Did Black Ops outperform Modern Warfare 2 and Halo: Reach?

1 Posted by - November 19, 2010 - Case Studies, Player Insight, Trends & Data

First person shooters (FPS) have dominated the Xbox 360 for years. Leading the charge up until recently was Modern Warfare 2 from Activision, which had sat comfortably at the top of Raptr’s playtime chart for over 10 months – that is until Halo: Reach came along. With Call of Duty: Black Ops now on the scene, we were curious to see which FPS game rules the roost. We also added in 2 other AAA FPS games into the mix, including Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Medal of Honor. With all five games now thrown into battle in a multiplayer deathmatch, who would come out on top? Read on!

For this Raptr Report, additional data was included to gauge popularity. This includes a Metacritic score, which aggregates review scores from a number of top gaming sites. We also included some sales estimates, though we should note that exact worldwide sales numbers are extremely difficult to nail down, which factored this into our conclusion.

Call of Duty: Black Ops ultimately performed no better than either its predecessor Modern Warfare 2 or Halo: Reach. This is a bit surprising, due to the record levels of sales and hype for the game. In fact, when it came down to it, play patterns all three games exhibited very similar stats. There could be several reasons for this.

1) There is a ceiling for playtime. On average, the most any 360 game could achieve is roughly 6 hours on the first day and 23 hours in the first week. All the top performing games on Raptr haven’t been able to pass this ceiling. If you think about it, a normal person either has a job or school which means they only have so many hours in a day to game.  Add gaming on top of that, and they’ve hit their limit of free time in a day. Of course, there are people who do nothing but game or skip work to play, but on average, it seems the threshold for how much the general gaming populace can play in a week does appear to have a limit. It doesn’t matter much extra content is stuffed into a game, there are only so many hours in any given day that you can play.

2) Black Ops recieved lower reviews than Modern Warfare 2 and Halo: Reach. It could be argued that if Black Ops had gotten higher review scores that it could have racked up the extra hours in gameplay time to win by a nose. By no means is Black Ops score of 88% on Metacritic unworthy. But compared with Modern Warfare 2 and Halo: Reach, both of which have broken through into the +90% reviews range, it did fall short. There’s been much debate lately about how much a review score affects sales and interest in a game. Overall, Raptr does believe there is a correlation based on the stats we track.

3) Black Ops and Halo: Reach launched within two months of each other, potentially cannibalizing each other’s playtime. In addition, despite Black Ops now at #1 on the Xbox Live charts, as determined by Microsoft, Modern Warfare 2 somehow is still holding onto the #2 slot even after being out for more than a year. Once a three way race comes into play, who comes out on top can be greatly skewed based on factors beyond a games appeal.

What Happened with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Medal of Honor?

Both of these games, which happen to be published by EA, were heavily marketed, and arguably belong in the same class as the top 3 games we tracked here. Yet, playtime and review scores were on the bottom range in comparison to their competitors. In our Medal of Honor report, we established how a lackluster multiplayer experience held back gamer interest. It also becomes readily apparent how a low Metacritic score captures the shortcomings of the game as well. As for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the numbers were respectable, but still did not come close to the “ceiling” that appears to exist.

And the Winner Is…

Ultimately, we’ll have to leave this one up to the fanboys. The top 3 games, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach, and Modern Warfare 2 all performed remarkably well, and there doesn’t appear to be any standout stat that suggests one games dominates the other two. We attempted to initiate a tie breaker by looking at sales data for these games but in the end  we discovered that all three game sold around 5.5 million units on the Xbox 360 in the 1st five days of release (Note: Activision just revealed that sales for Call of Duty: Black Ops crossed $650 million in the 1st week on the market, but this includes every version of the game from console, to PC to handheld platforms.) As an FYI – Medal of Honor and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 sold a respectable 1 million units each on Xbox 360 in the 1st five days of release.

There is one way to settle this tie breaker. We wait a year to see how well both Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops stay on the charts. If either of these two games can have the longevity of Modern Warfare, then we may have a clear winner. Are we punting on this one? Yeah.