Twilight vs Call of Duty: The Hidden Story

The Twilight New Moon movie has posted $140.7 million for its opening weekend. The response, which was surprising, of tweens, teens, and their moms lining up, many a week in advance, for the movie, generated a lot of press coverage. Finally, the press and feminists celebrated, a movie that generated fangirl response on the lines of Star Wars and Star Trek enthusiasts. The hidden story, of course, is the phenomenal sales, unheralded, of the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” The game posted $310 million in sales its first day, and 4.7 million copies in its first 24 hours. Beating the “Grand Theft Auto IV” record of 3.6 million copies . The five day figures for “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” were $550 million, again beating “Grand Theft Auto IV” which held the mark at $500 million.

The lesson is that while the attention may go to the fangirls, and the expensive legacy media of theatrical movies, the profits go to male-friendly videogames. Among the reasons: there isn’t much competition. Moreover, it is likely movies and video-games will continue to diverge, one becoming a female-gay ghetto, and the other being “males only.”

The first “Twilight” movie cost according to was $37 million. No current figures are available for the “New Moon” sequel, but the cost likely spiraled to around $60-75 million, given more effects, characters, rising salaries for actors, and so on. Marketing probably added another $30-40 million, making the film’s total up-front cost of around $90 to $115 million or so. As Hollywood business writer and author of the “Big Picture,” Edward Jay Epstein estimates, Studios net only about 18% or so of their revenues from theatrical / box office receipts. Fully 82% of revenue comes from Video on Demand, DVD, Pay-TV, and free TV rights (foreign and domestic). Further, studios only get 75% for the first weekend box office receipts, falling to about 50% thereafter. For foreign box office sales, percentages can drop even further while costs for dubbing, promotion/marketing, import fees, and so on can mount. It worth noting that piracy threatens both theatrical and DVD revenues. The LA Times notes that some studios have dropped profitable Korean and Spanish-language divisions, due to piracy. Eli Roth famously found that his loathsome “Hostel” movies were on sale on the street in Mexico City for the equivalent of twenty-five cents, American. Good quality pirated copies, too.

Of that $140.7 million that Twilight: New Moon pulled in, the studio will keep $105.5 million or so. That essentially covers its cost up-front and likely assures a tidy profit for the movie, assuming DVD sales track ticket sales and are not impacted by piracy.

Compared with the development costs, which were estimated to be $40-50 million and around $100 million total, the film “Twilight: New Moon” and the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” cost about the same.

But, the video game already pulled in about $310 million, or $210 million of net revenue, compared to a break-even figure for the film, through the first weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) vs. the first two days (for the game). It is extremely unlikely that the five-day figure for the movie will match $550 million. Even more important, the game is more resistant to piracy than the movie. While pretty much any copy properly written to a DVD will play in most modern DVD players, making piracy technically easier for organized crime pirates, the same is not true for video games which generally have more robust copy protection. The games certainly can be pirated, but the expense generally prevents large-scale organized crime rings from participating, unlike movie DVD piracy. Moreover, online-game play is often a critical component, making purchasing of pirated discs a general non-starter, given that companies can and do require proof-of-purchase to participate in online play. These can be defeated, but again it is costly and most organized pirates do not bother.

Out of these trends several things are likely to emerge. First, that video games are ever-more bifurcated, either hit-driven like “Call of Duty” or cheap, and simple, like many of the IPhone games, which are troubled by piracy or in the case of Android low sales. Because of piracy and low-revenues for the Iphone style games, the barriers to entry into successful game development into “the next level” (profitability beyond a single developer) are likely to be high. Developers can still create simple games widely available (Apple’s App Store tends to be better than Google’s Android app store or Research in Motion/Blackberry’s store) but widely pirated with low price points.

Hard to make enough money to move to the next level in that business. Increasingly, because of the high capital costs required to make a “hit” game, the video game business is resembling Hollywood of the 1920’s through the 1940’s, only with one big difference: unlike the studios the game companies have few female customers. But clearly, there is an order of magnitude or more, around two to five times as much money, hit film to hit game, available to video game makers. As game companies seek out (inevitably) cheaper labor, their costs will go down for everything but marketing, giving them a tremendous cost-advantage against Hollywood as well as making entertainment that men and boys desire.

Secondly, the success of Twilight and the sequel, are both good and bad for Hollywood. Good, in that they found a way to tap the fan-girl wallets of the folks below waiting in lines (some up to a week) for the premier [Click on images to enlarge]:

Looking at the pictures, a common thread appears for the fans of Twilight. They mostly do not find lots of male attention, let alone that of hunky, semi-gay, Alpha Male “sparkly vampires.” They tend to be pre-pubescent, Moms, or overweight. Not all of course, but that accounts for most of them. Of course they want in fantasy what they don’t get in real life. The comparison to the Star Wars geeks who lined up for that movie is of course, natural and apt.

