It bodes well, then, that pre-orders for the next installment in the series ("Modern Warfare 3") are trending higher, indicating that "Call of Duty" will once again set entertainment industry records. "Modern Warfare 3" is widely expected to be the top selling game of 2011, with Electronic Arts' "Battlefield 3" a prime contender for the number two spot.
The excitement surrounding both games is cause for celebration for the retail sector. Year to date, video game software sales (the most closely watched figure reported by the NPD Group) are 11 percent behind the 2011 pace. Overall, the industry is 6.6 percent behind where it was a year ago.
While on the whole, the numbers for the first two-thirds of 2011 are hardly cause for cheer, some individual publishers have plenty to celebrate.
Majesco is a publisher that has spent the better part of the past decade overlooked by gamers – and investors. But its "Zumba Fitness: Join the Party" title has been a breakout hit for the company. Its stock may still be below $3 per share, but has nearly tripled since the beginning of the year.
Similarly, LucasArts and Warner Bros have been largely stuck in the middle of the gaming pack, putting out quality titles that sell well enough, but don't tend to rule the charts. Both have titles among the top 10 so far.
The problems at Nintendo are underscored in the year-to-date rankings, though. At the halfway point of 2010, Nintendo has published four of the industry's top 10 games. This year, the company has just two titles on the list – the first two installments in the mighty Pokemon franchise, which is now entering its fifth year.
Missing from the list altogether are EA, Microsoft and Sony , though all have pending titles that could make the final list of 2011's best-selling games. EA is counting heavily on the aforementioned "Battlefield 3". Microsoft will release "Gears of War 3" on Sept. 20 and a graphically updated version of the seminal "Halo: Combat Evolved" on Nov. 15. And Sony's expecting big things from "Uncharted 3".
Also missing are any titles for Nintendo's 3DS handheld, which has had a very rocky launch. Sales have increased since the company's unprecedented decision to slash the retail price by $70 just months after it hit shelves, but some analysts indicate that surge is already slowing. Big titles are on the way for the system, but aren't likely contenders to be among the year's best sellers.