Diablo 3: Digital or Physical Copy?

Fans have been debating what kind of D3 to buy for months, and with the release date announcement making such discussions much less hypothetical, 1up.com has posted an article on the issue. The author doesn’t seem to have any strong opinions either way, and clearly means the piece purely to spur discussion.

Upon further reflection, my previous insistence upon buying Blizzard games at retail — including WoW and all of its expansion packs, which I have reinstalled numerous times by downloading them as opposed to using the discs — may have to come to an end if it means playing Diablo III sooner and without having to attend a midnight launch.

The ability to gain immediate access seems like the strongest argument to me. It’s ironic, but most of us are determined to play Diablo 3 the absolute earliest second we possibly can. Logically, after waiting four (or eleven) years, what’s another few days? And yet…. WANT! Now now NOW!

The more practical reason for a digital purchase is the fragility of a DVD. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of fans report buying multiple copies of D2 and D2X due to lost/broken/scratched/etc CDs. You might buy a second copy if you need more than 10 character slots, or you want to multi-box, but you’d hate to do it just because you stepped on or lost your DVD, one drunken evening.

On the other hand, many people (including me) like to actually own a physical object, rather than just paying for online access to it. That seems less essential with Diablo 3 though, since it’s only playable online. After all, if B.net’s down, or I’m offline, or my CD-Key gets banned, a DVD or a digital copy are in the same boat — both as useful as tits on a snake. Thus, we might as well just buy the digital and save on shipping costs, transportation times, etc. Right?

The wild card, of course, is the DiabloWikiDiablo 3 Collector’s Edition, which has swag type stuff within its alabaster depths. Even the regular game box is pretty nice though, if you’re a collector of such objects and want to see it sitting on your shelf forever and ever.

So what’s your pleasure? Digital purchase? Regulation box? D3CE? Both, for digital speed/convenience + collectibility?

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100 thoughts on “Diablo 3: Digital or Physical Copy?

  1. Digital. DVDs simply gather dust on the shelf and I almost never touch them (unless I need to clean the dust) =)

    • Pretty stupid that digital is so expensive for some though.
      For New Zealand 
      Digital from Blizzard = $103 = Instantly Ready

      Physical from cheap online store = $68 = 1 to 1.5 weeks delivery
      Good work blizzard…    

    • Digital and CE for me. I have already pre downloaded the client from Blizzard but it still needs to download to your hard drive once the servers go live. So technically people wont be playing right at 12:01. People who got it digitally still have wait a while for it download to the hard drive. While im waiting for that I will go pick up my collectors edition from Best Buy and by that time it should almost be finished downloading. Once its finished I’ll enter in my CE key and it will upgrade my digital copy to a CE one! So Ill have the convinces of playing it digitally and have a hard psychical copy of the game. Win Win

      • Is it REALLY that hard to wait a few hours more to go to BB and pick it up?

        Grow some patience! 

    • Buy the game via retail, same tons of money, and then later just download the game again via Battle.net when needed.

    • I’m on satellite, so heh, not for me. That, and I’m getting the CE.
      I currently don’t have an optical drive that operates (they seem to die quicker and quicker these days), so I am glad I got to download the client, at least. It’s going to be a pain to patch I bet.

      I always prefer to buy physically, especially after dealing with CS with so many companies. It’s good to have physical copies of the disc, the cd key, and the receipt for some things. 

  2. As stupid as it sounds, buying the box is cheaper and you can register your key on bnet to gain all the benefits of the digital version. So unless you really want to avoid queuing I see no point.

    • Buying the box may be cheaper in the states, but not out here in Australia.  $30 more expensive here.  Not to mention the wait, midnight launch, cannot pre-load points.

      • That is not true, the digital copy cost $79.95 where you can purchase the physical copy for $59

    • I was thinking this too, that even if you buy the physical version you will be able to re-download on B-net if needed. Unless you really don’t want a disc and box lying around, seems like you get more buying physical no matter what (and you can still play the same day it comes out)
      CE for me!

  3. Boxed of course. It’s gonna be midnight countdown probably anyway so I’ll be an hour late at most…

    And I like boxes and cheap things. Guess I’m one of few sane people left here?

  4. Who said tits on a snake are useless?

    On the digital vs physical argument, i would gladly buy the digital copy if it were to cost less than the physical one. Digital copy price = physical copy price it’s bullshit, no way that i pay the same price to have less.

  5. What about the hundreds of thousands who are getting the digital one for three because they signed the wow annual pass? Thats quite the advantage  

  6. Easy decision for me.. 1 Collector Edition, 1 Physical Copy, 2 digital copies. I will be playing two accounts, and I’ll be using the collector and one of the digital. My brother will have the other digital for earlier access, and his wife will be getting the physical. She can wait.

