The business of war and games

The business of war and games

The geeks and gamers, it appears, are going to revive the economy. Or at least, they’re doing everything in their power to do so.

With utter disregard for the state of the global economy, gamers in the US, the UK, France and Germany have thronged shops to buy copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a multi-platform shooting game. According to estimates, the game sold 4.7 million copies in the first 24 hours of being put on sale, raking in around $310 million. It was released worldwide on 10 November. That makes it the biggest entertainment opening weekend of all time. The closest film competitor was the second instalment in the rebooted series of Batman movies, The Dark Knight. While that movie currently holds the record for the biggest film opening ever, it still managed to make only half of Modern Warfare 2’s mammoth collection.

The success of the game’s launch, and the climate in which it achieved this, point to a growing shift in the entertainment industry’s pecking order. Video games now easily make as much money as Hollywood blockbusters. And they require as much budgetary and creative inputs to produce as well. Grand Theft Auto IV, the game that had the biggest opening before Modern Warfare 2, has been estimated to have cost $100 million to produce.

From a content perspective Modern Warfare 2 is somewhat indicative of the turmoil on the contemporary world stage. With several pockets of conflict all over the atlas, video games no longer have to tap into that endless reservoir of inspiration, World War II.

Modern Warfare 2 has ultranationalists taking over Russia, US spies helping engineer a civilian massacre and, finally, the Russians invading the US and occupying the White House. Washington, DC, is turned into a battlefield and, at some point, a nuclear warhead explodes over the US capital, destroying, conveniently for the plot and graphics designers, the International Space Station. And, but of course, the action begins with a battle against militants in Afghanistan. (Who better to voice some of the macho martial bravado for the in-game characters than rapper 50 Cent.)

Modern Warfare 2 may be imagining mayhem on a massive global scale. But in the real world, the millions in sales is good news for the economy, and food for thought for the entertainment business.

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