According to shareholder reports, the Call of Duty franchise has made over $11 billion dollars. Industry estimates place earnings at a slightly lower $9.7 billion. It’s probable that service packs and other add ons account for the additional $1.3 billion. Either way, the video game series surpasses the box office earnings of the entire Star Wars saga.
The first Call of Duty game came out in 2003 and has sold an estimated 1.75 million copies, taking in $70 million in sales. The hottest selling entry in the franchise is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with $1.23 billion.
As of 12/23/15, 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is on track to be a top selling entry in the series. Released on November 6th, the game has sold almost 15 million copies in its first six weeks.
Check out sales of every Call of Duty video game below, ranked by earnings.
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: $1.23 Billion
2011’s Modern Warfare 3 is the #1 selling Call of Duty Game to date with $1.23 billion in sales. The game earned $400 million in sales in its first 24 hours. At the time, that made it the biggest entertainment launch ever. The video game grossed over $1 billion worldwide in its first 16 days. According to Activision, that put it ahead of even the blockbuster hit Avatar.
When the game was first released, Activision found that the URL “ModernWarfare3.com” had already been registered. The site redirected visitors to EA’s game Battlefield 3. Just after the game’s release, a French delivery truck carrying 6,000 copies was hijacked. The heist was estimated at $1 million. All in all, Modern Warfare 3 has sold an estimated 30.7 million copies.
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2. Call of Duty: Black Ops: $1.22 Billion
2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops comes in at #2 on our list with $1.22 billion in sales. The game has sold 30.5 million copies to date. Within 5 days of its release the game had earned $650 million. Compare that to 2010’s top grossing movie, Toy Story 3, which grossed $415 million domestically that same year
A crossbow appearing in the game was inspired by a story told by an actual Vietnam War veteran. The vet carried a bow into combat, which he modified depending on the mission. A popular easter egg is a house in the game modeled after the house from the 1970’s TV show The Brady Bunch.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2: $1.18 Billion
Black Ops 2 is the third best selling game in the Call of Duty franchise. The game has sold 29.4 million copies total for revenue of $1.176 billion. The game made half of that money in the first 24 hours after its release. That made it the #1 entertainment release ever at the time. Another $500 billion in sales racked up in the next 15 days.
Pre-orders for the game were three times those of the original Black Ops installment. The game is set during the Cold War in the 80’s and during a second Cold War in the future. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North served as a consultant for the game. Manuel Noriega sued Activision in 2014 for his unflattering portrayal during game play.
Every Call of Duty Game Ranked by Sales
|Game Title||Sales Rank||Year Released||Unit Sales||Average Unit Price||Total Revenue|
|Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3||1||2011||30,700,000||$40||$1,228,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops||2||2010||30,500,000||$40||$1,220,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops 2||3||2012||29,400,000||$40||$1,176,000,000|
|Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 (Plus Reflex and Mobilized)||4||2009||27,000,000||$40||$1,080,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Ghosts||5||2013||27,000,000||$40||$1,080,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare||6||2014||21,000,000||$40||$840,000,000|
|Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare||7||2007||17,900,000||$40||$716,000,000|
|Call of Duty: World at War||8||2008||15,700,000||$40||$628,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops 3||9||2015||14,800,000||$40||$592,000,000|
|Call of Duty 3||10||2006||8,000,000||$40||$320,000,000|
|Call of Duty 2||11||2005||5,890,000||$40||$235,600,000|
|Call of Duty: Finest Hour||12||2004||4,500,000||$40||$180,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Roads to Victory||13||2007||2,120,000||$40||$84,800,000|
|Call of Duty||14||2003||1,750,000||$40||$70,000,000|
|Call of Duty: World at War Final Fronts||15||2008||1,720,000||$40||$68,800,000|
|Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified||16||2012||1,370,000||$40||$54,800,000|
|Call of Duty Classic||17||2009||1,000,000||$40||$40,000,000|
|Call of Duty: World at War - Map Packs||18||2009||1,000,000||$25||$25,000,000|
|Call of Duty: World at War - Zombies||19||2009||1,000,000||$25||$25,000,000|
|Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: Defiance||20||2011||270,000||$40||$10,800,000|
|Call of Duty: The War Collection||21||2010||100,000||$40||$4,000,000|
|Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies II||22||2010||100,000||$25||$2,500,000|
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: $1.1 Billion
The fourth hottest Call of Duty title is 2009’s Modern Warfare 2. Including the Reflex and Mobilized versions, the video game earned $1.08 billion in total sales dollars. It sold 27 million copies all together. Warfare 2 took in $310 million in its first day and $550 million in five days. It set the record for the biggest entertainment release ever.
