'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' swarms retail

The newest chapter in Activision's Call of Duty franchise hit more than 13,000 stores at midnight Monday and was met with scores of eager virtual warriors ready for battle.

Calling today "National Call of Duty Day," analyst Colin Sebastian of Baird Equity Research expects the game to set a new first-day sales record and eventually take its place in history as a top-five media property, along with movies Avatar and Titantic, Michael Jackson's Thriller and last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops, which had first-day sales of 5.6 million ($360 million).

He expects this year's sales of Modern Warfare 3 to approach 19 million units ($1.1-$1.2 billion) just above sales of Black Ops , slightly higher than last year and generating roughly $1.1-1.2 billion in retail sales.

GameStop's Bob McKenzie called the game "the most anticipated video game in history" by GameStop's Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Bob McKenzie. In its first day in stores, Modern Warfare 3 could outsell Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3, which has been available for two weeks and sold more than 5 million, Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. analyst Arvind Bhatia told Bloomberg.

And online retailer Amazon.com said that the game was not only its bestselling video game pre-order of all-time, but among the top 20 pre-orders ever for any product, be it book, DVD or video game.

Early reviews of the game have earned it Metacritic ratings of 90 and 88, for Xbox 360 and PS3, and have complimented the single-player campaign, in addition to the multiplayer and cooperative SpecOps mode.

| Mike Snider, USA Today