Vanguard’ Doing Great Or Terribly?
Maybe it’s just my own circle, but every time I bring up Call of Duty Vanguard online, I’m met with a similar response.
“Wait, that came out?”
Call of Duty’s annual release is always the best-selling game of the year, every year, something that has been true since the last time Rockstar released a Grand Theft Auto game, and there was no reason to expect this year to be any different. And yet something does feel decidedly unusual about the release of Call of Duty Vanguard. A lack of buzz, a lack of conversation, and yet signs of success in other places. So, what’s going on?
First of all, there’s what we don’t know, and that’s any sales numbers from Activision Blizzard itself. You may remember that it used to be tradition to have Activision bragging about massive day one or weekend Call of Duty sales, but we are five days out from the game’s release on November 5, and haven’t heard anything. The series is past breaking its own records year after year like it used to, but we don’t know when we’re going to get any information on how it’s doing sales-wise.
We can track the game via Twitch, where it’s often done well, being a top-streamed game in peak hours with hundreds of thousands of viewers. But it can also drop fast. This morning, as I write this, Vanguard, in its launch week, is behind League of Legends, GTA 5, CSGO, Valorant, Apex Legends, DOTA 2, Rainbow Six Siege and even the Lost Ark beta. But it rises and falls.
Gauging “interest” in the game is another angle. We can do a trends comparison by search volume. I stacked up some of the biggest releases over the course of this upcoming month here, and we can see that Vanguard did indeed spike at release, though it did so at more or less the exact same pace as Forza Horizon 5 when it hit early access. But that’s a game that is only being released on Xbox and PC, not PlayStation, compared to Vanguard being released within the massive install base of PlayStation as well. That’s a bit…odd.
Critically, the game scored a 78 on Metacritic, which isn’t amazing, but it’s not that outside the norm for Call of Duty these days either. The beloved, smash hit Modern Warfare reprisal only scored about an 80-81 when it was released in 2019. Last year’s Black Ops Cold War was below that with a 76. Generally speaking, if you go into the Call of Duty creator space specifically, there does seem to be a lot of praise for the game, both in terms of its campaign and its multiplayer, so it may have more legs than we’re giving it credit for, at least among its more dedicated players, which is a good sign.
On the technical side, it seems to now take longer to find games for Modern Warfare and Warzone, which would indicate many players are leaving for Vanguard, something that didn’t happen for the release of Cold War.
In short, the signals are mixed, but we are a long ways from the era where Activision is yelling from the rooftops after 24 hours about raking in hundreds of millions in revenue. And we are still living in an era where even an “off year” of Call of Duty is probably still going to outsell everything else. That hasn’t changed. Potential competitors this year like Forza and Halo, no matter how well they do, won’t eclipse actual Vanguard sales because of Xbox Game Pass.
In short, we’ll wait to see what Activision has to say. Generally speaking, the game is being better received than Black Ops Cold War, but does not appear to be lighting the general gaming industry on fire, with other, much more buzzed-about titles in the conversation instead.