Modern Warfare 3 officially has the top grossing movie in movie history, James Cameron's Avatar, in its rearview mirror: Activision's eighth Call of Duty shooter just made a cool $1 billion dollars in 16 days. Avatar, by comparison, took 17 to reach that figure.
Bear in mind movie ticket and game price differences. The disparity—let's shoot high and say $20 a ticket for Avatar versus $60 a pop for Modern Warfare 3—means movies are still reaching a broader audience, probably several times over. But as mountains 'o money go, Modern Warfare 3 is the new king of the world as far as the race to $1 billion goes. Still undecided: If it'll make it to $2 billion as fast, or eventually exceed Avatar's nearly $3 billion worldwide take (hint: probably neither). Still, happy days for the games industry from a bean counter's perspective.
Should we be "proud" that a game made more money than James Cameron's Avatar in a day's less time, as Forbes suggests? Should money the metric by which we gauge the gaming industry's success? Really?
While critics fawned over Modern Warfare 3, users—and I'm with the users here—pretty much savaged it. With over 7,000 weighing in on Metacritic, the game's averaging a pitiable 3.2 out of 10. The chief complaint: It's a tedious clone of its predecessors with a short, poorly written campaign and forklifted over multiplayer (you can apparently tell who did or didn't play Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer mode in proportion to their inexplicable enthusiasm for Modern Warfare 3's).
In fact the curmudgeon in me tends to see sales success and quality (and longevity) as mutually exclusive. Take Avatar, a mediocre flick by any measure that made its bones off Cameron's name and our first major dose of 3D hype. Or how about Cameron's Titanic, which I'm betting after hearing that offensively bad Celine Dion song for the umpteenth time even Academy members wish they'd passed on for something more deserving, say either Good Will Hunting or L.A. Confidential. Bestselling isn't an automatic "warning, garbage" label—take Skyrim, or Stephen King's 11/22/63—but it's often a bellwether. Would anyone believe Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the fourth highest grossing film (possibly the worst film I've seen in decades)? That Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the eighth? Or Alice in Wonderland the ninth?
We get what we pay for, which at this point probably means more of the same with Modern Warfare Whatever's Next, since "the same" somehow sells multimillions, celebrated by consumers or no.