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Instant Analysis: Is Activision Blizzard's "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" Going to Be a Sales Disappointment?

By Keith Noonan – Updated Nov 11, 2016 at 7:08AM

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Early sales indicators point to a disappointing performance for Activision Blizzard's biggest holiday release.

Image source: Activision Blizzard.

First-week sales in the U.K. for Activision Blizzard's (ATVI 1.32%) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare were down 48.5% from last year's franchise installment, according to sales tracker GfK. The game still managed to open at the top spot of the weekly charts and delivered the second-highest debut of the year, trailing only FIFA 17 from Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA). However, the substantial decline from opening-week numbers for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will be significant if the sales trend carries over to other territories. 

On Activision's Nov. 3 earnings call, CEO Eric Hirshberg indicated that the company did not expect Infinite Warfare to match the sales of Black Ops 3, and attributed that to the latest entry being the beginning of a new series within the franchise. While some manner of sales drop-off was anticipated, Infinite Warfare's opening-week numbers in the U.K. are almost surely below expectations. 

Does it matter?

Publicly available sales data for Infinite Warfare have not been released outside of the U.K., and it's possible that the game will perform better in other regions, but the extent of its opening-week sales decline from Black Ops 3 suggests that the game's overall sales will wind up somewhat disappointing for a mainline Call of Duty release. Infinite Warfare got off to a rough start with its unveiling: Many fans of the series were disappointed with the title's futuristic setting and the game's debut trailer currently stands as the second-most-disliked video on YouTube ever with 3.26 million dislikes, trailing Justin Beiber's Baby featuring Ludacris, which has 6.82 million dislikes. 

With the success of Overwatch and Destiny, Activision still looks strong in the first-person shooter category, and a first-week decline for a new Call of Duty series entry does not necessarily point to a rapid erosion of the franchise's great staying power, or a threat to the company's long-term success. Still, Infinite Warfare is the company's most important release for the crucial holiday sales quarter, so its performance will have a significant impact on near-term earnings and should be monitored closely.

Keith Noonan owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool recommends Electronic Arts.

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