The critically acclaimed game earned a 94% positive score on critic aggregator Metacritic. The game contains multiple references to the movie The Rock, including a shower room identical to one in the film. There’s a level in the game called “S.S.D.D.” That may be a reference to the phrase, “Same shit, different day.”
5. Call of Duty: Ghosts: $1.1 Billion
Actually tied for fourth place with $1.1 billion is 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts. The game sold 27 million copies worldwide. Almost all the game’s sales came in the first 24 hours after its release. Lower sales came despite generally favorable reviews.
The honey badger assault rifle in the game gets its name from an assault rifle. The assault rifle is in turn named for a comedic YouTube video about an eye-poppingly vicious rodent. The game’s director, Sylvain Doreau, originally worked as a CG set designer for the 2001 movie Shrek.
Also see: 10 Most Expensive Video Games Ever Made
6. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: $840 Million
Advanced Warfare delves deep into the world of science fiction. In it, players use exosuits to jump, dash and perform other superhuman feats.
The game stars Kevin Spacey, known for his roles in American Beauty and The Usual Suspects. Spacey and nearly every other character in the game lent their real life appearance to their character in the game.
7. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: $716 Million
Coming in at #7 on our list of Call of Duty money makers is 2007’s Modern Warfare. The game sold 17.9 million copies and earned $716 million. Modern Warfare enjoyed excellent reviews across most platforms.
The 8th game in the series, Call of Duty 4 is the first to be set in modern times. It took a team of 100 people working two years to construct the game. Some team members attended a live-fire U.S. military training so they could better understand what it feels like to stand near an Abrams tank while it fires. Team members also interviewed real combat veterans to get a sense of the emotion during combat.
8. Call of Duty: World at War: $628 Million
2008’s World at War is the 8th biggest Call of Duty money maker. The game has sold 15.7 million copies to date with earnings of $628 million. The game is set in World War II, in both the European and Pacific theatres.
The game’s cast includes stars Gary Oldman and Keifer Sutherland. For motion capture, the game’s crew built a full sized replica of a PBY Catalina, a WWII era flying boat used by the Navy.
The game opened to largely favorable reviews. The game includes a Nazi zombie mode that includes shotguns, flamethrowers and ray guns.
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3: $592 Million
The #9 biggest Call of Duty money maker on our list is 2015’s Black Ops 3. The title has already earned $592 million within the first six weeks of its release. Almost all that cash rolled in during the first three days of sales.
Black Ops III is set in 2065, amid the effects of climate change and a technological revolution. Game play includes robots and cyborg supersoldiers. The game is rife with paranoia about a coming robot takeover.
The game stars Ron Perlman and Jeff Goldblum.
10. Call of Duty 3: $320 Million
#10 on our list is Call of Duty 3. The 2006 game sold 14.8 million copies and earned $320 million. Set entirely in World War II, the game featured multiple campaigns and downloadable content. The game was built in just eight months.
In the game, one character says, “Today we’re on a secret mission to get coffee and doughnuts. Problem is, Jerries drank all the coffee and ate all the doughnuts. So we gotta go kick their asses.” This is a riff on Roddy Piper’s line from the movie They Live. In the famous line, Piper confronts a group of evil aliens and says, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I am all out of bubble gum.”
Activision shareholder reports