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Call of Duty: Ghosts’ ships $1 billion in copies — but how much did gamers spend?

"Call of Duty: Ghosts" passed $1 billion in sales to retailers, publisher Activision announced Wednesday.
"Call of Duty: Ghosts" passed $1 billion in sales to retailers, publisher Activision announced Wednesday.

Exact numbers may still be out on how many copies of "Call of Duty: Ghosts" got into the eager hands of gamers following its midnight launch Monday, but video game industry giant Activision has given investors one tidbit of information about the game in preparation for its earnings call Wednesday afternoon: The company sold $1 billion worth of "Ghosts" copies into retail stores on its first day on the market.

That refers to the number of "Call of Duty: Ghosts" units that stores bought in preparation for the launch, mind you. This is is a different figure than video game publishers typically announce when touting their latest financial achievements, such as Take-Two Interactive did in September when it revealed that "Grand Theft Auto V" had sold more then $1 billion in its first three days on the market.

Colin Sebastian, an analyst at R.W. Baird & Co., therefore cautioned against making any direct comparisons between the data currently available for "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and a game like "Grand Theft Auto V," referring to the two sets of sales numbers as "apples and oranges" for the time being.

"They had to say something [about 'Call of Duty's sales] because of the quarterly earnings today," Sebastian told NBC News. "But it's not like any of the big retailers like GameStop have really had time to crunch the numbers year."

"The question for Activision becomes: how quickly will they get reorders from retailers," Sebastian added.

Sebastian also noted that while much has been made of "GTA V" shattering all sorts of entertainment industry sales records — including those set by "Call of Duty: Ghosts'" predecessor, "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" — the fact that Activision posted numbers of wholesale prices could suggest the title may have brought in far more than $1 billion in gross revenue with that first shipment, since retailers naturally charge more than they pay for an individual game.

Last year's "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" made more that $500 million in retail sales its first day on the market, eventually reaching the $1 billion milestone in 15 days — a day less than its immediate predecessor, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3." "Grand Theft Auto V," meanwhile, made headlines last month for raking in $800 million in sales its first day on the market and reaching $1 billion in just three days.

Many analysts including Colin Sebastian of R.W. Baird and Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities have said they expect this year's installment in Activision blockbuster "Call of Duty" franchise to dip slightly for two reasons, both related to the launch of Sony and Microsoft's next-generation video games consoles later this month.

First, the fact that "Call of Duty: Ghosts" is launching so close to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which become available on Nov. 15 and 22, respectively, means that gamers will end up waiting to buy the game on a next-gen system rather than purchase a current-gen edition. Secondly, the fact that many hardcore gamers will be the first adopters of next-gen technology also means that many of "Call of Duty's" most diehard fans will have less money to spend on "Ghosts" and the premium online service "Call of Duty Elite" this time around.

Activision president CEO Bobby Kotick dismissed any concerns with the company's biggest franchise slowing down, saying — in a statement to the press — that, "Call of Duty is by far the largest console franchise of this generation."

"More people have played Call of Duty this year than ever before, logging four billion hours of gameplay," Kotick added. "And in the last 12 months, 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 2,' including its digital content, generated more revenues than any other console game ever has in a single year. Although it is too early to assess sell-through for 'Call of Duty: Ghosts,' it's launching at a time when the franchise has never been more popular."

Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: Yannick.LeJacq@nbcuni.com.