Tens of thousands of people queued at video game stores across the country overnight to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a launch that rivalled that of midnight launch king Apple.
The game is one of this year's most anticipated titles and the huge numbers at the launch demonstrate the strength of Australia's billion-dollar-a-year video game industry, which now generates almost as much revenue as DVD/Blu-ray sales and box office takings combined.
Modern Warfare 3, which went on sale midnight at select stores, generated the biggest pre-sales for any game ever, according to EBGames.
Final sales figures from last night have not been released but GameSpot editor Randolph Ramsay expects a new record.
"I think it will definitely be the biggest game of the year," Mr Ramsay said. "It will probably come close to being the biggest game ever."
The current top two record holders for the fastest selling video game globally are both from the Call of Duty series. Call of Duty: Black Ops generated $US650 million in the first five days of it going on sale while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 did $US550m.
Modern Warfare 3 was so popular that, according to French reports, armed robbers stole thousands of copies of it - worth €780,000 ($1 million) - from two delivery trucks in Créteil and Mantes at the weekend. They reportedly subdued the first drivers with tear gas and threatened the second with a handgun.
Video games rival box office
Australia's interactive video game industry recorded sales of approximately $1.7 billion in the 2010 calendar year while the movie industry box office takings finished at $1.1 billion. Physical sales of movies on media like DVD and Blu-ray came in at $1.2 billion. It shows just how popular video games have become in comparison to movies.
It is important to note that the $1.7 billion video games figure only includes sales from hardware, gaming peripherals and traditionally boxed software sold through retail outlets and excludes revenue generated from online retail sales, downloadable content, online games subscriptions and games delivered to mobile devices.
'Tens of thousands' queue for game
Shane Stockwell, EB Games's merchandising director, said Modern Warfare 3 was the company's "biggest preselling title in history".
"With tens of thousands of eager fans attending our midnight launches across Australia to get their hands on this record-breaking title, the popular [Call of Duty] franchise continues to go from strength to strength and will no doubt be a popular request on this year's Christmas lists."
EB Games's Wetherill Park store in western Sydney attracted thousands of gamers alone at midnight, Mr Stockwell said.
Travis Jones, manager of the Game store at Parramatta, also in NSW's western suburbs, said about 160 people were lining up at his shop last night, where pizza, drinks and a lucky door prize were used to keep gamers occupied. "It was absolutely chock-a-block," he said, adding that it was the "biggest release of all time without a doubt".
As Game's Mr Jones spoke to Fairfax this morning he said about ten people were in line waiting to get the game.
"Call of Duty has a massive cult-like following," he said. "We don't necessarily see it as much with a lot of games but there are some titles that [create that type of following]. Call of Duty is definitely one of the the biggest ones though."
The ages of those in Mr Jones's store queue at midnight varied from 16-years-old to about 60, he said. "So it's really versatile in the age group, definitely."
Mr Jones's store tended to buy excess stock, he said, meaning Modern Warfare was still available for purchase today. "There are a couple hundred [copies of the game] sold already."
GameSpot's Randalph Ramsay said Modern Warfare was going to "blow everyone out of the water".
He said other big games for Christmas included Battlefield 3, which launched last week, Saints Row: The Third, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Halo: Anniversary. The publisher of Battlefield 3, EA, reported 5 million has been sold globally at the end of last week.
Queues not uncommon
Queues for video games in Australia were not uncommon for blockbuster games, Mr Ramsay said. "I think the Call of Duty franchise does have the biggest lines. I've seen some pretty hefty lines for some of the Blizzard titles like the last World of Warcraft expansions; I think [Blizzard] got more than a few hundred at their official launch for Starcraft II last year."
Modern Warfare 3 was "by far the biggest game this year", Mr Ramsay said, adding that some analysts were predicting that there had been 9 million pre-orders of the game. "It's hard to come up with something that has the same sort of scope and mainstream reach that [the Call of Duty] franchise has."
He said most people didn't expect Battlefield 3 "to come close" to the sales of Modern Warfare 3. "It will take a bit [for Battlefield to compete] but with Modern Warfare the expectation is it's going to be the biggest game of the year."
The game has a single-player and multi-player mode. The single-player mode could take "anything from 4 to 10 hours" to complete, while the multi-player mode could last for however long you wanted as you were playing against people online and the scenarios constantly changed.
"The value in this is for multi-player, which you can play for as long as you want. I guess the bulk of people who buy a game like Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3 play online. So that's where they get the most value out of their game."
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