Pre-orders are a great way for publishers and developers to ask for your money before you know whether a game is any good or not. In some cases, it's proved a successful method of funding (particularly indie) development, but when we look at the world of big-budget games in particular, it's a practice that has made increasingly little sense as a consumer, despite the adoption of pre-order exclusives to try and make us reconsider. Well, it appears these efforts have been in vain: according to Activision's CEO and president Eric Hirshberg, there's been an industry-wide decline in pre-orders, and Call of Duty is "not immune".
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz , in a post-earning conference call Hirshberg told investors that "you guys can see the same thing we see industry-wide, which is that there's been sort of a secular downturn as it relates to preorders. We think that's happening due to a number of factors: Things like increased digital consumption, particularly on the next-gen consoles; titles being widely available on day one; and the decline overall for demand of software on the previous gen consoles". He went on to say that Call of Duty is "not immune" to this downturn, but that he's expecting it to lead the curve anyway.
Pre-order figures tend to be used by publishers to gauge how successful they think a game's going to be, and you can probably imagine how useful hard figures are when deciding how many copies to order in to your game shop. As a result of this apparent pre-order slump, Activision are now looking at alternative ways of gauging player interest pre-release, including "awareness and purchase intent", data I can only imagine they gather with the aid of Professor Xavier's Cerebro machine. That or surveys/focus groups.