Black Ops to sell 12 million - Analyst

Pacific Crest's Evan Wilson raises holiday quarter estimate for next Call of Duty game, but still predicts it to fall far short of Modern Warfare 2's sales pace.

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Green and red may be the traditional Christmas colors, but this year's dominant shade could be black. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Evan Wilson today boosted his Call of Duty: Black Ops sales estimate for the holiday quarter to 12 million copies, up from his previous projection of 10 million.

Black Ops, white getup.
Black Ops, white getup.

Citing his firm's retail contacts, Wilson said the preorders for the Treyarch-developed Black Ops are outpacing those of last year's megahit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The sentiment echoed comments from Activision CEO Robert Kotick made at a pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo analysts' meeting last month.

But where Kotick stressed that each entry in the Call of Duty series had outperformed its predecessor, Wilson believes Black Ops will break that trend. Wilson estimated that Modern Warfare 2 sold 16 million copies in the holiday quarter of 2009 and called that number unachievable for Black Ops, "due to competition, weaker marketing, and the Infinity Ward situation."

Infinity Ward, the studio that created the Call of Duty series and developed Modern Warfare 2, has been a center of turmoil within Activision this year. The problems surfaced with the March firings of cofounders Jason West and Vince Zampella. After their dismissal, the pair sued the company, which sued back, alleging they had been plotting to start a new studio with chief Activision rival Electronic Arts. Within weeks, West and Zampella did just that. A number of Infinity Ward developers jumped ship to join the new studio, dubbed Respawn Entertainment, while others simply resigned.

Set for release November 9, Black Ops will depict a number of Cold War-era covert operations in countries like Russia, Vietnam, and Cuba. The game represents new territory for the series, which has previously focused on more familiar World War II and modern-day settings.

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