For the purposes of fairness, the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” fans are shown below (fewer photos, because of less media interest).

Not much different, though a few are older. They seem to crave what they do not get in life, action/adventure (from the safe distance of the couch of course). Both the film and the game deliver to their respective audience.

But the danger for Hollywood is that the games can drive them out of business. Unlike the game companies, which can seek cheap programming labor in China or India, Hollywood is “stuck” using expensive actors, special effects, and location shots. The costs for the Call of Duty Franchise will only go down, over time, and sequels. While that of the Twilight series will only go up. Coupled with a tidal wave of predictable “sparkly vampire” bad-boy with superpowers fighting over teen girl projects, movies will become “gay” the way Broadway shows, reading/literature, and pop music (see Adam Lambert) have become. Many of Hollywood’s key executives including Disney’s Rich Ross are openly gay. While they have a keen eye for female-tween/teen appealing projects, they have failed and predictably will fail to generate much in the way of male-appealing projects. Movie after movie featuring a metrosexual vampire bad-boy that appeals to the fangirls is guaranteed to turn off guys from the theater. In favor of intermittent purchases of expensive video games. Call of Duty is listed at $60 at That works out to about 5 movies, per person, or nearly 3 paired tickets at full prices. Given the pressure the recession has on wallets, sales for video games means less money men have to spend on movies. This is particularly so as movies inevitably, like TV, become a female-gay ghetto.

Hollywood is intent on replaying Detroit’s strategy: create a negative view towards your product by much of the potential customer base. Depend on a small portion of the potential customers, on only a few particular profitable models. Create a negative view of your key workers and executives nationwide, and create a high labor cost. Lack any imagination or quality that were hallmarks of your products in the past. Cede key customers to rivals with lower costs and perceived higher quality.

It is likely they will end up the same, bankrupt, bailed out, and still failures.

About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
This entry was posted in culture, female, games, gay, more, movies, twilight, vampires. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Twilight vs Call of Duty: The Hidden Story

  1. WooZoo says:

    Whiskey… you should hire yourself out as a consultant.Make some money while you are at it!

  2. apex says:

    One important point to keep in mind when comparing video games with movies is time. Video games offer at least 20 hours of gameplay and as much as 80 (cf Dragon Age). That works out to less than three and down to .75 Dollar per hour of entertainment, using $60 as a base price. Movie tickets would need to be between $1 and $5 to compete. Bottom line, video games not only are more profitable for producers, ties also provide more bang for the buck for consumers. Which will lead to more growth in the future, whereas movies are likely to stagnate and decline.

  3. By that standard, I got a penny per hour of fun out of Call of Duty 4 (seriously).Of course you'll get the occassional girl gamer who somehow thinks she makes up for the rest of the gender's disinterest in games. Heck, sometimes I wonder if they really enjoy them, or if they just want to prove something.Interesting thought, Whiskey, if you follow the media shows this much:Naruto was an anime on Cartoon Network that ran for… I don't know about 150-200 episodes, maybe more. It's a show about ninjas and fighting, and it gets pretty violent (compared to other shows in America).Well, after these 200 episodes, apparently the timeline skips 3 years into the future and everyone is more powerful, or something like that. Things also apparently get more violent. This time skip into the future is somewhat of a separate show known as "Naruto Shippuden".Now, what's interesting is that cartoon network (owned by turner broadcasting) DIDN'T get the rights to this continuation all the fans of one of CN's biggest eyeball attracters.I suspect they either didn't want it, or were stalling to get a better contract price, in either case Disney bought the rights and within a month were showing it on Disney XD.Perhaps Disney is wisening up about this, or they are trying to "kill" the show by putting it at a bad time frame later and sabotaging it's chances. It has enough relationships in it to keep girls interested, but overall, it's a very male-friendly show.Your thoughts?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whiskey, what do you think about the Wii and the Guitar/DJ/Band genre? It seems to me like the beginnings of "girl creep" are starting to hit consoles.Nintendo almost seems to fit the same pattern as what happened at Sci-Fi – someone comes along and says "girls don't buy games… let's make games for girls!" Their recent Wii and DS advertising campaigns have been exclusively female-centric, and it's impossible not to notice how they Apple-ized the look.The new rhythym-peripheral genre, on the other hand, seems like a sort of compromise with the older DDR fad that didn't quite catch on. It's intended to appeal to mixed groups without completely turning off men. It seems like gaming will continue to diverge between socially acceptable games (like GTA and "the system you can rest a beer on") which will become more feminized, and "gamer games" which will become more immersive and online-focused to appeal to the hardcore crowd.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent analysis with the comparison the star wars. These only females that like the twilight series that are over 15 are either really old hags, plainly, or very overweight. These women are just seeking the fantasy of the dominant man they wish they could really get in their lives.

