This holiday season's biggest entertainment blockbuster likely will be a sequel to a popular franchise, with jarring depictions of war and an intricate story of good versus evil. It could easily rake in more than last year's record $155 million opening weekend for "The Dark Knight."
But this blockbuster is not a movie.
It is "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," a video game that Activision Blizzard Inc. is releasing Tuesday. Fans worldwide are expected to spend at least half a billion dollars on the game in the first week.
That would at least match last year's "Grand Theft Auto IV," which was the most successful video game release in history and might have been the top entertainment launch ever.
Like the previous five "Call of Duty" games, which are all rated "M" for mature (not for children younger than 17), this one lets players shoot their way through a complex series of scenes. The game's developer, Infinity Ward, spent two years creating realistic graphics that are amplified in many players' homes by big-screen, high-definition TVs and powerful speakers. It's like stepping into a movie.
A big part of the game's appeal is in its multiplayer component - players can fight each other, whether they're at the same game console or in separate locations and connected online.
Activision is working with retailers to plan more than 10,000 midnight openings in the United States, including most of the 4,300 GameStop Corp. stores around the country. It won't give numbers, but GameStop says pre-orders for "Modern Warfare 2" hit an all-time high.
In all, about 28 million "Call of Duty" games have been sold in the United States, with each installment doing better at launch than the previous one.