"Call of Duty" Can't Save You Now, Activision


Diehard gamers are readying their excuses. They won't be coming in to work on Tuesday.

Activision Blizzard's (NAS: ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops II hits stores tomorrow, and it's going to be huge.

The company announced during last week's earnings call that there has been a record number of pre-orders for the combat game. Last November's installment set a new industry sales record, and this one should do the same.

The gaming industry can use it, of course.

Industry tracker NPD Group is reporting a 25% plunge in sales at domestic physical retailers for the month of October. It's been 11 months in a row that NPD has posted negative trends. The last positive month -- a 0.4% increase in software, hardware, and accessories last November -- was made possible with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 leading the way.

This will be more than just a game for the struggling bricks-and-mortar retailers selling gaming gear.

GameStop (NYS: GME) is planning on midnight release openings, and you can be sure that participating stores will have decent-sized queues assembling later tonight.

Best Buy (NYS: BBY) won't even be waiting that long. Select stores will be hosting a "Play It Early" event tonight at 9 p.m. It's an opportunity for the rudderless retailer to show off its Magnolia home theaters by hosting gamers to play the game before it officially goes on sale a few hours later.

There's a reason for this. The game can be played in active-shutter stereoscopic 3-D, and Best Buy is hoping that hardcore gamers may be open to spending a lot of money on a 3-D television at one of its stores.

Good luck with that, Best Buy. 3-D HDTVs have been a bust since the retailer began pushing them a couple of years ago.

The problem for GameStop, Best Buy -- and even Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) -- is that the sale is the end of the line.

As well as Amazon has done in embracing digital media, Activision Blizzard obviously doesn't have a need for any retailers or e-tailers once it ships out the boxes. Activision Blizzard will be the one offering in-game upgrades and expansion packs directly.

However, it's not as if even Activision Blizzard is braced for a big pop here. Analysts see revenue climbing a mere 1% this quarter -- and they're already targeting a nearly 4% decline in revenue for all of 2013.

The grim reality is that blockbuster games continue to sell well, but folks aren't buying a lot of other games. Connectivity and digital enhancements make initial game purchases last longer, but the long-term prognosis for the industry is still iffy at best.

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The article "Call of Duty" Can't Save You Now, Activision originally appeared on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Activision Blizzard, Best Buy, and GameStop. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Amazon.com, Activision Blizzard, Best Buy, and GameStop. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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