Call of Duty (CoD) is one of the most lucrative video game franchises ever created. This iconic first-person shooter series has generated over $32 billion in lifetime revenue since launching in 2003.
Based on these massive earnings over nearly 20 years, the Call of Duty brand itself is now worth over $50 billion as of 2023. That colossal valuation cements CoD as the most valuable console gaming intellectual property in the world.
In this in-depth guide, we‘ll break down exactly how the Call of Duty franchise achieved such an immense net worth. We‘ll look at:
- Activision Blizzard‘s market valuation and CoD‘s share of revenue
- Annual earnings statistics for the entire franchise
- Profits from in-game spending and battle passes
- Total lifetime revenues since the original CoD release
- The billions in future revenue Call of Duty will likely generate
- How CoD compares to other top video game franchises
Let‘s dive in and follow the money trail leading to Call of Duty‘s $50+ billion brand valuation…
Activision Blizzard‘s Market Capitalization Reflects CoD‘s Value
Activision Blizzard is the company that fully owns and publishes the Call of Duty series. Trading on the NASDAQ under ATVI, Activision‘s total market capitalization as of March 2023 is approximately $66 billion.
Market cap explained: A company‘s market valuation is calculated by multiplying all outstanding stock shares by the current market price of one share.
For example, Activision has around 775 million shares outstanding. With a share price of $85 as of this writing, this equates to a market cap of $66 billion.
|Activision Blizzard Market Cap||Value|
|Current Share Price||$85|
|Shares Outstanding||775 million|
|Current Market Cap||$66 billion|
So what does this market cap indicate about Call of Duty‘s worth?
Call of Duty is Activision‘s most successful property by far. The CoD series accounts for roughly one-third of Activision‘s total annual revenue.
Based on this revenue breakdown, I estimate Call of Duty alone makes up at least $20 billion of Activision‘s total $66 billion market valuation.
In reality, the figure is likely even higher when you account for CoD‘s industry-leading profit margins. But a conservative $20 billion valuation for Call of Duty means the brand accounts for approximately one-third of Activision‘s total company value.
This shows just how vital Call of Duty‘s ongoing success is to Activision Blizzard. The company depends on new CoD games as consistent mega-hits to drive their yearly revenues higher.
Next let‘s look directly at the raw earnings numbers Call of Duty generates each year…
Call of Duty Franchise Revenue Statistics
As an annualized AAA video game series, Call of Duty has produced extremely impressive sales and revenue figures over the past two decades:
Over 400 million games sold – This includes both digital and physical unit sales across all titles.
Over $27 billion total revenue through 2020.
Over $30 billion in lifetime revenue as of 2021 – a new milestone for the franchise.
Over $32 billion in estimated total earnings through 2022.
Projected to reach $40 billion to $50 billion in total revenue within the next 4 to 5 years.
Clearly these are stellar results for any entertainment franchise. For context, CoD‘s $32 billion in lifetime revenue is more than Star Wars and James Bond have earned from films when adjusted for inflation.
Now let‘s break down Call of Duty earnings by year:
|Year||Call of Duty Revenue|
A few interesting notes:
2020 revenue topped $3 billion thanks to Warzone‘s boost to engagement and spending.
2021 and 2022 pulled back slightly but remained strong at around $2 billion annually.
Digital revenue through downloads, in-game purchases, and battle pass sales now make up over 75% of earnings.
Speaking of in-game spending…
Microtransactions and Battle Passes
In recent years, a substantial portion of Call of Duty revenue has shifted from game unit sales to digital in-game transactions.
Two major drivers of this spending are cosmetic operators and the battle pass system.
For example, Warzone alone brings in over $5.2 million per day from operator skins and weapon cosmetics. That adds up to over $1.9 billion annually for Warzone microtransactions.
The battle pass has proven hugely popular as well. Players pay a seasonal fee to unlock tiers of exclusive cosmetics by playing.
Here are some mind-blowing battle pass stats:
- Over 100 million battle pass purchases in 2021.
- Over $1 billion in estimated revenue from battle passes.
- Average revenue per battle pass around $10 to $20.
Between operators and battle pass sales, in-game monetization now makes up the majority of Call of Duty‘s annual earnings.
This shift to digital revenue allows CoD to be extremely profitable. There‘s minimal costs associated with selling cosmetics compared to developing a new game every year.
Total Franchise Earnings Over Time
It‘s also insightful to look at how Call of Duty earnings have grown since the original title launched in 2003:
|Year||Lifetime Revenue||Revenue Milestones|
|2003||$0||Launch of inaugural CoD title|
|2021||Over $30 billion|
|2022||Over $32 billion|
|2026 (Projected)||$50+ billion||Potential to cross $50 billion in revenue|
A few interesting observations:
- It took 7 years for lifetime revenues to reach $3 billion following the first CoD release in 2003.
- The next $12 billion came much quicker, in just 6 years between 2010 and 2016 as the franchise grew.
- CoD hit the $27 billion mark in 2020, adding $10 billion in just 4 years.
- At this pace, its conceivable Call of Duty could cross $50 billion in total revenue before 2030.
