COD vs BF3 sales war: who's the real victor?

Honours are even, reckon analysts.

Barely a month has passed in the last year without EA reiterating its intent for Battlefield to steal a significant share of the FPS market from Activision's Call of Duty, and in the long term to eventually overtake it.

With both games now on shelves and early sales figures in (Battlefield 3 did five million in a week, Modern Warfare 3 did more than 6.5 million in a day), a number of industry analysts have offered Eurogamer their thoughts on just how that strategy is panning out.

The consensus? Everyone's a winner.

Screen Digest's Piers Harding-Rolls explained that though Battlefield 3 hasn't taken a significant number of sales away from Activision, it has successfully increased EA's share of the shooter market.

"Enabled by aggressive retailer trade-in sweeteners and the well timed release schedule, gamers have been able to enjoy both of these titles for not much more than the cost of a single game," he said.

"This has helped in expanding the market significantly in the opening weeks from launch. This also means that even though Battlefield 3 has not dented Modern Warfare 3 sales significantly, EA has definitely managed to increase its share of the shooter opportunity overall. As such both companies will be happy - as will the retailers."

He went on to argue that going forward, Activision will retain the upper hand by offering customers greater value and long term engagement.

"The new measurement of success for these titles is their longevity enabled through online play and ongoing engagement with gamers over a period of months," he argued.

"This helps these titles to continue to sell and to maintain their ASP, to shift large volumes of DLC and to maintain a user base ready for the next major iteration.

"Activision Blizzard leads the way here with CoD Elite and will, I believe, enjoy better online engagement as a result. At this point EA appears around a year behind with regards to its online strategy for Battlefield."

Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter agreed that Battlefield hasn't dented Call of Duty's sales, but has been a big success for EA nonetheless. He argued that the only hope EA has of taking the FPS crown is if Activision drops the ball.

"I think it's reasonable to assume that Call of Duty will peak eventually, but to pass Call of Duty, Battelfield would have to sell 25 million units (at last year's Call of Duty rate), or Call of Duty would have to decline.

"I don't think it's 'doable' that Battlefield will become the best-selling game of all time, since in order for that to happen, Battlefield would have to build as large and vibrant a multiplayer community as Call of Duty currently has. This is a stretch, as the Call of Duty community is unprecedented in its size and allegiance.

"I think that EA's claim is analogous to someone saying that their mobile phone will outsell the iPhone; it's 'doable' only if the iPhone falters. By that logic, Battlefield will pass Call of Duty only if Call of Duty falters."

Pachter went on to suggest that EA's pre-release bluster was just that, and that the publisher never really anticipated toppling Call of Duty.

"The numbers were what I expected. I'm not sure that EA really expected to impact Call of Duty at all, they just want their share of a really big market. Battlefield will probably be EA's biggest game this year, so I'm sure that EA is happy."

M2 Research's Billy Pidgeon suggested that EA can reap further rewards in the future by focusing on one of Battlefield's key strength - its strong PC presence.

"I think Battlefield 3 can continue to expand particularly on the PC, and that also gives EA greater reach in markets with negligible console penetration," he argued.

"To the extent that EA can maximise the PC base for Battlefield 3, ideally with free-to-play, pay per session and other low friction business models, Battlefield 3 could definitely increase overall share.

"As for the Battlefield franchise overtaking Call of Duty, anything is possible. It's possible, if not likely, that Battlefield 3 could outsell Modern Warfare 3. It's far more likely that Battlefield 3 could end up on more systems via freely distributed copies."

Finally, Pidgeon noted that Call of Duty has another weapon in its arsenal that hasn't been widely taken into account in revenue discussions: the Elite subscription service

"The released unit and revenue numbers don't represent the full retail impact of Modern Warfare 3, as these don't include numbers for Premium Elite sales, which should be considerable," he said.

"If a fifth of the 6.5 million units sold on day one were accompanied by Premium Elite sales, for instance, that would be about the equivalent of an additional million units in revenue."

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