    And at the end I’ll have the box for both collector and normal edition.. 

  7. Digital…I want to play at 12:01am and I refuse to go to a midnight release at Best Buy or a video game store and be that close to unwashed stinkbag plebians. I’m too old for that shit.

  8. D3CE and then I register it on battle.net and then I have a digital download too in case I need to update it and say lose or break a disc which I have yet to ever do but I guess it could happen.       Win/win in my book.     I will be playing it on release day thanks to amazon.com.   

  9. If you’re in the UK I recommend ShopTo. They almost always get things out early. They got StarCraft II out in plenty of time, 2 days before launch. Same for Cataclysm.

    Midnight launch in the US (PST) means 8am launch in the UK (BST). Worst case scenario you end up waiting 2-6 hours for the postie to turn up. 

  10. “Digital…I want to play at 12:01am and I refuse to go to a midnight release at Best Buy or a video game store and be that close to unwashed stinkbag plebians. I’m too old for that ****.”


    So what..do they send you a key code at midnight?

  11. One of my fondest video game memories was sitting in waffle house fingering the Diablo box, reading and rereading the manual while my waffles got cold.  This time I’m skipping the drive to and from the store and not ordering any waffles that I won’t eat anyway because I’ve ordered the game online.  Still, the delicious anticipation everytime the mailman comes is almost as good as the unboxing itself. 

  12. Collector’s Edition. I’m the kind of perfectionist dork who won’t be able to sleep at night without pointless cosmetic embellishments like wings.

    • Same here, CE all day long. Atm preordered, but awaiting for info about midnight launch in local so I could get it faster than around 2pm from courier ;x

  13. Always been a fan of physical media, nevermind I generally always buy Blizzard CE’s. I do think it would be cool to get to a point where even the purchase/pre-order of a physical copy from a place like Gamestop, etc would allow a digital pre-load prior to obtaining the boxed copy.

  14. In the end it really does not matter if you buy a digital version or a box. If you buy the box version you could still download the game and just enter the key to bind it to your b-net account. 
    It really is the price which makes a difference at all. And if the box is cheaper and there is nor real other difference i go for the box…
    The real question is, if the servers could handle the massive traffic which wil be caused by millions of diablo fans like us. Its like the biggest DoS Attack ever 😛
     I have participate in some game releases in the past which required an online only kind of restriction. Like Civ5 and BF3 to mention just two examples and both failed. I dont see what Blizzard could do better. There are so much people who like to play this game, that it must fail at day one.

  15. Despite the regional digital pricing we are suffering downunder it’s still cheaper than retailers in NZ 🙁

    Local Options:

    1. Digital ~85 USD
    2. Local online retailer ~90 USD
    3. Local EB ~109 USD

    Other options involve trying to get a csr to change our B.Net country to America. Or buying from an overseas retailer.

    Personally any kind of delivery is out for me. Rural delivery to my place is terrible, I wouldn’t have it till 2-3 days after release at best. Digital is way more convienient and cheaper than heading to a local store.

    • NZ & Rural here too, i had the CE preordered at JBhifi ages ago.
      The countdown on this website shows that the release date is a Tuesday at 1PM, so we can hopefully get the game the same day and just have it ready to play.

      Was going to get a digital copy, but fuck Blizzard making us pay $80Aus instead of $60US.
      It’s $68 NZ at nzgameshop.com but takes 1 – 1.5 weeks to arrive.
      Probably the cheapest place ive seen it anywhere so far. 

  16. Digital – even though retail is cheaper in Australia at the moment. I’m way to used to Steam at this point, even threw away my SC2 box sometime back.

  17. Somewhere a blue said: Installing the digital download and installing from DVD will be about the same speed. So I’m going for the digital copy anyway, also CE obviously. Besides the store is 10min from my home and I can live with that.

  18. CE, and im gonna dye the CRAP out of every single item I equip ;] Diablo doesnt come out every year, so I knew I was gonna buy a CE as soon as they announced it back in 2008. The price of Retail Diablo in Poland is actually cheaper then Americans get it for, 60 USD is around 186z? and we get it for 159,90 so around 51 bucks, and the CE is around 112 bucks, finally a change from the usual, since normaly games are more expensive than when buying with Euros/GBP/USD.

  19. “The more practical reason for a digital purchase is the fragility of a DVD”
    I don’t really get this since a key is all you need for the game and you can always download it if you ever need it again.  I think it is more about the collectible nature of it and the obvious ability to avoid a 7 GB download when you really want to play the game again and don’t have it installed.

    I’ll be getting the CE because I am more of the collector type – I still have the original boxes from some of my old time favorite games so I don’t want D3 to be any different.  Although I won’t be able to participate in the midnight launch I won’t be upset as the last thing I’ll need is something to throw off my schedule.  Being a student, I don’t have the luxury of days off so I’ll be right back to work the following day.

