Call of Duty pre-orders are down year-on-year, according to analysts

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare screenshot

A pre-order sales analysis done by Cowen and Co. was released this week, and it states that the sales decline of the Call of Duty series is set to continue on through to this year’s game.

According to the report, data taken from the last few years indicates that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is expected to sell 40 percent less than last year’s Ghosts managed, and 70 percent less than Black Ops 2 (which came out back in 2012).

Taking a look at Amazon pre-order figures below, you’ll be able to see that despite the amount of hype generated behind the “new and improved” Advanced Warfare, it seems that it is still going to fall short in sales compared to previous titles. Cowen and Co. speculate that this would indicate that the golden days of Call of Duty are behind it.

One important thing to keep in mind when looking at these statistics is the size of the actual numbers involved. Even though Call of Duty‘s popularity seems to be in decline, it’s still a massive success and is expected to outsell other blockbusters such as Bungie’s Destiny (which, at time of writing, happens to be the most pre-ordered new IP of all time).


Advanced Warfare is now pacing almost 40 percent behind last year’s Ghosts (vs. 50 per cent last week) and almost 70 per cent behind 2012’s Black Ops 2 (vs. 80 per cent last week)”, the research notes explain. “We continue to believe CoD will be down meaningfully vs. last year. With the franchise facing two consecutive significant year on year declines in sales, we think it is prudent to assume it has peaked.”

“Activision’s Destiny continues to track well post-launch, with the game’s Amazon rankings actually up vs. two weeks ago. We think sales are likely to slow down over the next weeks as a spate of new games hit the market, but we would not be surprised to see a re-acceleration in December once the first DLC The Dark Below is released. We continue to expect first year (12-month) unit sales of 12-13MM units. While we now think it is less likely that Destiny will outsell Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, if Destiny enjoys stronger legs and reaches 15MM+ units, we believe it could still happen (due in part to our concerns about CoD).”

Later on in the analysis, Cowen and Co. recognize the idea that pre-orders don’t necessarily reflect the overall sales and that they are no longer as big of an indicator of long-term sales as they used to be – something Activision has publicly reiterated on numerous occasions.

Cowen and Co. finished off their analysis based off of the Amazon pre-orders with the following words: “Given that we have seen the most pre-ordered IP of all time launched this year – not once, but twice! [Editor’s note – this is a reference to Watch Dogs and Destiny] – we have a hard time buying this argument. What we think is happening is that (1) pre-orders for Call of Duty are down (2) Call of Duty is normally a significant percentage of overall pre-orders and thus (3) interested parties are concluding that pre-orders are securely declining relative to overall sales, e.g. that the problem is with pre-orders rather than with Call of Duty.

“This aligns with what Activision and GameStop both would like to believe – Activision because it gives an alternative explanation for slow pre-orders, and GameStop because it ignores the elephant in the room that a significant portion of sales are digital, which they aren’t seeing the pre-orders for. We believe that pre-orders remain by far the best leading indicator of a title’s likely ultimate sales.”

Sledgehammer’s first true crack of the whip on the franchise – the studio previously worked on Modern Warfare 2 in conjunction with Infinity Ward – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is due for a simultaneous worldwide launch on November 3 in North America, November 4 in international territories, and November 13 in Japan. The game will be available on Windows PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Advanced Warfare features a new engine, and a move away from modern-day combat into a more science-fiction setting, complete with Mechs, exoskeletons and lots of Kevin Spacey.

Oliver Zimmerman

Oliver Zimmerman

South-African raised, Dublin-resident. Oli loves games in all their shapes and forms. He particularly loves RPGs. He's also a keen wordsmith, and can often be found not just playing games, but also discussing their rights and wrongs.
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