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Activision ships $1 billion worth of Call of Duty: Ghosts to retail

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Call of Duty: Ghosts (Credit: Activision)

Numbers don't lie, but they can be massaged a bit.

Activision celebrated the launch of Call of Duty: Ghosts with its customary sales trumpeting, announcing that the game sold $1 billion in its first day of release. Sounds impressive -- and it certainly is -- but it’s not quite as stunning as you might think.

The $1 billion figure refers to shipments of the game to retailers, commonly called 'sold-in' numbers. Activision did not note how many of those games had actually been sold to consumers ('sold-through' numbers) yet, the real barometer of a game's success.

What the number does signify, though, is that Activision sent out more copies to stores on Day One this year than it has in the past, since the $1 billion figure is taken from wholesale numbers. That's a big show of confidence in the title by both Activision and retailers.

There's also a significant wording change in this year's announcement. For years, each new Call of Duty has been hailed as "the largest launch in entertainment industry history." Ghosts doesn't get that honor (yet), as Grand Theft Auto V currently has bragging rights by earning $800 million in Day One revenue and reaching $1 billion in a mere three days. Last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops II took 15 days to reach the $1 billion mark.

Of course, just because Ghosts hasn't blasted through GTA V’s record doesn’t mean it won’t be a huge hit. The game still had a massive launch, with 15,000 retail locations opening their doors at midnight so fans could get their hands on it. And it's certain to be among the year's best-selling titles.

Activision notes that the average playing time for the game has already exceeded the average playing time for both Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare during the same time period post-launch. It's also the number one online game on Xbox Live already, shoving aside Rockstar's latest.

The next-generation versions of the game are Gamestop's most pre-reserved title for the PS4 and Xbox One, says Activision.

"Call of Duty is by far the largest console franchise of this generation," said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision. "Although it is too early to assess sell-through for Call of Duty: Ghosts, it’s launching at a time when the franchise has never been more popular."

More popular with gamers, perhaps, but not more popular with critics, who have been somewhat unimpressed with the shooter.

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