For those of you living with sheets over your windows for the better half of the last year, the record-setting opening day release of Modern Warfare 2 would only be a sign of things to come for a game that would go on to gross over $1 billion dollars since its release back in November of 2009, setting all the industry bars in its wake.
Regardless of Modern Warfare’s success, as of June 2010, industry-wide software sales were at $531 million, a 15% decline from last year’s $627 million. In his latest investor report, Michael Pachter, consumer analyst at Wedbush Morgan, suggests big changes coming to the way we enjoy our daily dosage of multiplayer gaming.
"We estimate that a total of 12 million consumers are playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for an average of 10 hours per week on the two platforms' respective networks, and the continued enjoyment of this game (along with an estimated 6 million Halo online players, 3 million EA Sports players, and 5 million players playing other games, such as Battlefield, Red Dead Redemption, Left 4 Dead and Grand Theft Auto) has sucked the available time away from what otherwise would be spent playing newly purchased games."
You don’t need me to tell you these numbers are staggering, but I will anyways because it helps me to vocalize things that hurt my brain: these numbers are STAGGERING. With so much time being spent across so few titles, it’s no wonder why developers may start making the jump to subscription-based multiplayer models, similar to those of World of Warcraft. In truth, it’s amazing this all hasn’t happened sooner.
"We are quick to point out that the average single player game has an expected play time of under 30 hours, suggesting that a staggering 133 million units of equivalent game play have been spent (so far) playing Call of Duty online, with Activision only seeing revenues from the original 20 million units sold, plus an estimated 8 million map packs sold.”
While a majority of the time being spent on only a handful of games has stunted user purchases and played a major role in this industry dilemma, investors also feel that the recent surge in smartphones and tablets have boosted the mobile games market, in turn making a dent on console software sales figures.
"We think that it is incumbent upon Activision, with the most popular multiplayer game, to take the first step to address monetization of multiplayer," said Pachter. "It is too early to tell whether that will be a monthly subscription, tournament entry fees, microtransaction fees, or a combination of all three, but we expect to see the company take some action by year-end, when Call of Duty Black Ops launches [on November 11th, 2010]."
If this is the direction video games are headed for, then we as gamers can only sit back and wait for the shepherd to herd the flocks towards an option we will whine about profusely and undoubtedly pay for. If there is anyone more qualified to lead the lambs to their slaughter, it’s Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who has openly admitted his willingness to accost your back pocket before:
"I would have Call of Duty be an online subscription service tomorrow."