  20. I preordered CE long time ago and ill not give up on it. I would love to play the game second servers will be on but I can wait this 10-12h untill courier deliver it in the morning of 15th.
    The best solution to this problem would be selling game on 14th of May in stores and lunch servers midnight, so everyone can have their “midnight maddness” and play till they fall asleep on keyboard.
    I guess thats not gonna happen since every gaming company is moving to digital sales to cut of money that goes to make box, manulas, dvd’s and distibute the game all around the world. So they force digital distibution to earn a little more, thats why they need some bonuses like “you can play it second we go live”.

  21. Retail/physical copy for me.
    I want a pretty box/manual and it saves time reinstalling on other machines if needed.

  22. Physical. I want the CE goodies for myself. XD

    I can wait ’til morning. Besides, I don’t want to cut my life short because of something as simple as messing up a sleeping pattern. Plus, sleep feels nice.

    I’ll just wake up around 9:30 and just ride my bike to the video game store. Little do people know I’ll be having one of my best days ever. 😀

  23. Well I will go to midnight release and buy the box, I think that’s the best solution – you get the box and you can play pretty much as fast as digital version users.

  24. Collector’s Edition for me. While I can definitely appreciate the main benefit of the download version – being able to get going at midnight on launch night – I can’t pass up all the goodies that come with the CE, particularly the making-of Blu-ray Disc and the art book.

  25. I live in US EST time. Does the server really go up at 00:00 Pacific time ?? If it’s the case, i’d have to wait until like 3-4 am for the sever to be up ? Is that right?

    • There is a countdown on this website at the top, work it out from there. It works out to 1PM NZ time (we are +12)

      • If I refer to the countdown, it’s gonna be 00Hours and 00Mins in about 20 minutes. It’s 18:40 here (so 19:00 in 20 mins.) Does it mean that it will be possible for me to play at 19:00 on May 14 ???

  26. Most of the stuff you said in your pointless article is irrelevant. You can’t attach multiple licenses to a Battle.net account, and you can download online even if you purchased a physical copy, so breaking the discs is a non-issue.

    • except you paid for discs that are now useless. And if you’re going to just download because of broken discs,  what was the point in having them in the first place ?  🙄

  27. For me, I have never been a fan of digital downloads.

    I have been playing video games since I was a little boy and I was able to save the game cartriges of my SNES, including the box and manuals they came with. Ever since, I keep and collect all the games from all the different consoles I ever played.

    Like how I fondly reminisce of the good old days when I look at my SNES games, I will also take the trip down memory lane when I look at my D3 collectors box far in the future. It is not just about playing the pixelated games. The whole experience of gaming is about those tangible items too.

    It is like how experiencing a wonderful event in your life is one thing, but having a photograph of it too takes the cake.

  28. I got the digital already downloaded and the CE coming in the mail.  When it gets here, I’m hoping to give my bro the digital key.

  29. This may sound kinda silly, but despite the fact that i have the CE on order, I bought the digital version as well to make sure I can play immediately with my friends. See, the thing is, my order was done online through EB games, and it takes 1-3 business days for it to get to me. This is with express shipping.

    I just can’t bare to wait any longer than I have already. Normally I do pre-orders in person, but I pre-ordered this literally AS SOON as it was announced. To make sure I got one.

    It’s a bit of a waste of money for being impatient, I know..but…I can’t help it. Its fukn Diablo 3. There is no way I am NOT playing this as soon as its playable.

    • Not a waste at all… As Bashiok had said if you upgraded your digital copy with a CE, you can simply call CS afterward and they will give you a key of the digital edition which then you can gift or sell to someone 😀

  30. I’m in the position, as are many I’m sure, to not have to even worry about this.  Both my wife and I have a WoW annual pass, so we already own a standard copy.  I also preordered the CE, so I get the best of both worlds with zero downside.  

    I think the blue post that suggested buying online and petitioning a GM for a fresh CD key after upgrading to the CE seems like a solid plan, I just wonder whether they’ll ACTUALLY do it when tons of people are asking for CD keys.  It’s what I would do if I didn’t want to go pick up my CE on launch night (or if it hadn’t arrived in the mail yet.)  

    I really think that if you upgrade a standard license of any Blizzard game to a CE license, you should automatically be granted Blizz bucks, a CD key, or SOMETHING… if I spent $120 on a SCII CE right now, I don’t get ANYTHING back out of the standard license I already bought for $60.  Fortunately, it works out this time, but come MoP, I’d love to have a CE and I would really rather play first, then pick it up later.  Maybe I’ll hear how this “petition for another CD key” thing works out with D3 and assess at that point.

    • Yes, if Blizz will guarantee money back or new key if I upgrade standard for CE, I will do it. I will buy digital for immediate play and wait for CE.

