Call of Duty beginning to slow, says analyst

Sterne Agee industry watcher estimates Black Ops II sales down 15 percent against Modern Warfare 3.

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A note to investors from Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia today claims the Call of Duty brand is beginning to show signs of fatigue.

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The industry watcher expects that unit sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops II are tracking down double digits against last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

According to retailer checks, some shops were down as much as 20 percent, Bhatia said. In total, it is his estimation that first-year sales for Black Ops II will decline 10-15 percent from those of Modern Warfare 3.

If accurate, this would be the second year running that the Call of Duty brand has declined year-over-year. The first came last year, Bhatia said, when Modern Warfare 3 was down 5 percent against sales of the original Call of Duty: Black Ops.

"It goes without saying that weakness in this franchise is a cause for concern," Bhatia said.

Bhatia attributed the weakened Black Ops II sales to three possible factors, the first of which is an overall lower average review score compared to Modern Warfare 3. The second is the game's release proximity to high-profile competitor Halo 4, which itself had a banner debut, recording day-one revenue of $220 million. Third, Bhatia believes Black Ops II's release just one week ahead of Thanksgiving may have caused some gamers to hold out on purchasing in hopes of scoring a deal on Black Friday.

Earlier this month, Activision announced that Black Ops II netted $500 million during its first 24 hours, cruising past Modern Warfare 3's day-one haul of $400 million. Importantly, though, Modern Warfare 3's figure only accounts for North American and European sales, while Black Ops II's factors in all regions.

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