  6. TGGP says:

    Regarding Call of Duty:Are videogames really less competitive? I'm skeptical. Anyone can start making games anywhere and distribute them online. Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software makes a decent living creating games by himself. You don't need connections or to be located in a specific location. Consider how nepotistic Hollywood can be compared to videogames. That's a sign that the industry isn't competitive.Will the sequels to Call of Duty get cheaper? Quite doubtful, I believe the previous games were cheaper than the current one.Theaters don't make their money selling tickets. They make it selling concessions. 90 percent of popcorn sales is profit. The highest profit-margins in fast food are for soda, and you better believe theaters are milking that for all its worth as well.

  7. Quent says:

    Regarding TGGP's comment, Whiskey is looking at studio/media profits and prospects here, not theater profits. If theaters make most of their money on snacks, it simply means that the studio/distribution model squeezes them pretty hard.That's another indication that the movie business overall is running on a thin margin, with little room for failure.

  8. Anonymous says:

    That's right, on average the movie tickets pay for an amount close to however much it costs to get the movies themselves. Everything else is riding on the concessions; Salaries, Utilities, etc.Another sign of the end of big-theater.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If theaters don't make their money selling the tickets, then I gotta say, theaters haven't made any money off me for over 30 years.

  10. DC says:

    Russ Roberts at Econtalk has a podcast on popcorn at movies:

  11. Marquis says:

    apex is right about playability and getting more than just 2 hours of "view time" like u might get in a movie. a game offers also the playability and add-ons for online play etc. many people got the game truly for the online play, not even will some finish the single player part of the game. as for "gay" movies…look what happened to the Superman franchise. they made it so homoerotic, they can't even figure out what to do next, except according to one tapped director, "make it dark, edgy", ie: appeal to a less homoerotic fanbase and get guys (and truly MONEY) back into the franchise.

  12. Whiskey says:

    TGGP — First, the capital required to make a game of the order of Call of Duty is considerable — a single man cannot do it (you need graphic artists, animators, programmers, an entire team).Second — We are not talking about Exhibitors (who were separate from Studios back in the 1940s via a Justice Dept. anti-trust action), but STUDIOS who get relatively little from box office and most from DVD/TV rights revenue.Third, the ability to (regrettably) outsource animators, programmers, and the like to India and China where labor is cheaper (this happening already to Japan's Anime industry according to the WSJ) makes development costs inevitably cheaper. Hollywood is constrained by stars and locations and crews (only a few skilled craftsmen) in costs, no matter where they shoot. Spielberg went chasing Bollywood cheap labor dreams and came a cropper.Good points on Nintendo, Anon, though to be fair they have always targeted a "family" audience and considerably older players, with simpler and cheaper games.

  13. TGGP says:

    It is a good point that things are different for theaters vs studios. I think there is a bit of relevance though in that theaters are showing movies in the first place because of concessions, and without that the whole thing starts to crumble. Sort of like advertising for newspapers/tv.What's "on the order of"? It can't be in terms of how many hours you devote to it, since people can play NetHack or other roguelikes forver. I will acknowledge that MMOs impose more capital constraints since you are continually providing a service (appropriately enough including servers) continually rather than a finite set of bits that can be massively replicated and shipped.Marquis: funny you mention "edgy" because Whiskey associates that with appealing to women and possibly gays as well.Whiskey: I am a programmer, and I say there's not a fucking thing "regrettable" about outsourcing. I don't grow my own crops (though I do sometimes kill my own meat, it ain't cost effective), there are massive gains from trade. Trade across countries is just like trade across states, counties, households. If we could automate everything and not have to hire anyone, that would be even better.What were you referring to regarding Spielberg and Bollywood?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whiskey, why do you ignore the fact that the MSM hates "Twilight" and Stephanie Meyer?Stephanie Meyer's product is seen as regressive by liberals. While Meyer's product might be attractive to girls, it is so in the sense Harlequin romance novels found at supermarket book shelves are to older women. Bella is most certainly not a feminist icon.Moreover, the success of a series of films aimed at girls — and the massive success of another video game — SAYS NOTHING about any trend.Between the first and second Twilight there was "Transformers 2."What were the numbers for that one again?

