When it comes to the gaming world, you can usually rely on a Call of Duty game to top the sales charts every year. The various versions in Activision’s warfare simulation franchise have almost always been at #1, going all the way back to 2009. But this year the streak broke. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III lost its top spot on the yearly sales chart and has fallen to second place, as per media research firm Circana.

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The Top 20 Games List

According to the list, Hogwarts Legacy topped the charts for 2023, selling around 22 million copies. This is despite the controversy the game generated, both by its association with franchise creator JK Rowling — who has leveraged her celebrity position to support anti-trans views — but also tropes within the game itself which some saw as drawing from antisemitic caricatures. It did benefit from being the only Harry Potter game in a decade. In that time, there have been 11 Call of Duty releases.

Fans had been waiting for a high-quality AAA game set at the wizarding school for decades and Hogwarts Legacy delivered on the promise of a true open-world Harry Potter title. The sales obviously reflect that. While very good, the game did not create that level of buzz, so maybe this data illustrates that players are finally getting sick of Call of Duty, or maybe it’s just that Modern Warfare III wasn’t a fan-favourite.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 2023 top 20 games list

As a matter of fact, there have been only two other occasions in which Call of Duty was knocked from first place. Those were the years in which Grand Theft Auto V (2013) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) were released. Both titles absolutely dominated the conversation upon launch, becoming bona-fide cultural touchstones. 

The Controversy

Circana’s list puts The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on the fifth position of the top seller of 2023 list, but Nintendo doesn’t divulge its eShop numbers. Which means that the list only includes digital sales data up to September. In other words, there’s around four months of sales data missing here, which we won’t get until the company releases quarterly revenue information at the end of the month.

It’s possible that Tears of the Kingdom will end up on top. Its sales figures (19.5 million copies) are a mere 2.5 million units away from that of Hogwarts Legacy, not including the four months of the holiday season’s sales.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 yearly sales top spot 2023 top 20 games list

Other top sellers include Madden NFL 24 at number three and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 at number four. Interestingly, 2022’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 actually took the number seven spot. Finally, there’s the game that will sell forever and ever in the gaming universe. Mario Kart 8 came in at number 19, but also without digital data from September onward.

To convey the gravitational pull of CoD, when Microsoft was fighting to buy Activision Blizzard – makers of the game series — the Xbox maker had to make concessions and ensure the games would come to PlayStation and other platforms to make the purchase happen. Headlines aside, the Call of Duty series will be fine.