While it may not exactly be breaking news to say that Call of Duty, the best-selling game of the year, every year, is selling well, I do think there’s something to keep an eye out for regarding this year’s installment. It’s not just that Call of Duty: WWII is selling well, it’s that it’s selling extremely well, and may be on pace not only to significantly reverse a somewhat downward trend since the Black Ops 2/Modern Warfare 3 era, but it could be on pace to be the best-selling COD of them all.
While we don’t have any declaration from Activision outright about this, there are a number of things we can point to that shows this possible trend. The first are the actual numbers that Activision revealed, that the game sold $500M worth of copies in its first three days, which was double what Infinite Warfare sold over the same period. Later, it was reported that COD: WWII was besting Infinite Warfare sales by as much as 65%.
More recently, according to SteamSpy (which isn’t official, but the best we’ve got), seems to indicate that Call of Duty: WWII has already outsold Infinite Warfare’s total haul in its first month of release, indicating huge numbers on PC that likely have similarly huge counterparts on console.
A while ago, before launch, industry analyst Michael Pachter was saying that he thought Call of Duty:WWII might end up being the best-selling game of the series:
“I think it will be the best-selling Call of Duty to date, how’s that?” said Pachter. “Now again, who knows. Let’s say it comes out and it gets a 72 Metacritic, then clearly I’m wrong. If it gets an 88 or higher, I actually think it could be the best-selling one ever. And the good news about the Sledgehammer team is they’re pretty competent. They’re pretty competent, and this game, for some reason, who knows, it looks special to me. It looks like they just got it right.”
Call of Duty ended up with about an 80 on Metacritic, in between those two numbers, but Pachter was right about Sledgehammer delivering what fans wanted, as we’ve seen from early sales. But importantly, something else happened this fall to help COD: WWII even further:
The complete meltdown of Battlefront 2.
Granted, Battlefront 2 isn’t as similar to COD: WWII as last year’s Battlefield 1 would have been, but 2015’s Battlefront was a big-seller and this sequel had the potential to surpass even those huge numbers if DICE and EA improved upon the original product.
And we all know how that turned out. The game has been savaged by critics and fans alike, where even if it has a workable base, has been decimated by a loot box-based progression system, as well as facing other technical issues and having a campaign that wasn’t what fans were hoping to see in with a single-player story.
We don’t know Battlefront 2’s sales totals in full yet, but early physical numbers are showing sharp declines from the original two years ago. The point being that a game that was going to be the other biggest shooter of the fall fell flat on its face, giving Call of Duty: WWII another leg up on top of its already solid reception and sales.
Call of Duty: WWII has also managed to side-step traditional controversies for AAA games in this day and age. The worst criticism anyone had of it was its goofy system that had loot boxes dropping from the sky into a Normandy-esque beach HQ, and that the game offered rewards for watching other people open boxes. But the contents of the loot boxes were just…boring, and didn’t affect gameplay at all, and players were generally pretty happy with the jet pack-free multiplayer mode, and as always, a solid Zombies entry. Activision also sneakily kept loot boxes free for a few weeks before starting to charge for him, and won’t add new weapons into the boxes until later, dodging potential near-launch controversy there.
So, what’s Call of Duty: WWII shooting for to be the all-time best-seller of the series? The data we have has Modern Warfare 3 at 26.5 million sales, with Black Ops just behind it at 26.2 million, and Black Ops 2 at 24.2 million. Can it be done? It may be a while before we know, but it does certainly seem possible, at the very least.
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