The cost of war is high at Electronic Arts, but the rewards are even higher.
Battlefield 3 (EA)Battlefield 3, the company's answer to industry juggernaut Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, has burst out of the gate by selling 5 million copies in its first week alone. That's a record for EA and enough to make it the industry's best launch this year -- though it probably won't hold that title for long.
The big numbers for Battlefield 3 soundly beat the launch numbers for Microsoft's Gears of War 3, which sold 3 million copies in its first week on shelves. But the Nov. 8 debut of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is expected to once again set new entertainment industry records.
That won't matter much to EA, though. Selling 5 million copies in one week puts the company on track to exceed analyst forecasts of the game's 2011 sales. Most Wall Street insiders had expected the company to move between 8 and 8.5 million copies before the end of the year. That's likely to encourage investors, who have been looking for a definitive sign that EA has turned the corner after years of less than stellar results.
The competition is about to escalate substantially, however.
Beyond Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield will have to face off against Sony's Uncharted 3 and Microsoft's Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, as well as recent releases that are showing strong retail legs, such as critical smash Batman: Arkham City.
EA has ramped up its marketing machine for Battlefield 3, with an estimated spend of $100 million. The company's even teamed with Bunim/Murray Productions, creators of "The Real World" and "The Challenge," and CBS Interactive division GameSpot to create an online reality show around the game.
The success of Battlefield 3 is unlikely to have a significant impact on Modern Warfare 3 sales, however. That title has a built-in audience and pre-orders of the Activision title have hit record highs for the company, indicating that fans of previous games in the saga are eager to stick with it. Analysts estimate the game will sell 16 million copies this year alone, with strong sales continuing into 2012.