Three titans of entertainment went toe to toe this week. Taylor Swift released 1989, Christopher Nolan debuted Interstellar, and Activision dropped Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Which was the bigger deal?
The “country” superstar’s attempted transition to pop superstar was a massive hit, as her album 1989 sold nearly 1.3 million copies in its first week. Economics have been killing the music industry for years, but if Taylor Swift is its champion, music is going down fighting. In the days approaching the album’s release, Swift defiantly pulled all her music from Spotify, then sold nearly twice as many albums as expected.
Not to be outdone, the movies brought forth its champion, Christopher Nolan, and his long awaited True Detective in Space. Nolan is responsible for 3 of the top 20 highest grossing films of all time—Inception, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises—and Interstellar is the kind of blockbuster that used to have people lining up around the block to see it. With Disney also releasing Big Hero 6, the movies are set for two $50 million-openers in one weekend for the first time since World War Z and Monsters University combined for $129 million in June 2013.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Advanced Warfare will make in days what Interstellar and 1989 will make in years. Despite a gaming marketplace that’s still catching up to a new generation of consoles, the latest Call of Duty is expected to make over $1.25 billion this year. If it does, Activision and game developer Sledgehammer Games will lay claim to the title of “biggest entertainment launch of the year.” Activision first claimed the made-up-title with 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In 2013, Take Two Interactive wrested the title away with Grand Theft Auto V, which pulled in a billion dollars in three days.
Neither Nolan nor Swift, the respective champions of both the movie and music industries, can touch video games. This weekend 20 million people will be playing Advanced Warfare. In the entertainment business, it’s video games first, everybody else a distant second.
Now the Entertainment Industry, Tomorrow the Military Industrial Complex
Those of us who love movies, or love music, or otherwise have a soul might feel a little pinch at the idea of games being the cultural milestone of the day. But what if games don’t stop at the entertainment business? In 2013, Lockheed Martin made $45 billion from killing machines, while Activision made $4.6 billion selling the same thing. But Lockheed Martin’s revenues have been steady for years (Thanks, War on Terror!) while Activision’s have quadrupled in the 10 years since the Call of Duty series began. Lockheed Martin has the F-22 Raptor and the Cyber Kill Chain, Activision has Destiny, and Skylanders and Angry Birds. Lockheed Martin is developing Iron Man suits, Activision already has them. Lockheed Martin no longer has two concurrent ground wars to profit from, Activision just saw a 600,000 increase in World of Warcraft subscribers. World of Warcraft!? Yes, people still play that. If League of Legends can replace sport, it can’t be too long till video game industry replaces the military industrial complex as the largest purveyor of death and destruction. And if it does, I hope it takes time to trash talk it like an 14-year-old boy on the way down.