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New "Call of Duty" game has first-day sales of $500 million

(Reuters) - The latest "Call of Duty" videogame had worldwide sales of more than $500 million in the first 24 hours of its release, a new record, game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc said on Friday.

Shares of Activision rose about 3 percent following the news, even after the company said it remains cautious about the rest of 2012 and 2013 due to the macro-economic environment.

The note of caution likely means Activision is preparing to provide 2013 financial targets that are below Wall Street expectations, Brean Murray, Carret & Co analyst Todd Mitchell said. But he expects a strong fourth quarter.

"The combination of the strong 'Call of Duty' and good indications on 'Skylander' (another Activision game) points to a very strong quarter," Mitchell said.

While "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" had first-day sales of more than $500 million, Microsoft Corp's sci-fi action-shooter "Halo 4," launched a week earlier, had sales of $220 million on its first day.

In 2011, Activision reported first-day sales of about $400 million in North America and the UK for "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," and sales of $1 billion after 16 days.

North America and the UK are Activision's biggest markets, according to Hudson Square analyst Daniel Ernst.

Mitchell said, "I assume the sell-through on ("Black Ops II") will be strong enough that it beats last year's launch when you look at first-week sales"

Activision, the world's largest videogame publisher, raised its earnings outlook last week on expectations for strong holiday sales of the new "Call of Duty.

As more gamers migrate from console gaming to mobile offerings on tablets and smartphones, the video game industry has seen revenues decline. The performance of high-profile titles like "Call of Duty" is being watched closely as a gauge of future demand for the sector.

Activision said on Friday that it believes the new "Call of Duty" represents "the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row." It said millions of fans attended more than 16,000 midnight openings at retail stores worldwide on November 13.

Its first-day sales estimate was based on Chart-Track, retail customer sell-through information and internal company estimates.

Activision shares were up 29 cents, or almost 3 percent, at $10.85 in morning trading on Nasdaq.

(Reporting By Aditya Kondalamahanty in Bangalore and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and John Wallace)

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