Matthew Roszak

In The Press Blog

Black (Ops) Tuesday: Prepare to get nothing done February 1

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| Dean Takahashi

They walk — or rather, sit — among us. At any given time there are hundreds of thousands of people playing the multiplayer version of theCall of Duty Black Ops combat game. And you’ll know them from their absence from the rest of the world on Tuesday, February 1.

That’s the day when the hot-selling online warfare game, whose sales racked up $650 million in five days and have already topped a record-setting $1 billion, will get a further boost: The first Black Ops map pack, Call of Duty Black Ops First Strike, will debut exclusively on Microsoft’s Xbox Live online service.

If video games are the new Hollywood, map packs are the new, smarter sequel. Instead of coming years later, though, like rehashed studio fare, these downloadable expansions to existing games keep players addicted to a recently released title.

Here’s what will go down on February 1: Hardcore gamers are likely to converge on Xbox Live and download the map pack for $14.99, or 1,200 Microsoft points.

As proven by last year’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 map packs, the launch of this kind of downloadable content is as huge as a major launch of any other huge blockbuster game. $14.99 may not seem like a lot of dough — a movie ticket doesn’t cost much less these days — but it will likely dent sales of new games.

For the video-game industry, the impact will be obvious. February’s retail sales numbers — which will already be low because of a shortage of Xbox 360 consoles and Kinect motion-control systems — may be weaker than usual since the downloadable map packs are not counted in retail sales figures produced by market researcher NPD.

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