No surprises here. Call of Duty continues its dominating streak in the gaming industry, locking up the top spot for best-selling gaming franchise for the 12th year running. Thanks to sales from both 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare throughout the year, and the year-end success of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War—a feat that made it the best selling game of 2020 with less than two months on the market—the franchise once again secures its place at the top of the list.
US NPD SW – Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War was the best-selling game of both December as well as 2020, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was 2020’s 2nd best-seller. Call of Duty ranked as the best-selling gaming franchise in the U.S. market for a record 12th consecutive year. pic.twitter.com/XM820w7GYc
— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) January 15, 2021
The NPD charts are ranked by dollar amount of full game sales, so Call of Duty’s success doesn’t even take into account the free-to-play Warzone or sales of Call of Duty Points for the Battle Pass and other premium cosmetic packs. It’s place as the best-selling gaming franchise is secured strictly by game sales alone. While Warzone’s immense success certainly contributed to a higher attach rate for Modern Warfare, the free-to-play game and money made from cosmetic transactions were not factored into the NPD considerations. For reference, that’s billions of dollars in revenue made just on those microtransactions alone.
Call of Duty’s streak as the best-selling gaming franchise began in 2009 with sales from both 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War from Treyarch and 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from Infinity Ward factoring in. Each subsequent year’s release has helped it top the charts again and again. Even on its off years with less loved titles like Ghosts, Call of Duty still retained its position at the top.
The free-to-play massively multiplayer Warzone experiment is the latest effort to evolve the franchise and keep it from getting stagnant. Following up from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode, Warzone takes the concept to the next level with multi-game progression and integration unlike any we’ve seen in the video game industry before.
Call of Duty securing the top spot for the 12th year running based strictly on sales of the yearly releases alone all but assures that the series won’t be taking a break from yearly releases to focus strictly on Warzone or seasonal content. While Warzone and the new content model have certainly been successful for Activision, it’s also continuing to drive sales of the premium releases, which won’t go ignored. While the model around the reveal may change, much as last year’s Black Ops Cold War was revealed later in the year to give breathing room to Modern Warfare and Warzone, we can still expect another yearly Call of Duty to hit in November 2021 thanks to the franchise’s best-selling status.