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The Business of Games | 2012-06-12 | SUCCESS Magazine

Part I: Bandits and Pirates

From Atari to Zynga, the game industry has always been a hotbed for mind-bending stories. Let us start with just one. It was widely reported on the Internet, which means it might not even be true, but because it’s plausible, it demonstrates just how feverish the business has become and how much we as a people now covet the life-altering pleasures programmed into our games. At 8 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2011, a van carrying 6, 000 copies of the latest release in Activision’s wildly popular Call of Duty video game series collided with a car on the streets of Paris. When the driver and a colleague stepped out of the vehicle to investigate, they were ambushed by two masked men armed with knives and tear gas. The thieves took their keys and made off with a cargo valued at more than $500, 000. In the hours that followed, news surfaced of a second strike—also in Paris. Once again the target was Activision’s . The company had taken steps to hunt down pirated copies of the game, sending a team of mercenaries out across the globe to knock on doors and initiate the destruction of the contraband, but it had not, it seems, the foresight to deliver its treasured product in armored trucks.

No matter. When Modern Warfare 3 officially went on sale at midnight on Nov. 9, people were lined up outside the doors of 13, 000 stores. Within five days, the game had logged $775 million in sales to become the most successful launch in the history of entertainment. Bigger than the Beatles, Harry Potter or The Avengers.

Now maybe you don’t identify with the Call of Duty crowd—the hardcore gamers who devote hour after hour of their free time to saving the world from imaginary foes. Maybe you studiously avoid the overtures from your Facebook friends to join the fun in FarmVille. Perhaps you even have resisted the army of Angry Birds plush toys that recently invaded America’s toy stores. But it’s hard to dismiss the great green wave of money—$3.75 billion—that was invested in the industry in 2011. Dean Takahashi, who has covered the business for 16 years for publications such as the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, described it not long ago in his VentureBeat column as the “biggest gold rush in the history of games.”



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