E3 2019 has come and gone, and we’ve learned quite a few new details about some of our most anticipated games; chiefly that most of them are coming out in 2020. Aside from that, we’ve once again been reminded that E3 hype doesn’t necessarily translate to pre-orders, as the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — no, not the one from 2007, nor the 2016 remaster — was actually the most pre-ordered game at GameStop during the conference.
The video game industry has been pushing pre-orders extensively for the past few years, and it’s gotten to the point where pre-ordering software is thought to be a little bit tacky on the part of the consumer. Without review scores or unfiltered gameplay to go on, it’s tough to decide a game’s worth. Shelling out a full sixty bucks before a title even drops is typically thought to contribute to the dumpster fire that is AAA game publishing. However, sometimes we just can’t help it.
It should be noted that there are several contributing factors at play that allowed Call of Duty to once again claim the pre-order throne. The game is coming out in October — roughly three and a half months away — and a majority of the competition has been pushed back to sometime in 2020. Sure, games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Watch Dogs: Legion look great, but they won’t be out until the first and second quarter of next year. As such, it’s just a bit early to pre-order them at the moment.
What’s more, Call of Duty has been a pre-order mainstay at GameStop for many years. It’s a well-established series with plenty of built-in hype, and there are still droves of consumers who pre-order the franchise’s next iteration with little regard for what else might be available in the future. Console and PC crossplay is also rumored to make a series debut, which may generate some hype among cross-platform friends tired of playing Fortnite.
It should also be noted that the military FPS franchise typically finds its way into the list of highest-selling games just about every year. While the studios behind these titles haven’t put out anything particularly groundbreaking perhaps since 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it seems like an annualized arcade-style shooter speaks shockingly well to a more casual audience. The install base for the game is also extremely large, as the last entry to be in any way exclusive released back in 2006.
Still, it does come across as just a bit strange that a game with almost no presence at E3 would be the highest-selling game of the conference… at one retail chain, at least. By now, we’re all acutely aware that Sony opted to skip the world’s largest gaming showcase this year, and, since they’ve been Activision's marketing partner since 2015, that meant that Call of Duty had to be kicked to the curb. Activision didn't have a showcase of its own at E3, but, if Bethesda can do it itself, we can’t imagine that there’s much stopping the CoD publisher.
To summarize, Call of Duty earned a ton of pre-orders at GameStop at E3 this year. Does that mean it’ll sell well? Probably. Does that mean it’ll be a Game of the Year contender? Almost certainly not.