It is just a matter of hours before the highly anticipated and controversial "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" officially hits store shelves. (We say "officially" because some stores are already selling this highly coveted video game. More on that in a bit.)
How big is this release? Let's count the ways.
• The antiterrorism-themed game will likely be the most successful video game of the year, at least among devoted gamers. "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" may pull in more sales this holiday season, thanks to children and their nostalgic parents. But among many hardcore and even mild video-game fans, the Mature-rated Modern Warfare 2 is a must-buy title.
• Analysts expect the game's publisher, Activision, to pull in "at least half a billion dollars on the game in the first week," reports the AP. "It could easily rake in more than last year's record $155 million opening weekend for 'The Dark Knight,' " the highest-grossing opening weekend in box-office history.
That comparison may not be entirely fair. The game costs at least $60, whereas the rising prices of movie tickets aren't quiet there yet. So, "The Dark Knight" needed to pull in about six-times more fans to earn each million-dollar benchmark.
The biggest video game launch goes to last year's "Grand Theft Auto 4," which pulled in more than $500 million by selling 6 million copies in its first week. That made GTA4 the "top entertainment launch ever." Some analysts think Modern Warfare 2 could be even bigger.
• More than 10,000 US stores will open at midnight for special launch events. They include most of the 4,300 GameStop stores across the country and many Best Buy locations. GameStop also reports that pre-orders hit an all-time high. The hype even sparked bidding wars between stores, with Amazon and WalMart each offering free $20 gift certificates if shoppers pre-order the game through them.
• To compete for a piece of that pie, several smaller video game retailers are breaking embargoes by selling the game today. This pushed many GameStop locations to follow suit. "This past weekend, GameStop made the decision to break street date and sell reserved copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in select markets where other retailers had broken street date," said GameStop VP Chris Olivera. "Our decision followed many conversations with Activision and was an effort to protect our customer base."
However, Activision says that in those "many conversation," the publisher never condoned breaking the street date. "Activision has not given any retailer permission to sell 'Modern Warfare 2' prior to the Nov. 10 street date," the company said.
Check back here Tuesday for a Modern Warfare review roundup.