In a new video game television commercial, National Basketball Association star Dwight Howard is seen running through city streets, wildly firing an assault rifle. He is playing the role of a “noob,” a character in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” the latest installment of Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Call of Duty” video game series.
Over the next few weeks, millions of Americans, including other inactive NBA players, will be spending a significant amount of time in the same way, thanks to Tuesday’s worldwide release of Modern Warfare 3. “I knew it was a popular game, but once I saw the commercial with those other two actors, and Dwight Howard at the end, I knew it was going to get crazy,” says an eager gamer as he stood in line Monday night at the New York City GameStop at 145th Street and Broadway in Black America’s renowned Harlem community.
The scene at the GameStop mimicked that of many stores in the chain around the city and across the country. A line easily measuring the length of a city block was packed with gamers excitedly awaiting the midnight release of the new gaming title and the bragging rights of being among the first to own it.
“I’ve honestly never seen anything like this. Everyone either owns this game or is talking about it already, and it’s only been out since Tuesday. The demand for this game is greater than any game I’ve seen before,” said Lionel Robinson, a Harlem resident.
With more than 13,000 retailers worldwide carrying the title, it has been dubbed “the most anticipated game in history.” The U.S. price tag: $59.99 plus tax.
Using Howard in the commercial for “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” an appropriate bow to the huge popularity of video games among African-Americans and the amount of money they spend on them. Altogether, Americans spend more than $25 billion a year on video games according to industry reports. Figures on Black video game-spending alone are difficult to come by, but a November 2010 study by The Nielsen Co. found that of all ethnic groups, African-Americans log the most hours on television, video games and DVDs.
Brittany Long, senior gaming advisor and soon-to-be manager, was awestruck as she serviced the lines at GameStop 6426 in the predominantly Black, Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Wednesday morning. “We knew this was going to be a huge release, but WOW! I can easily say we sold over 300 copies for both major consoles (Xbox and PlayStation® 3) just at the midnight release alone. Since then, it’s been a steady stream of customers. I’ve literally had a line of at least 20 people looking to purchase this game, since the store opened. It’s been like this for two consecutive days!”
She herself has not yet played the game, but she plans to do so. “Between work and school, I haven’t had the time. However, my brothers were playing all day on Tuesday on their day off from school,” she said.
Computer wiz Nigel RamJohn of Brooklyn says “Modern Warfare 3” is better than the previous series installment, “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” “The game play is better, levels are more involved and larger, and there’s a wider variety of weapons to select,” he says.
The popularity of the new game has surfaced on social networks. “All my friends on Facebook are talking about this. I don’t think this will be topped or outsold for at least a year,” RamJohn says.
Anticipating thousands of new players, Activision has started a new type of social media to accept the game. If you purchase the “Elite” package for the game, they will include access to the game via the Web, console, or smart phone. “Call of Duty Elite” will also allow players to play in clans, configure and customize maps, and access downloadable content. The feature also gives players access to “Call of Duty Elite TV,” scheduled programs for which are yet to be announced.
Some of the new features are also backwards-compatible, meaning that players can experience the previous installment of the game with new features. “Honestly, I’ve got to say this is one of the best games I’ve ever seen,” remarks RamJohn.