(NBC News) In the world of video gaming the release of “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” is akin to a new “Harry Potter” or “Hunger Games” film hitting theaters.
“Call of Duty is the bellwether game. It’s the game that tells you whether the industry is healthy or not,” says Wedbush Securities Tech Analyst Michael Pachter.
Sales of last year’s edition, “Call of Duty: Ghosts”, slumped compared to previous versions, but they still topped 24 million copies and raked in more than a billion dollars.
Pachter says “Call of Duty” advance orders with retailers are lower this year, but that’s partially because gamers are increasingly buying through digital downloads.
“Last year, very few titles had significant digital downloads. Call of Duty was probably five percent. This year, it’s probably going to rise to about 20 percent,” he predicts.
Downloads cut out the retail middle man and mean more profit for game makers; they also trim
the option for reselling games.
That could eventually spell trouble for major re-sellers such as GameStop.
The new “Call of Duty” launch also comes as Walmart steps up its rivalry with GameStop. Walmart is launching a “certified pre-owned” game program in 1,700 stores nationwide.