The latest entry in the Call of Duty series, Black Ops, has hit a billion dollars in sales. Everybody is excited, and rightfully so - that’s a lot of money. But let’s keep things in perspective when it comes to the eternal rivalry between video games and movies for our entertainment interest: this isn’t that big a deal.
This is not comparable to Avatar or Titanic. You have to keep in mind that every single copy of Call of Duty that sold cost 60 bucks; the economy of the game world is such that there are no discounts or steep cuts on release. Just about every new video game costs 59.99, no matter where you buy it. Compare that with movie ticket prices, which vary from location to location, but let’s say the average is about 10 bucks. A video game costs six times what a movie ticket costs.
So do a little math - divide one billion by sixty and you’ll see how many units shifted; I come up with 16,666,666. That’s a pretty impressive number - almost seventeen million units sold. But then do the math to convert those games into movie tickets at ten bucks a pop. Now you’ll come up with just south of $170,000,000 - a number that wouldn’t even get Call of Duty: Black Ops into the top ten earning films of 2010. It’s nestled between #11 Clash of the Titans and #10, The Karate Kid.
Don’t get me wrong - a billion bucks in sales is impressive, and moving just shy of seventeen million units in a month is amazing. It’s interesting that we’re starting to see these reports coming about game sales in ways that we never did, but we’re not hearing the same in-depth stuff about game budgets that we hear about movies. I am interested in figuring out how much the high price point hurts game sales - going to the movies for an average of ten bucks is less of a risk than plopping down sixty for a game. But I’m very impressed that there are many people who drop 60 on a game a couple of times a year, probably spending a grand or more on buying video games alone.
Movies could be catching up with that price point soon enough. IMAX and 3D prices are jacking up the average ticket. If you want to see Tron: Legacy at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater - the theater Disney owns - y0u’re going to pay 30 bucks a ticket.