For the past few years, the Call of Duty franchise has racked up amazing sales, playtime, and community engagement. But if you’re king of the hill, everyone starts to speculate when you might start to falter, which seems to be the case for this year’s COD. Some market analysts predict that the hit shooter franchise is losing its momentum, but Raptr’s own gameplay data suggests that the series is still going as strong as ever.
We recently shared data with GamesBeat that shows the total playtime to date for this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II is actually very much in line with the last two annual Call of Duty titles. Based on the actual gameplay time of Raptr’s 15+ million users, Black Ops II did, in fact, get off to a slower start compared to Modern Warfare 3, but this latest game has done a better job engaging users after its initial debut — thanks in part to publisher-driven community efforts.
Looking at the first three days after Black Ops II’s launch, we found that total playtime was down 8% compared to the first three days after the launch of Modern Warfare 3 (though it still performed 42% than the original Black Ops from 2010). These lower figures were only temporary, however, as Black Ops II’s playtime two weeks after launch was 17% higher than Modern Warfare 3’s, giving it the biggest two-week peak of any Call of Duty game to date.
Two factors likely influenced the game’s post-launch growth. First, Black Ops II benefited from increased playtime from the long Thanksgiving holiday, whereas Modern Warfare 3’s playtime had already begun to dip by Thanksgiving 2011.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, publisher Activision Blizzard launched a special “Double XP weekend” just a few days after Black Ops II hit store shelves. The company uses these promotions to help boost player engagement or build excitement for new game content, though it has never held one of these events so soon after a Call of Duty launch in the past.
“Perhaps Activision realizes that community engagement activities planned early actually increase Call of Duty’s buzz and drive new user acquisition,” said Raptr CEO Dennis Fong. “This spike in activity will level out as we move further past the launch phase, but early signs are that Black Ops II’s playtime activity is settling within a typical range of activity for Call of Duty — but better than what Modern Warfare 3 was doing.”
Even outside of that Double XP weekend, Black Ops II may benefit from a number of extra community-driven features that could help support the game in the months ahead. The game offers live-streaming and allows users to post videos to YouTube, and this year the Call of Duty Elite social network is now available for free.
While it’s too early to tell how these community features will affect Black Ops II in the long term, Raptr data shows that the game’s player-retention is up compared to previous Call of Duty titles.
Looking at the total playtime as a percentage of launch metric — which compares a game’s current playtime to its playtime on launch day — Black Ops II is performing much better than Modern Warfare 3.
Last year’s game eventually saw its overall playtime level out at roughly 20% compared to its launch numbers, while other games in the series had their post-launch playtimes stabilize at about 40%. So far, the game is at least trending above its immediate predecessor.
It’ll be very interesting to see how things evolve with the Call of Duty franchise over the next several months. Black Ops II is pushing community-focused events more aggressively than ever, and early signs indicate that it’s having a positive effect on the game’s online activity and sales.
If this keeps up, it could prove to be an object lesson on how well-executed community support can drive player behavior. When you give users the tools and incentive to play together and develop online relationships, you’ll have a much better chance at securing long-term success for your game and studio. It seems to be working for Call of Duty so far, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as more data comes to light.