Call of Duty: Black Ops sold some $360 million worth of product on its first day last week, breaking the one-day sales record held by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 by $50 million. That's 5.6 million unit sales, enough to make one Microsoft exec recant on his prediction that Halo: Reach would be the top selling game of the year. Of course, Halo is only available on the Xbox 360 while Black Ops was simultaneously available on Xbox, PS3, PC and Apple computers.
What's really interesting, aside from the usual controversies that surround realistic video games, is the continuing shift from movies to what I would call interactive entertainment. The Dark Knight currently holds the Hollywood record for earning $158.5 million on opening weekend, which is a three-day period. In terms of revenues, assuming ticket sales for Dark Knight were consistent on all three days, Black Ops earned almost seven times as much on day one as the top-grossing movie of all time.
Obviously the two forms of media are not directly comparable. It costs $12 to see a movie and $60 to purchase a game. Fans may see a movie twice or purchase the DVD down the road.
Development costs are also not directly comparable. It's been estimated that the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare cost $120 million (U.S.) in marketing alone, but from a programming standpoint all three sequels were made using the same engine and costs from title to title were significantly reduced - as was the marketing budget, given the fact that everybody who purchased the first Call of Duty titles were probably already sold on the latest title without too much arm-twisting.
Although there's no question Hollywood is still a good industry to be in, the profits to be made from top video game titles are prompting all of the big movie houses to get into the video game industry, as well - not just hiring game companies to make games to support their movies, either, but developing their own games using in-house talent.
Sony is probably the best example, making and commissioning their own titles to support their consoles and handhelds.
Paramount Studios is making video game versions of Days of Thunder and Top Gun , and a Star Trek game to capitalize on the rebooted franchise.
Lionsgate is getting into casual games, which suits its indie film reputation. Fox Atomic makes games for Fox. Universal and Warner Bros. are both making games - with the latter making a huge splash with its top-rated Batman: Arkahm Asylum game.