Petrol stations, green grocers and non-specialists joined the likes of GAME and Gamestation in celebrating the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 this week.
The release on Tuesday saw 2,500 different UK shops opening at midnight to sell the latest blockbuster Call of Duty game – all of which pointed to another record-breaking launch for Activision’s mega franchise.
It was the biggest launch ever for Call of Duty and therefore by extension the biggest release moment ever of a game in the world.
Analysts are already predicting that the game will have sold almost 20m globally by the end of the year. It’s a dead cert for having the most profitable Day One for any game. In pop culture terms, only Avatar, Titanic or Michael Jackson’s Thriller come close. Battlefield? Never heard of it, mate.
And to cap it all off, Activision threw a customary lavish celeb-packed event in central London – complete with New Year-style countdown – to mark the arrival of the biggest game of all time.
“For every developer, whenever they make a game, the launch is a unique moment – but the size and scope of what we achieved this week makes it very special for us,” Mark Rubin, executive producer at CoD developer Infinity Ward, told MCV.
“From a developer’s perspective, we tend to keep our head’s down during development and don’t pay much attention to what goes on before launch. But we are convinced this is our best game yet and that fans will be blown away by it. “We’ve really invested in all areas of the game, both single-player and multiplayer. It will exceed fans’ expectations.”
Rubin was in the UK to meet fans, hand out and sign copies of the title at GAME’s Oxford Street midnight launch.
He added: “The launch of a new Call of Duty is virtually a public holiday for our fans – they demand this excitement and want this game.”
Similar excitement was found at the highest level of Activision’s UK operation. UK MD Peter Hepworth, who moved back from the US to take the senior role this summer, told MCV the firm had “celebrated the launch in style” with the entire industry.
“It’s as much to thank our trade partners – including first-party, retail and the media – as it is to herald the arrival of the game,” he told MCV. “A record number of midnight openings celebrated the launch of the game – 2,500.
“We’ve had people queuing from as early as Friday evening. It has reached a huge crescendo. It’s the biggest and broadest game opening we have organised with petrol stations, grocers and lots of non-specialists. We’ve gone much broader than any game, and any publisher. That’s reflected in how consumers are going out – and where they are going to buy the game.
“Last year we had the biggest game launch of all time, and the biggest entertainment launch of all time – but this year our pre-order numbers are tracking above that. So we are very confident.”
But the release this week of Modern Warfare 3 marks just the first step in Activision’s plan for widening the franchise’s digital element.
“We’re not just launching a game, we’re launching the Call of Duty Elite service too – with our retail partners, we will educate consumers about this free service and how they can upgrade to the premium membership,” said Hepworth.
This year, the game was available in just two versions – the traditional basic release and a more expensive Hardened Edition, which includes one year’s premium Elite membership as part of the package.
“The state of the global economy and lower consumer spending has created a tough market and that has driven us to create a better value proposition,” Hepworth added.
“There are three games here, really – the longer single-player, Spec Ops, and multiplayer enhanced by Elite,” said Hepworth. “Hopefully that will help retailers and consumers. Especially when, as I say, our retail base is now so broad.”