Call of Duty: Ghosts makes $1 billion in record sales? Not quite

Holy frijoles! Call of Duty: Ghosts has done it. Activision and Infinity Ward have achieved yet another record with their flagship shooter series. Wow, $1 billion dollars. $1 billion sold to retail in the first day. I mean, that's faster than GTA 5, which took three full days to hit $1 billion, right. Holy cow, that must mean that Ghosts is the best Call of Duty ever. Oh...but, wait. GTA 5 did sales to consumers, and Activision is saying it sold $1 billion to retailers. Those are totally different measures.

So, hold on a sec. Activision announced that Call of Duty: Ghosts generated $1 billion in worldwide revenue on launch day. But that number isn't exactly what you think it is. The $1 billion the publisher is referring to is the units sold to stock retailers' shelves, not the actual amount of money that came out of gamers' pockets to feed their adrenaline-junky need to pwn n00bs in competitive multiplayer. But the Call of Duty franchise has been breaking day-one sales numbers since the release of Modern Warfare 2. So, why aren't we seeing the actual dollar sales that have come from the gamers?

Well, immediately and obviously, it's because Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn't appear to have done as well as its predecessors. CVG News reported that Activision CFO Dennis Durkin is blaming the console transition and digital distribution for the year's lower retail numbers, meaning Activision sold more to retail with last year's Black Ops 2. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned November 6, the day after Ghosts' launch, that it was "too early to assess" the sell-through numbers to consumers. Both comments point to an uncharacteristically not-as-successful launch of a Call of Duty game.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure Call of Duty: Ghosts sold hundreds of millions of dollars within these first few days of its launch. Just not $1 billion. And Activision announcing that the shooter sold $1 billion to retailers was a not-so-sly way of hiding that the newest entry in the series wasn't breaking any day-one sell-through records. Until the official sales numbers are released, we won't know how well this year's Call of Duty performed compared to its predecessors, but from this announcement and the relative silence in terms of day-one sales bragging, my guess is the money is a little short of expectations.

As Durkin stated, there are a couple of reasons why this may be the case. Franchise fatigue is the one that trolls will have the most fun time with. But the reality of it is, Call of Duty: Ghosts is releasing at a pretty awkward buying period in the market. It's a cross-generation game, meaning the consumer pool has been split. Some of the Call of Duty buyers out there have picked the game up for the current-gen systems, while others are undoubtedly waiting for the new consoles that are just around the corner. Activision even saw this coming and is offering a $10 upgrade to your preferred next-gen console when you get the new hardware. The question then becomes whether this scheme will take on as well as the publisher hopes it will.

Lorenzo Veloria

Many years ago, Lorenzo Veloria was a Senior Editor here at GamesRadar+ helping to shape content strategy. Since then, Lorenzo has shifted his attention to Future Plc's broader video game portfolio, working as a Senior Brand Marketing Manager to oversee the development of advertising pitches and marketing strategies for the department. He might not have all that much time to write about games anymore, but he's still focused on making sure the latest and greatest end up in front of your eyes one way or another.