"Modern Warfare 2" strikes on Tuesday in a worldwide assault eagerly awaited by lovers of the blockbuster role-playing battle videogame franchise.
Videogame publisher Activision Blizzard believes that the sixth installment in the "Call of Duty" franchise could be the most powerful entertainment industry launch of the year, outshining even Hollywood blockbusters.
AdvertisementActivision has predicted that "MW2" will be such a hit that the California-based company will see record operating margins. Pre-orders for the 60-dollar (US) videogame are the highest in the firm's history.
"We're already seeing it bully other name-brand competitors into pushing their release dates back rather than risk going head-to-head in the same launch window," said Scott Steinberg of videogame and gadget website Digital Trends.
"Put simply, if you only buy a single game this Hanukkah or Christmas, this is the title to beat."
Analysts expect "Modern Warfare" to blast new life into a videogame industry that has seen sales figures this year hobbled by dismal economic conditions and a dearth of hot releases.
US videogame sales showed a modest increase in September, breaking a six-month losing streak.
Sales would have to skyrocket in the remaining months of the year just to meet last year's numbers.
"Modern Warfare" is expected to delight mainstream videogame players along with the franchise's fan base of "hardcore" gamers thrilled by first-person shooter titles.
"It's designed to be as much of a breathlessly cinematic experience as simple run-n-gun outing," Steinberg said.
"Beyond offering tremendous value courtesy of both its single and multiplayer options, it's also a surefire home theater showpiece."
Multiplayer options allow people share consoles or link on the Internet to play together as characters in the videogame as an alternative to going solo.
Reviewers have heaped early praise on "MW2" for its game play and vivid graphics.
"Fire it up on a new LCD or plasma HDTV, and it's all but guaranteed to make the neighbors' jaws drop," Steinberg said.
The game is rated for people ages 17 or older and "MW2" has stirred a bit of controversy for depicting realistically brutal terrorist encounters.
Infinity Ward created the videogame, with versions tailored to Microsoft Xbox 360; Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii videogame consoles.
"Everyone on the team is laser focused on making the most gripping experience we've ever created," said Infinity Ward chief executive Vince Zampella.
"No detail is too small and every finishing touch imaginable is underway to make 'Modern Warfare 2' our best ever."
"MW2" picks up in the wake of its predecessor, which reportedly sold 12 million copies.
Players join a global military task force taking on ultranationalist Russian terrorists to save the world. Settings include Russia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Brazil.
The "Call of Duty" franchise that has won a devoted following since its launch in 2003 and boasts overall sales of about 28 million units.
US videogame retail chain Game Stop is planning to have thousands of its shops open at midnight Monday to begin "MW2" sales with Tuesday's arrival.