Vidgame hits target a day earlier than 'Avatar'

Activision’s military actioner “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ has joined the billion-dollar club after just 16 days on store shelves — setting another entertainment industry record, not just for the vidgames biz but also showbiz overall.

James Cameron’s “Avatar” previously held the entertainment record for a title to reach the $1 billion milestone in the shortest amount of time. Pic reached the mark in 17 days.

“Black Ops,” the previous installment of the “Call of Duty” franchise, took six weeks to hit the mark.

“Engagement of our ‘Call of Duty’ audience continues to rise around the world,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “‘Call of Duty’ as an entertainment franchise has made an indelible mark on popular culture, and its broad and continued success is further validation that audiences increasingly value interactive experiences over passive experiences.”

“Modern Warfare 3′s” success comes as a number of top franchises, including Electronic Arts’ “Battlefield 3,” WB’s Batman franchise, Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” and Sony’s “Uncharted” are performing well with new sequels.

“Modern Warfare 3″ had already set the industry record for the biggest product launch of all time by taking in $400 million in the first 24 hours joining the previous two “Call of Duty” games that also broke the same records.

Analysts expect “Modern Warfare 3″ to sell as many as 19 million units by the end of the calendar year, generating roughly $1.2 billion in revenue.

The overwhelming success of the game can be seen as vindication for the publisher. “Modern Warfare 3″ is the first title from the company’s Infinity Ward division since the abrupt dismissal of “Call of Duty’s” creators Jason West and Vince Zampella.

Activision alleged they were meeting with competitor Electronic Arts about starting a new development studio; West and Zampella deny that accusation. Both parties are suing the other, with the cases expected to go to trial next year.

West and Zampella have since launched a new company, Respawn Entertainment, and several key members of the Infinity Ward team have defected to it.

Given the drama, “Modern Warfare 3″ was a game under the microscope.

“Every year, new people are drawn into ‘Call of Duty,’?” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “And while the franchise continues to set records, our fans still seem to want more.”

That demand is helping drive subscriptions for “Call of Duty: Elite,” a subs service that provides players access to all downloadable content for the game as well as tournament, video content and social network functionality.

To date, more than 6 million people have registered for the service. Within six days of its launch, it had topped 1 million paying customers.

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