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Gamers lined up to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at the Yonge and Dundas Best Buy store early Tuesday. ((CBC))

First-day sales of Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 broke records, raking in an estimated $310 million US in North America and the United Kingdom alone.

The video game went on sale around the world on Tuesday, but Activision provided figures Thursday only for North America and Britain. The company estimates it sold about 4.7 million copies of the game in the first 24 hours in those markets.

Activision called it "the biggest launch in history across all forms of entertainment."

By comparison, the final novel of the Harry Potter series — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — sold 15 million copies worldwide (11 million in North America and U.K. alone) in its first 24 hours of release in July 2007.  However, the book was discounted by many retailers and sold for less than the approximately $60 Cdn per unit for Call of Duty.

The latest instalment in the Call of Duty action franchise was expected to at least match last year's Grand Theft Auto IV, which was the most successful video-game release in history and at the time may have been the top entertainment launch ever.

That game, from Take-Two Interactive Software, had sold 3.6 million units on its opening day, worth $310 million worldwide. Call of Duty made that much in just North America and Britain.

The launch of Call of Duty also surpassed last year's box office record of $155 million US for the opening weekend of the Batman movie The Dark Knight.

Shares rise

Shares of Activision, which is based in Santa Monica, rose 23 cents, or two per cent, to $11.61 in morning trading Thursday.

Like the previous five Call of Duty games, which are all rated "M" for mature (not for kids under 17), this one lets players shoot their way through a complex series of scenes. The game's developer, Infinity Ward, spent two years creating realistic graphics that are amplified in many players' homes by big-screen, high-definition TVs sets and powerful speakers.

Players can fight one another, whether they're at the same game console or in separate locations and connected online. Or a player can dive in alone and get swept into the game, which includes jarring depictions of war and an intricate story of good versus evil.

The game sells for $60 and plays on Windows-based computers, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3.