Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Download digitally or buy the box?

Now that Cataclysm has a release date, I'm starting to wonder if people prefer the boxed game or the digital download. In recent years, downloadable games have started to gather steam (forgive the pun) and it's within the realm of possibility that in a few more years most games will only be available through a download.

As a 100% PC gamer, I've always loved the shiny new boxes in which games come. In the digital age though, I don't care about them anymore. I just want to play the game, not stare at the box. The only thing that a box brings to the table is the nice artwork and... that's about it. Game manuals these days are puny and probably obsolete by the time they leave the factory. No one needs a manual anymore, what with all the info on the internet.

The biggest disadvantage of boxes is the space they take. A game collection takes up much more space than a music or movie collection. Not to mention that most people probably don't even play older games anymore. Case in point: I have a Diablo Battlechest (or whatever it's called) that I've never opened. I just keep it for nostalgia sake.

As you can tell, these days I'm a digital download man. Why bother going to a store or ordering the box online when I can just download the game and be ready to play it right the moment it is launched? I do understand the other side though. People like going to the midnight launch, to socialize with like-minded geeks and what-not. I'm just glad that technology makes it easy to skip all that. It's not like I'm a social person anyway.

I'm certainly glad that Blizzard are making the digital download of Cataclysm available from day 1. If I'm not mistaken, Burning Crusade didn't become available for download until a few weeks had passed. In the meantime, Blizzard have come to their senses. After all, what would be the point of delaying the digital version since it costs the same as the boxed version anyway. The only reason I can think of is that digital downloads from day 1 tend to piss off retailers for the boxed version. Oh well, that's progress I guess.

I do have a couple of WoW boxes though. One is vanilla WoW. Back then I don't know if they had digital downloads but in any case I was running on dial-up and would never have dreamed of downloading it. When Burning Crusade came out I tried buying the game from a BestBuy but all the boxes they had seemed to have been tampered with. Knowing that all you actually need to play WoW is the code, I made the smart decision and decided to just buy the downloadable version instead. I don't know why I bought the WotLK box but since I have it, I must have bought it for some reason or other.

For Cataclysm though, it's the digital download all the way for me. While certain geeks will be freezing their butts outside Gamestop, I'll be loading up the game, warm and comfortable with a cup of hot chocolate in my hands. But hey, more power to you geek bros! I still respect you!


Redbeard said...

WoW has been the first PC game that I ever downloaded, and I think that'll remain that way. Sure, I'd like the music CD that accompanies the collector's edition, but I don't like the cost.

Darth Solo said...

Here's what I've always wondered about those soundtrack CDs: do people really listen to them? More than once?

Maybe I'm the odd exception but I'm the type who doesn't care about the music in games. I play all my games with the music turned off. I did try to play with music here and there, just to see what the fuss is all about but although I recognize how artfully it is composed, my idea of immersion is to NOT hear any music.

But that's just me.

Blimp said...

I'll pick whichever version that gets me into the game the fastest. If I can download and activate the game before December 7 and be ready to play at 00:01, I'll pick the downloadable version, otherwise I'll stick to the boxed one.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone worry that the download server will be swamped?

Echo said...

I'm not a collector and I surely love digital delivery. I've got SC2 the same way. Boxes are useful for 3 things only: collect dust, take space in your room and damage the environment (paper = trees).

On a side note, I'd love to see a small discount for digital delivery.

§Echo said...

> Does anyone worry that the
> download server will be swamped?

Sarcraft2 was smooth as silk: they let people pre-download the game few weeks in advance :)

Elkagorasa said...

The download has me intrigued. While the beta is/was 25GB, the source is P2P. So, the more who participate, the faster it will be.

Will I do it? Probably not, without some $$ incentive (like @echo said), it'd be nice to see a discount on that version. I personally don't care for the box either, just like having a shiny disk to install from when all chips are down.

Mr. Menagerie said...

I'm attracted to the ease of the download option, but always worried about there being a need to be "connected" to play even SP games through services like STEAM or D2D. as well as Good Old Games ( are the only 2 I've found that sell "just the game" with NO DRM or need to be connected once you purchase a game.

I realize that MMOs are different, but that has been my reservation for downloading games in general.


Darth Solo said...

Nice responses, thanks guys.

A couple of points:

- I'd love to see a discount on the digital version too. But they won't do that for several reasons that I can see. For one thing, the marginal costs of producing the DVD + box are very small. For another, lowering the price of the download version would create a precedent and they don't want that because in the future more and more people will buy the download. Let's not get them used to lower prices, shall we?

- There won't be any "download server" per se, if they are distributing the game they way they distribute patches, i.e. via P2P. So download speeds shouldn't be affected, no matter how many people are doing it at the same time. In fact, quite the opposite, you should be able to find more seeds/peers. And if I'm not mistaken, most of Cataclysm could already be included in the huge patch 4.01 files that we have already pre-downloaded these past weeks.

Unknown said...

I say buy-the-box. A lot of us are adults with full time jobs, who can't stay up the night before for a midnight release party and who will not be on vacation launch week, so we will be at work.

