The latest Call of Duty seems to be doing very well, according to the press release that went out today. Digital and retail sales are up over previous games and years, and player engagement is high. Like most press releases touting games sales, no actual numbers are shared, but of course we have to compare the game's performance to a blockbuster film for some silly reason.
"Three-Day Opening Weekend over $550 Million in Worldwide Sales," the press release states. "[Black Ops 3] Is the Biggest Entertainment Launch of 2015, beating Jurassic World."
Oh for the love of Gygax, THIS bullshit again?
Maybe don't open that door?
I've written in the past about why comparing game sales to movie tickets is silly, but this Call of Duty example is picking a bad fight. Jurassic World is going to make more money, and will likely be more culturally significant, no matter how you slice it.
So Black Ops 3 made $550 million in its first three days of release. How did Jurassic World do? "Globally, Jurassic World became the first movie to cross $500 million in a single weekend," Variety reported. "It debuted to a massive $100 million in China and opened in first place in all 66 international territories where the film was released"
So it's close, but if you look at overall impact the numbers are very different. Call of Duty is a $59.99 product at the base level, with "deluxe digital editions" going for $99.99 and "The Juggernog Edition" going for $199.99. It's very easy to outgross a release in a very different art form when your product is between $60 and $200 and the cost of a movie ticket averages $4.74 worldwide in 2014.
So many, many more people bought tickets to see Jurassic World than purchased Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. It's not even close. I'd argue the cultural relevance of Jurassic World is thus much higher, and the lower cost of admission is a big part of that. I can take my entire family to see a film for the same price as a single game and, while I can interest everyone in my home in the new Jurassic Park film, the same can't be said for the latest shootyperson game.
But wait, it gets worse
Despite the lower cost of admission, Jurassic World has brought in over $1.6 billion in revenue. If we estimate that the average person will spend $80 on Black Ops 3 when the larger editions and DLC purchases are added on to the base $60 price, the game would have to sell approximately 21 million copies to beat Jurassic World.
Which isn't impossible! Black Ops 2 sold around 24.2 million units to date. Ghosts sold around 19 million units. Call of Duty isn't just big, it's huge, but trying to compete with a film in terms of revenue if you're a game is an impossible task.
That's why these press releases focus on opening weekend, where games have the advantage. Game sales are heavily weighted for the first few days, although Black Ops 3 will see another bump as we get closer to the holidays. You can only sell a $60 game once, and the biggest push happens when the game is released. Things like DLC will help make the game more money, but that first purchase is the most important. The Call of Duty series may have a longer tail than most games, but gaming as a whole has nothing on movies.
That's due to the fact that Jurassic World isn't just a product that exists in the theaters. now that the $1.6 billion was made in ticket sales, it's time for a second push into the home video market, where Jurassic World will do very well indeed. That's not considering that fact that it will be sold to cable companies after the Blu-ray sales cool off. Not to mention the money studios make licensing films to airline companies to show on flights, or streaming services and broadcast television.
Jurassic World will be sold over and over again through the years, while Call of Duty is on an annual release schedule. That's why these press releases have to tout the opening weekend sales over films, with the higher per-unit price the deck is heavily stacked in the favor of games.
Sorry, Call of Duty. Jurassic World will likely bring in more money, and be seen by more people, and leave a heavier dent in the world of entertainment. There's a small chance that, when factoring in DLC and lifetime sales as the price goes down and new games are released Call of Duty games do make more than the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, but I seriously doubt it, and publishers would need to be much more forthcoming about real-world sales to make that case.