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Activision: Call of Duty: Black Ops used more than Facebook

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Black Ops

Every day, the average Facebook user spends 55 minutes clicking through the popular social networking site. That's an impressive time
sink -- but players of Call of Duty: Black Ops have them beat.

Activision says since the First Strike downloadable content pack was released on February 1, players have averaged 58 minutes per day playing online. Given that the game itself is now over six months old, that's a
seriously dedicated fan base.

In fact, since the game's release, Black Ops players have logged over 1.2 billion hours of online play. To put things in perspective, that's just shy of 137,000 man years.

And the publisher is looking to hook that fan base in even further. During an analyst's call following its corporate earnings announcement Monday, Activision talked a bit more about the "online platform" it will use in conjunction with this year's installment of the game, widely expected to be "Modern Warfare 3." The company will make a formal announcement in the coming weeks.

The digital and social networking components will be "an integral part to the innovation signature of the Call of Duty game that we're releasing this year," according to Eric Hirschberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. Also, he noted, the platform is "not attempting to monetize or take any experience away that currently comes as part of the value
proposition of buying the game."

The Call of Duty franchise is Activision's most important property. Black Ops currently ranks as the best-selling standalone game of all time, topping previous king Guitar Hero
3. And players are devouring DLC left and right. When First Strike was released in February, the company sold 1.4 million units in 24 hours -- adding up to $21 million in gross revenue.

Beyond plans for the next retail release, Activision's also working on a free-to-play online version of the game that will be available exclusively in China, where the microtransaction model is immensely profitable. There are no plans to bring the product to other territories, but CEO Bobby Kotick noted in the call: "That's not to say it might not have applicability
elsewhere."

Call of Duty could face some competition this year, though. EA's Battlefield 3 greatly impressed critics at the Game Developer's Conference earlier this year, and EA's CEO John Riccitiello says the game has been specifically designed to outmatch Call of Duty.

To help it achieve that goal, the company plans to spend $100 million or more in marketing to ensure players -- and the general public -- know there's an alternative.

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