Amazon has a gauranteed Release date DELIVERY on all pre-orders in the continental US. This is for both regular and the collector's edition.

What this means is, us working adults, can pre-order it and 90% of us will have it waiting in the mailbox/doorstep/screen door for us when we walk in the house from work on the Actual Day it releases. Sounds like they have a great strategy targeting the adult purchasers.

As far as playing at 1 second after midnight...won't the servers be down on Dec 7th (a tuesday) for a massive patch, which probably will result in a delay in live servers coming up by a couple of hours. Xpac going live day is usually a late server up-time as well as filled with huge log-in queues and server crashes. Dungeons servers crash, expansion servers crash, hell this year the old zones won't be safe either as they are all getting revamped.

All in all - the game is pretty unplayable on release day if history holds true for this year's release as well.

Echo said...

@ Cold

> I say buy-the-box. A lot of us are adults
> with full time jobs, who can't stay up
> the night before for a midnight release
> party and who will not be on vacation
> launch week, so we will be at work.

I dont get your point. Digital download is the fastest solution you can have. Download, double click, install. Done.

The box is a waste of time. Order, receive, open the package and... oh my... install from dvd. Have a nice night, staring at the monitor for 1 hour while the dvd reader spins like a crazy.

Go digital if you want to optimize your gameplay/free time :)

Darth Solo said...

@Cold & @Echo to each his own. Up until Wrath I also was of the opinion that the box is the better deal since I'm also getting something physical for the same price. But then I realized that the only good thing about the box is the artwork and I'm not gonna look at it for too long anyway.

Does Amazon ship their pre-orders with free shipping? Or do you have to pay to get it on release day?

Mr. Menagerie said...

@ Darth Solo


Release-Date Delivery is only 99 cents!
Release-Date Delivery is FREE for all Prime members and only 99 cents for non-Prime customers.

Darth Solo said...

OK not a bad deal after all. But I've read stories of people who didn't receive it on release day for some reason or other.

Echo said...

@ Stu

If we consider the "time" factor, digital download beats physical box ten to one. Just think about the waste of time when you have to insert the DVD's, start the install... wait.. . change DVD, continue, etc. It's just a pain.

The digital "unique-file" is a mater of 1 click and you're done.

I don't discuss the beauty of the box, I was referring to time optimization, as Cold was suggesting the box as faster solution.

Darth Solo said...

True dat. I believe downloading is much quicker and less prone to stress (unless your connection craps out or something).

Unknown said...

Your also assuming that their servers aren't going to crash with all the downloads. Are they offering pre-release date downloads, with release date install? Or are you stuck in a huge download queue with everyone else?

And how do you get a CD key with digital download?

What happens, if you get a virus and have to wipe your hard drive?

What if you buy a new computer, can you re-download to the new computer or do you have to pay for it again?

Not making a pitch here, just curious questions.

@ Stu

99cents for release date delivery is a mega-deal. Some states don't even pay taxes on online purchases either, which could make it cheaper yet WITH the 99cents to ship.

I really don't think much will be playable on Day 1 regardless of how you install. Servers crash, queue lines stack up, log-in server will frizz out, rolling restarts, etc. Day 1 always sucks!

Darth Solo said...

@Cold your last comment was marked as spam, dunno why.

Well, the deal with the digital download is as follows. First, you need a account. In fact you need one to play WoW anyway, regardless whether you buy the box or the digital version.

Then, after you pay for the expansion, it gets "added" to your account. No need for a "CD key" in the classic sense. Blizzard knows from there on that your account has purchased Cataclysm.

If, for any reason, you later need to re-install everything, you simply download the game once more and you're good to go.

As for installing on another computer, it is trivial. Just copy the folder over and you'll be set to play. Remember, you are always logging in with your account so you can even play on your friend's computer, but using your own account if you so wish. Though I don't recommend it.

It's all good though. Some people prefer the box, some prefer the download. I'm in the latter category.

As for playing on Day 1... I'm really not expecting much on that particular Tuesday. However, I do plan to take the rest of the week off and servers nowadays tend to stabilize fairly quickly.

Anonymous said...

@ Cold

Download day wont be a problem. As said above, I've purchased the digital copy of Starcraft 2 and the download was flying at my maximum speed (880 Kb/sec).

And SC2 was much more anticipated/hyped than Cataclysm :). Keep in mind that you don't download the file from a server: it wqorks via P2P (Torrent) system. No problems at all.

Darth Solo said...

@Cold, what @Anon said :)

Mr. Menagerie said...

Hey guys :)

Just a quick comment/question.

I noticed that my Blizzard/WoW Downloader kicked in the other day when I quit and I now have a 4gig size "patch" waiting in the temp file.

Was wondering if this could be the actual Cataclysm file or if the "regular" Patch for those who plan on playing but NOT updating to the Expansion right out of the gate could/would be this large...

Would be nice to already have the Expansion files and just have to update our accounts with a Cataclysm game code :)

Mr. Menagerie said...

Guess this sheds some light on my question...


Darth Solo said...

It's hard to tell what exactly is in this huge patch. I'd be surprised if it was only 4.01. There's probably some 4.03 in there too, i.e some Cataclysm world changes.