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Microsoft's 'Halo 4' Sales Will Likely Be Undercut by Activision Blizzard's Black Ops 2

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This week, two of the video game industry's biggest franchises are going head-to-head.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL For most people, the only tough decision to make mid-November regards where to spend Thanksgiving. But if you're a gamer, the holiday may not be front of mind given the mid-fall rush of high profile game releases. Every year around this time, GameStop (NYSE:GME) stores are stocked with the industry's best games, hoping to benefit from the increase of sales from Black Friday, and early Christmas shoppers. However, with games costing an average of $60, head-to-head battles for consumers aren't uncommon. This year, the fight to watch is between Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Halo 4 and Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.


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Both Halo 4 and COD: Black Ops 2 occupy the same genre; these are both first-person shooters (or FPS), targeted at roughly the same demographics. The disparity between them results from differing consumer taste. The two games have mass appeal among gamers. Halo has always been the flagship franchise of Microsoft's Xbox, while Activision's annually released Call of Duty games have built up a solid following among casual and hardcore gamers within recent years. But this is their first real head-to-head battle as their release dates are within a week of each other.

Despite its very controversial Election Day release, Microsoft has been celebrating the fantastic sales of Halo 4, which made $220 million in its first 24 hours and is on track to break records for the franchise by making $300 million in one week.

However, the good numbers pale in comparison to COD's previous installment, Modern Warfare 3, which generated $400 million in the same time-frame, making it the most successful video game launch of all time. The same game went on to gross $1 billion in 16 days, beating the record set by James Cameron's Avatar. With analysts claiming that Black Ops 2 will most likely sell between 6.5 million and 7.2 million units in the US and UK within its first 24 hours, many believe that COD: Black Op 2 will be as profitable as its predecessor -- if not more so.

In light of such predictions, Microsoft's decision to release Halo 4 within striking range of Black Ops 2's release date -- forcing many FPS enthusiasts to choose between the two -- might not have been the greatest decision. In addition, a quick look at review sites like IGN and GameTrailers reveal that both games are of a similar quality and even have similar bells and whistles added to their multiplayer options, meaning that neither has a strong argument based on value.

So what's the deciding factor for most gamers? Microsoft's Halo 4 is only available on Microsoft's Xbox, while Activision's COD: Black Ops 2 can be played on the Xbox, Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PS3, Nintendo's (PINK:NTDOY) Wii U, and any PC that runs Windows. The wider choice of platforms means that Black Ops 2 may appeal to more consumers. It also affects Xbox owners' decision to hold off on purchasing Halo in order to be a part of the early COD experience.

While the media rarely likes to admit it, video games have become a very social medium, with most gamers preferring to play the games that all their friends are playing. Of course, the COD franchise's penchant for adding controversial content and dramatic twists and turns to its installments are an added incentive to buy the game early to avoid spoilers and be able to take part in the first conversations.

In this head-to-head battle, it seems like Activision is destined to come out ahead.
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