The latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise “Ghosts” has not been the record breaking revenue stream its publisher, Activision, was hoping for. You may have heard somewhere that the latest game to sell 1 billion in the first 24 hours was Call of Duty: Ghosts, but this was actually clever deception by their PR. Unlike Grand Theft Auto 5, which sold 1 billion to customers in 3 days—making it the fastest selling and highest grossing entertainment product ever—Activision was talking about the amount of copies it sold to retailers, which isn’t the same thing. Basically GTA 5’s 1 billion was what customers purchased, and Activision’s was what they sent to stores. So anything that retailers didn’t sell could actually be returned to Activision in some cases and more importantly the amount in stores does not equal the amount purchased by consumers.
It’s easy to see why Activision would fudge the numbers, they have investors to please and a public image to uphold, especially after they made statements proclaiming that they would take back the record from GTA 5, which was previously held by Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Kevin Flynn, the UK senior brand manager said in an interview with MCV, before the game’s release that “Call of Duty: Ghosts will be a wake-up call to other companies that think they dominate the marketplace.” He congratulated the GTA 5 team and added “We look forward to getting the record back before the next GTA title.”
Ghosts failed to outsell GTA V and Black Ops 2 before it, but Activision does not believe the cause has anything to do with the fact that it is the 10th game in the annual Call of Duty franchise or that it is the lowest scoring Call of Duty game in the series as per Metacritic with a score of 74. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg told GameInformer that lower than expected sales were due to “the challenges of the console transition year.” He also downplayed the reviews, “The critical response doesn’t always mirror the fan’s appreciation of a game. We actually do read the critics’ comments and take them into consideration during our creative process, but we just can’t measure ourselves by that yardstick alone.” There could be some truth to the new consoles releasing causing some potential buyers to hold out on getting the game for the old systems; but with the $10 upgrade deals retailers have been offering and the very real dilemma of franchise fatigue, (remember Guitar Hero?) blaming just the console transition year sounds a little short sighted.