I'm pre-calling the next-generation console wars winner
Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War was revealed with an in-game Warzone event this morning, and it changed literally everything.
If anyone reads much financial analysis or pays attention to video game sales numbers the title of this article was pre-conceived. The Playstation 4 outsold the XBOX One throughout its lifetime multiple times over. Up until this morning though the fight for the 2020 Holiday season of the next-generation console war was up in the air.
Then it happened. This morning at 3:30am AEST or 10:30am PT Activision dropped the Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War reveal in an in-game Call of Duty Modern Warfare event. And extremely observant fans will notice a couple of things.
The first is that all of the footage for the reveal was filmed on a Playstation 5. And it looked bloody gorgeous. The fact that Treyarch and Activision came up with such a leap in Call of Duty graphics in a mere two years compared to the flailing HALO Infinite saga from Microsoft is absolutely astounding and a total credit to the developers of the game.
The second was something a bit more interesting. A freeze-frame and subsequent trailer upload to the official Playstation Youtube channel confirmed that the game would have Playstation exclusive content. Something that most have murmured about in the past 12 months as being possible, but wasn't officially confirmed until this morning. This is important because last year with Activision's Call of Duty Modern Warfare release, their Playstation exclusivity deal also ended at the same time.
The last was the sheer popularity of the in-game event and the streams that came from the result. The event was the most-watched in-game event in Twitch and Youtube's history and there were so many players attempting to access it that Activision's servers crashed multiple times. In the hours that followed the Playstation Store's servers also crashed multiple times. And that tells me that the game was being pre-ordered off the shelves. The in-game Call of Duty store also crashed (another way to pre-order the game) and as of 9:00am AEST is down completely.
But wait, there's more. Not that many gamers will pay attention to this, but Activision Blizzard Inc. share prices have been skyrocketing of late. The earnings call for the company a couple of weeks back showed that over the past quarter Activision Blizzard had blown net profit out of the water. However, that's not what's giving me confidence. In the past 3 months the number of insider trades reported on Activision Blizzard has soared. About $5 million USD of internal shares have been bought in the past 3 months. Internal trading is normally an indicator that the company expects big movements in profitability. It also shows strong internal confidence in their own product. In this case? Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War (the Call of Duty titles accounts for almost half of Activision Blizzard's internal revenue).
What does this mean for the console wars? Well, Call of Duty Modern Warfare was the world's number one selling game in the past 12 months and that wasn't accounting for profits made off the Warzone DLCs which can be purchased for a fraction of the complete game. It was also the first time in almost a decade that Fortnite was knocked off its throne as the world's most-played shooter. Call of Duty Modern Warfare contributed almost 30% to the total sales of video games in the past 12 months which is a huge number when you consider the volume of video games that have been consumed during COVID19.
So making the next highly anticipated (best selling Call of Duty game of all time is a Treyarch and Black Ops title) and the first Call of Duty game on next-generation consoles a Playstation 5 exclusive and after all the trip-ups the Microsoft XBOX Series X launch campaign has gone through since June? I'm confidently calling it here. The XBOX is dead. The Playstation 5 will outsell units to the XBOX Series X at an even higher rate to the previous generation and thanks to the pushback and bad reception of HALO Infinite? I'd also be confident in saying there is absolutely nothing that Microsoft can do about it.
And they know this as well. This week Microsoft was offering their XBOX Game Pass Ultimate for almost 30% off for 3 years and trialing the service for $1 per month. A move that Sony countered with a discount of their own on the Playstation Plus subscription.
I do find it sad to a point, the Microsoft Sony two-step pushed the two giants to offer bigger, better, cheaper products. But moving forward, and with the re-emergence of the Gaming PC as a competitor, it feels an awful lot like the XBOX Series X will be the last Microsoft console we see forever. With Microsoft's ownership of the Game Pass platform on PC, what's the point of spending millions on R&D to create hardware that no-one is going to buy? That's the question Microsoft now has 6 years to ponder.