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Interview: GameStop Expecting Black Ops Launch Numbers To Beat MW2's

GameStop expects Call of Duty: Black Ops' launch to be its biggest ever -- merchandising SVP Bob McKenzie tells Gamasutra what the stores are doing to prepare, and why he thinks the title could outdo Modern Warfare 2.
Although analysts are skeptical sales of Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops can match the record-breaking numbers for Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2, retailer GameStop is expecting the biggest launch it's ever seen. GameStop is planning 4,400 midnight launch events for the title in the U.S. That's 98 percent of its U.S. stores, and more midnight launches than it's ever accorded any other title. GameStop merchandising senior VP Bob McKenzie tells Gamasutra locations are already ramping up, and that employees will begin allowing eager fans to demonstrate Black Ops as soon as 9:30 tonight. Lines are already forming at some stores, McKenzie says, and with eight hours or more to wait, "by 9:30 they're going to need a little break," he laughs. That's a bit uncommon, McKenzie explains. Normally publishers don't allow fans to try titles in-store until they officially launch, but anticipation for Black Ops -- and Activision's marketing push -- is bigger than anything the retailer's yet seen. Black Ops is seeing higher reservation levels and more consumer interest than last year's Modern Warfare 2, and at least within GameStop McKenzie fully expects its launch to be bigger than Modern Warfare 2 -- if not its sales overall. "You look at the history of Call of Duty and they've had the dual studios for so many years that this is not out of sequence," says McKenzie. "The consumer ... is used to and accepting of the fact that Treyarch does one and then it's [Infinity Ward] doing the next. I think that if that cycle was broken... then I'd have a little more hesitation. But, again, everything is in line." "Each one of these, they get so much bigger that you kind of look at it... thinking each one can't be bigger than the prior year," he says. "But really, for over 12 weeks we've been tracking at a number that surpassed last year's." "I think, without question, if it wasn't outpacing a year ago, or if it was just within the last one or two weeks, you could say 'well, okay, maybe it was the marketing spend that's increasing awareness.' But both [Black Ops and MW2] have had big awareness," McKenzie adds. "I think it's a loyal fanbase for the franchise and [Activision has] done a great job of really getting out in front of it and really making this an event," he adds. "I'm convinced it'll be the biggest launch that we've ever had, that the industry has ever seen."

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