Modern Warfare 2 generated a record-setting $550 million in sales through Saturday, besting not only the previous mark for a video game but also for movies at the box office, entertainment reporter Ben Fritz writes today. That represents about 8 million units sold, according to estimates by publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. of Santa Monica.
"This provided the entire industry with a shot in the arm," said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, who predicted Modern Warfare 2 would ultimately sell 15 million to 20 million units, exceeding $1 billion in revenue.
Call of Duty cost $40 million to $50 million to produce, people close to the project said, about as much as a mid-size film. Including marketing expenses and the cost of producing and distributing discs, the launch budget was $200 million, on par with a summer popcorn movie -- and extremely high for a video game.
Unleashing a Hollywood-scale opening for Modern Warfare 2 has been a priority for Activision Blizzard. The marketing and publicity campaign has featured all of the trappings of a modern movie effort, including ads and trailers designed by top advertising shops, a Twitter feed on which news was strategically disclosed, and a controversial scene involving airport terrorism that leaked onto YouTube and generated much media attention.
"My goal was to create a launch that would compare very favorably to the biggest box offices of all time," Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said.
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Photo: Alejandro Medina, 20, of Culver City, dons a jungle sniper ghillie suit as he takes in the festivities surrounding the release of the video game Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 at Best Buy. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times