  15. Krauser says:

    Great analysis. I'd add these points:- The large investment and risk for a game manufacturer comes at the beginning of (i) the console life and (ii) the IP launch. This is because they spend ages developing the game engine in addition to all the art assets and level design. Once the first one is out, even if its not a big hit, so much of the money is a sunk cost they begin work on the sequel. This has led to interesting cases such as:a. Ubisoft using the Assassin's Creed engine for not only its sequel but also Prince of Persia and Splinter Cellb. Alternating sequel development between code shops (e.g. Treyarch develop a CoD game installment inbetween the major Infinity Ward releases) or switching shops entirely (NFS Shift did this) ut keeping the IP intactc. Licensing the engine. Unreal dominates this.So it's common to see lots of new IPs in the first 2 years of a console life and hardly any in the last 2 years.- Like porn, their is a huge back catalogue of almost-new releases that can be bought for a pittance, especially second hand, without really compromising quality. For example I just bought Midnight Club LA for £10 from Blockbuster last night. It's been out less than a year and there's still no newer better replacement. It's a tough call to extract £40 from me to play this weekend's new racer when I have all those others to substitute it.Similarly, FIFA09 is now £5. FIFA10 has to be damn good to get extra 7x revenue.

  16. Zeta says:

    Another great analysis, Whiskey. Why can't I read stuff like this in the MSM? Keep up the good work!

  17. chrisj says:

    Like Zeta, I am also amazed about the lack of interest in video games by the MSM – unless they are looking to link the games to violence.To generate such enormous sales they must have some pretty good publicity and marketing going on. How it operates so well outside the MSM is interesting.

  18. 90% of MW2's publicity was MW1.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Interesting thoughts Whiskey. Isn't it a shame that we dont have a "reform" plan to re-educate this entire populace on diet/excercise?That could make more people happier than oh-so-much entertainment. I see so many women with rather pretty faces over sack-of-potatoes shapeless-sexless bodies. I also see many men who are put together the same way. Its no wonder these people cannot be attracted to each other. The obesity epidemic manifests a great amount of silent unhappiness in this country. As our "phoods" spread around the world, I predict obesity will spread around the world wherever people don't simply -have- to walk. Entertainments and food are soft-drugs for these people. Its sad. M

  20. Anonymous says:

    I'm just dying to see the rumored Call of Duty movie to come out the same day as the next twilight movie. There would be lines of both fans, and we'd have a side-by-side comparison of them. I'd bet money the COD fans would come off as more kickass (though I'll allow diehard fans are generally pathetic by definition).

  21. Dahlia says:

    My husband and I happened to walk by, a couple times, an evening showing of the Twilight movie and got to see who was there for it. They were easy to spot as many donned Twilight shirts.We didn't see any fatties. The girls we saw were in the 13-16 age range and they looked wholesome and slender. We joined other relatives just outside and ate ice-cream while we admired the crowd and talked about the Twilight movies, Mormonism, etc.We came to the conclusion that it was a wholesome enterprise and the girls looked like the girls next door. I have never seen anything, with my own eyes or others' accounts, until this post that suggests mostly losers like "Twilight".

  22. Whiskey says:

    Dahlia, the crowd you will find for the premier of Star Wars Part 296, or Twilight, is far different than the crowd you will find even a few days later. Joe Average will probably go see the umpteenth Star Wars sequel, even if it got bad reviews, because, hey, Star Wars. He won't be out there for the premiere, at Midnight though. He'll see it a week or so later. Same with Twilight. Which really is toxic in its lessons for girls.

  23. Damn I never even would have thought to compare the two, you've got some good insights on this one. MW2 posted some really astounding sales numbers. I wonder how well Dragon Age: Origins did… Videogames outselling hollywood movies is something that never would have happened even 5 years ago.Also, I'm going to print up a shirt that says "If you like Twilight, I probably do not care for you as a human being" in time for the third movie.

  24. It's funny, my international economics professor made the comparison between Hollywood and Detroit just a few weeks ago. Essentially he said that the knowledge spillover effects of regionally concentrated industries which allow for increasing returns to scale are can often create negative externalities and they can become stagnant and nepotistic and eventually collapse. Maybe we WILL see Hollywood collapse dramatically just like Detroit, but I doubt they'd get any sympathy from the federal government given that the service they provide isn't exactly vital. I haven't been to a movie theater in a year and a half now and there's one within walking distance of my apartment.

  25. Half Sigma says:

    Somehow, World of Warcraft should be mentioned here. It makes about a billion dollars a year from recurring subscriptions, but it's the only subscription game which is anywhere close to that successful.

  26. It'll be interesting to watch how "Avatar" does at the box office, given its deeply anti-western, anti-civilizational and liberal-luddite slant. What would the impact on Hollywood be if the 500 million USD monster flopped?

  27. cartucho r4i says:

    very single PC gamer crying blasphemy is full of themself. The review of a game is not based on what it isn't, but what it is. I'm a PC gamer and a 360 gamer, and I play this on the 360 more to be with friends. Who cares if you can't mod, host, do whatever you want? It's not your decision, it was Infinity Wards. If you don't like it, don't play it. Simple as that. Rating and flaming a game you have not played is immaturity on the level of console fanboys screaming which version of the game is better.

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