This fast-growing earnings pace reflects CoD‘s strengthening brand power over the past decade. Next let‘s examine the profits Activision likely sees from these billions in revenue.
Estimated Profit Margins
Video game industry profit margins typically range from 15% on the low end, up to 30% on the high end.
However, as an established AAA hit franchise, Call of Duty profit margins are likely much higher, between 30% and 50% by my estimate.
For context, Grand Theft Auto is believed to have margins of over 40%. FIFA sees margins north of 50%. As the best-selling franchise, CoD margins likely align with these premium titles.
Applying that range to CoD revenue:
- At a 30% margin, $10 billion in revenue = $3 billion profit.
- At 50%, then $10 billion = $5 billion profit.
The takeaway – for every $1 billion in Call of Duty sales, Activision likely keeps between $300 million and $500 million.
These exorbitant margins demonstrate why Activision invests heavily in a new premium CoD every single year – the profits are tremendous relative to costs.
Now let‘s look at the developer studios that create each new installment…
The Net Worth of CoD Developer Studios
While Activision Blizzard owns Call of Duty, various studios help develop each annual release on a rotating schedule:
- Founded in 2002 to build the original CoD.
- Developed over half the titles including Modern Warfare.
- Estimated net worth: Over $500 million.
- Founded in 2001 and acquired by Activision.
- Known for Black Ops and Zombies mode innovations.
- Estimated net worth: At least $400 million.
- Formed in 2009 to support Modern Warfare 3.
- Co-leads development on many recent entries.
- Estimated net worth: Around $200 to $300 million.
These studios demonstrate how much value has been created by developing such a massively successful franchise like Call of Duty over many years.
Speaking of value, let‘s look at the net worth of key individual contributors next…
The Wealth of Key Call of Duty Figures
Several pivotal figures behind the Call of Duty franchise have amassed substantial personal wealth and net worth:
- CEO of Activision Blizzard since 1991.
- Led the company to acquire Call of Duty in 2003.
- Estimated net worth: ~$800 million.
- Lead multiplayer designer for the Black Ops series.
- Popularly known as "Vahn" within the CoD community.
- Estimated net worth: ~$10 million.
- Co-founder of original CoD developer Infinity Ward.
- Has served as CEO of Respawn Entertainment since 2010.
- Estimated net worth: ~$40 million.
Their massive fortunes reflect the tremendous economic opportunities generated by being involved in a franchise as profitable as Call of Duty has become.
On that note, let‘s look ahead at where CoD‘s value could reach in the future…
Projecting the Future Value of Call of Duty
Looking ahead, Call of Duty shows no signs of fading away or slowing down. If anything, the franchise appears stronger than ever as it enters its 20th year.
Here are some key factors that should continue expanding CoD‘s value over the next decade:
The Free-to-Play Shift
- Warzone‘s free model has opened CoD to new audiences beyond premium title buyers.
- Free-to-play will likely become a wider part of the franchise, driving added engagement.
- Full Call of Duty game for mobile slated for release in 2023.
- Mobile could become CoD‘s highest grossing platform given its technical quality.
Increased Digital Revenue
- As gamers go all-digital, CoD captures more per sale without retailer/platform fees.
eSports Continued Growth
- Competitive CoD is hitting new viewership milestones.
- Unlocks lucrative sponsorships and media rights opportunities.
Given these strong growth vectors, I estimate Call of Duty‘s total franchise value could reach over $100 billion within the next 10 to 15 years.
For context, let‘s compare CoD‘s current $50 billion net worth versus other top gaming brands…
Call of Duty vs. Gaming‘s Most Valuable Franchises
As of 2023, Call of Duty stands decisively as gaming‘s most financially successful franchise. It has generated more lifetime revenue than any other console or PC gaming IP to date.
Here‘s how CoD‘s estimated $50+ billion valuation compares to the next most valuable video game franchises:
- Mario (Nintendo): $30 billion
- Grand Theft Auto (Take-Two): $27 billion
- FIFA (EA): $20 billion
- Minecraft (Microsoft): $20 billion
Call of Duty has a strong lead over its closest franchise rivals Mario and GTA. FIFA and Minecraft have impressive player bases, but have earned around 40% less revenue than CoD over their lifespans.
It‘s also worth noting Call of Duty continues growing rapidly, while Mario and FIFA revenues have flattened. CoD seems poised to widen its lead as potentially the first $100 billion video game IP.
The Verdict: Call of Duty is Worth Over $50 Billion and Counting
In closing, Call of Duty represents the crown jewel of video game franchises based on financial performance. Backed by yearly installments earning over $1 billion a piece, tied to a massive digital ecosystem, and supported by the most dedicated player base in gaming, CoD shows no signs of fading from prominence.
Conservatively worth over $50 billion today based on lifetime revenues, I estimate Call of Duty‘s brand value could reach $75 to $100 billion within the next decade. Simply put, CoD is nowhere near done minting money for Activision.
So the next time you dive into Call of Duty, remember you‘re playing one of the most successful entertainment properties in history, backed by billions in economic value.