'Call of Duty: Black Ops' sets a gigantic one-day sales record that is still less impressive than you think
Within 24 hours of release, Call of Duty: Black Ops reached $360 million in sales in North America and the U.K. That’s a monstrous record — beating out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s $310 million for the biggest one-day sales record in videogame history. Heck, you could arguably call this the single biggest entertainment release in world history. According to Box Office Mojo, the current record-holder for a global movie release is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with $394 million, but that was over a full weekend. So is Black Ops literally the biggest first-day thing ever, pop culture-wise?
Yes and no. Black Ops sold 5.6 million individual units in its first 24 hours. That’s an impressive number … but when the book version of Half-Blood Prince originally hit stores, it sold 6.9 million copies in the U.S. (The final Harry Potter book maintains the literary record, with 8.3 million U.S. copies in its first 24 hours. Though in all fairness, Harry Potter didn’t try to kill Castro.) Next to Lady Gaga concert tickets and elephant-hunting, videogames are the costliest form of mass entertainment — Black Ops retails for about $60 — so although Black Ops‘ sales are mighty, the actual number of people enjoying the anti-Soviet chicanery can’t compete with the fans of the boy wizard.
Which probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to Activision executives, who are hopefully celebrating their massive sales by building snowmen out of beluga caviar. PopWatchers, are you surprised that Black Ops outsold Modern Warfare 2 by such a large margin? What’s the best metric for rating cultural reach — profits or people? Does this foretell a massive influx of Cold War-themed videogames? (BioWare, won’t you please make a Manchurian Candidate videogame just for me?)