Activision’s Call of Duty Sales Hit $500 Million on Day One

Every penny it cost to get Robert Downey Jr. to appear in the TV commercial for Call of Duty: Black Ops II has now paid off.

Activision just confirmed that its big first-person shooter of the year has racked up $500 million in sales on opening day, setting a new record for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based game publisher.

That easily outguns first-day sales of Halo 4, which Microsoft said on Monday totaled $220 million. Activision’s war-themed title also easily beats last year’s blockbuster release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which achieved $400 million in sales within 24 hours, and about $1 billion after 16 days.

These big videogame titles are often compared to more general entertainment releases, like first-day sales at the box office, given their size and scope. The criticism of using that metric is that one game costs $60 versus the $11-or-so that it costs to go see the new “Twilight” flick. However, the counterargument is that a $60 game is much more of a commitment, and will take even the most savvy players weeks to finish, whereas a movie is snack-sized at only two hours.

Here’s Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick drawing the obvious Hollywood comparison:

“With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row,” Kotick said. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars,” the two most successful movie franchises of all time.”

On Monday, Microsoft claimed that Halo 4 beat box office releases like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and the “The Avengers” — based on day-one sales in the U.S. Halo 4 is sold exclusively on Microsoft’s Xbox, whereas Activision’s Call of Duty sells across the Xbox, PlayStation 3 and, two days from now, Nintendo’s Wii U.

Metacritic, which aggregates videogame reviews from various game publications, gave Microsoft’s Halo 4 an impressively high score of 91, based on 37 reviews, compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which received an 84, based on 48 scores.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus