamers?

EA say there’s been ‘No significant backlash’ to their online pass scheme, at least that’s according to Electronic Arts Chief Financial Officer Eric Brown.

Eurogamer quote the EA man speaking at the Deutsche Bank 2010 Technology Conference in San Francisco. Mr Brown said:

“We thought about [Online Pass] pretty carefully and there hasn’t been any significant push-back from the consumer, because I think people realise that if you’re buying a physical disc and it requires an attachment to someone else’s network and servers, [those] people realise bandwidth isn’t free.”

“So the fact that we’re diffusing or covering online costs is not viewed to be unreasonable. We’re well into this program and there is no consumer backlash.”

Well, if Mr Brown paid a quick visit to any gaming forum on the internet – perhaps the Train2Game forum– he’d see that gamers are not happy at all with EA’s online pass scheme.

‘Project ten dollar’ was launched earlier this year, with new EA games such as Madden 10 or Dragon Age: Origins including a one use code to activate extra content or online multiplayer modes. For example, if an EA Sports title is bought second hand, the player will have to pay an extra $10 to access online play. This is also linked to the players’ console, so if they took, for example FIFA 11, to a friend’s house or a party, they wouldn’t be able to play it online without paying extra.

Earlier this year, Ubisoft announced they’d be using a similar scheme to combat the impact of second hand sales on developers and publishers.

You can see where the games developers and publishers are coming from when it comes to their views on second hand sales. When a game is bought brand new from a store, the profit will be divided between the publisher, the developer and the retailer. However, when you buy a second hand game, the retailer keeps all of the profit with the developer and publisher receiving no share at all. With the second hand market being increasingly lucrative, it’s easy to see why developers and publishers want part of the profit. After all, if someone was playing YOUR game that you’d toiled over the development of, you’d want some compensation for it, right?

But the consumer vs. developer battle is a hard area to find compromise, after all why do people buy second hand games? Because they’re much lower in price than the £40 it costs to buy a new game. Everyone has a limited budget after all, so surely we shouldn’t be persecuted for trying to save as much as £10 or £20 when buying a game?

Of course, there are other ways publishers and developers have looked into increasing profit from games, none perhaps more infamous than subscription fees for online multiplayer. Back in June, the Wall Street Journal asked Activision CEO Bobby Kotick “If you could snap your fingers, and instantly make one change in your company what would it be?” He replied:

“I would have Call of Duty be an online subscription service tomorrow.When you think about what the audience’s interests are and how you could really satisfy bigger audiences with more inspired, creative opportunities, I would love to see us have an online Call of Duty world.”

“I think our players would just have so much of a more compelling experience.” He added.

Of course, gamers of the internet reacted badly this, many saying they’d stop playing Call of Duty games if they were charged extra to play online. Indeed, many already felt the Call of Duty map packs were already a rip-off, and hated the idea of a ‘pay as you play’ scheme even more.

However, Activision now say there are no plans at all for introducing online subscriptions into their future games. Speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in California, Bobby Kotick himself said:

“That’s what people are paying their $60 for,” explained Kotick. “They get a game that has a lot of replayability.

“We’ve seen our margins and audiences expand from providing more appealing gameplay. I think why Call of Duty has been so successful is because we’re delivering extraordinarily high quality gameplay, production values and interactivity at great value.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the man that gamers paint as Satan himself has had a complete change of heart where profit doesn’t seem to be the main item on the agenda. In the same conference speech this time, Kotick said:

“If we were to take that hour, or hour and a half, take it out of the game, and we were to go to our audiences for whom we have their credit card information as well as a direct relationship and ask, ‘Would you like to have the StarCraft movie?’, my guess is that … you’d have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever.”

Call me a cynic – or maybe just a realist –  but I don’t anyone would pay £10 to watch a thirty minute cut scene.

Publishers and developers are facing a difficult decision here. On the one hand it’s understandable why they say see second hand games as a threat, because they don’t make any money from them. However, on the flip side, things like online passes, subscription costs or charging for cinematics is just going to be seen as pure money grabbing by gamers.  To answer the title question it does appear that publishers are out of touch with average gamer on the street who has only so much money to spend.

A compromise is going to have to happen somewhere, or both sides are going to be unhappy.

Perhaps new games should cost less than £40 in the first place?

So Train2Game, as future game developers, what are your feelings about these issues? Sure, you may not like paying online fees now, but how would you feel about it in future when games you’ve developed are being sold second hand? What do you think a compromise could be?

And no one would ever pay for CGI from a game, right?

As usual, leave your thoughts here or on the Train2Game forum.

Activision sell over 20 million Call of Duty map packs

Over 20 million Call of Duty map packs have been sold since the franchise began in 2003. Six map packs have been released by Activision so far, with one for Call of Duty 4, three for World at War and two for Modern Warfare 2.

The most recent downloadable content came in the form of this years Stimulus and Resurgence packages, both sold very well despite many feeling the asking price of over £10 was far too expensive for a handful of maps.  However, everyone’s favourite Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is obviously pleased with the success of the games:

“The Call of Duty franchise is unique in the world of entertainment and delivers one of the best multiplayer experiences ever”

“We are thrilled to deliver to fans exciting and engaging content that has the intensity they have come to expect from the franchise.”

Activision say that Call of Duty is the number one best-selling first person shooter franchise in both the USA and Europe, with Chart-Track, GfK and NPD group figures showing that sales indicate this to be true.

Of course, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had one of the biggest first weeks in entertainment history and has no doubt had a massive hand in the success of the franchise. The fact that the smash sequel has only been out of the UK top ten since it was released in November is testament to its triumph.

Despite the massive achievements of the Call of Duty titles, Bobby Kotick still thinks there is more money to be made from them. Last month he told the Wall Street Journal that if he could change one thing about Activision, it’d be to charge a subscription to play Call of Duty online. Rumours of a future pay as you play Call of Duty have been roaming the internet ever since.

So Train2Game students, what do you think about the Call of Duty map packs? Are they a testament to the success of the game? Or just evidence of an exercise in corporate money making?  Would you charge for extra content in future? And is Modern Warfare 2 really one of the best multiplayer games?

As usual, leave your thoughts here or on the Train2Game forum.