  31. why are people saying the boxed version is cheaper in the states ?
    the standard version is $60 from blizzard and 60 from amazon

    download from blizzard, the choice is easy 

    • Does blizzard charge tax on that digital copy? That may be one reason why, if so. For my case, I traded in my used console games so I paid $0 out of pocket for D3, if one can think of it that way?? 🙂

  32. “The more practical reason for a digital purchase is the fragility of a DVD. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of fans report buying multiple copies of D2 and D2X due to lost/broken/scratched/etc CDs.”

    If you register your CD key on battle.net you can download them again for free if you happen to misplace, scratch or go on a drunken rampage with your CD/DVD 🙂

    I like boxed copies. I want that stupid manual that is probably out-dated come release and the cool box to satisfyingly open 🙂 Plus my internet is slow 🙁 Not everyone can afford $50 /mo. broadband. I did, however, do the pre-d3-download because I wasn’t on time constraints. I’d hate having to wait an entire day to d/l a game I could already be installing via DVD. To each their own I suppose.

  33. I alredy got the digital copy, since in Brazil the boxes will only be avaiable on April 7th.
    But im thinking about getting the CE too. Will probably buy one if its under US$100,00 here. And I might want someone to buy my digital key, blue said that who own digital copy and add CEs key after will get the digital key back to give someone. : )

  34. I havent purchased any physical media in years. In all honestly I never will again. Just no point. Big deal you get a cardboard box that collects dust somewhere, and a disk that scratches and can be easily lost. Plus this way I give Kotick, er Blizzard my money directly.

    • This is true – if you pick it up at your local brick and mortar, they are getting at least some cut of the sale.  If you purchase from Blizzard directly, ALL of the money goes to support them and them only.  

      The only thing that bugs me is that the game is $60 if you buy pressed DVDs in a fancy cardboard box with a pretty paper sleeve, and a printed manual and key – but it’s also $60 if you buy it online with data distributed in part by a P2P network.  They don’t exactly provide any incentive (such as a $5-10 discount) for purchasing a digital copy, short of the convenience factor (unless you’re on Pacific time, then a midnight release means you’re late if you go to the store.)

  35. I’m not sure if anyone else  mentioned this, but you can put your CD key with a physical copy into your battle.net account and then ALSO have access to it digitally.  Least, I did that with Warcraft 3, Burning Crusade, Diablo 2, and the D2 expansion.  I am fairly sure I’ll have the same option with the Diablo 3 CE I’m picking up from Gamespot, as well.

  36. I’d like to reiterate BleedTheFreak’s point:

    With regards to the argument about lost discs in the news item, I would like to emphasize that Blizzard allows you to register even store-bought games on battle.net, which then (at least in the case of SCII/WOW/DII/SC:BW) allows you to redownload them even should you lose your discs. It also neatly stores your cd-key for future installs and, as an added bonus, secures all this information with an authenticator to prevent it from being stolen.

    So while start time is certainly a factor, lost discs (unless you count losing your disc on the way back from the store) should not be. 

  37. Digital all the way.  I have too much junk taking up space as it is.  The more things turn to virtual commodification the better, in my book.

  38. Your point of “hearing about people buying multiple copies of d2/d2x” is moot because back then, there was no legitimate way of downloading the game. You had to rely on people ripping the CD image, and even then, had to have the know-how how to install from that.
    About playing it as soon as possible… do servers go online at 12am local time? If it’s anything like WoW, It’ll be 12am PST which means 3am EST. So no point rushing because I can’t play till 3 anyways.

  39. I’m getting the Collector’s Edition so Physical copy for me  🙂

    Then again, I do have it pre-dl’d so it will be faster to install.

  40. Can’t you download another copy even if you smash your DVD???
    Last time I installed LOD I did it from battle.net with my still-functional CD key…

  41. Oh also I am getting a physical Copy… Collector’s edition… Flux, you should make a poll about it…
    1) Have ordered physical copy
    2) Will get Physical Copy
    3)Have ordered digital copy
    4)Will get Digital copy

  42. Certainly both.
    A digital regular one and a CE for – well, you know what – having it…

  43. heres the calculations in Bulgaria:
    1. Physical Copy = ~71.75$
    2. Digital from Blizz = 59.99$

  44. I can’t get over the fact that they left me to wait for the game for four years. No I am not getting CE and this is my way of punishing them.

    Now about the discussion of digital vs material, digital – 60 euro, material 40 euro, blizzard wtf?

    Does anybdy think that the digital version will get any cheaper? 

  45. I’m probably buying the DVD.  But only because I have a $50 walmart gift card sitting on my desk since christmas, and since I don’t shop at walmart, I’ve been saving it for this.  Hey, i guess I just got diablo 3 for free WITHOUT buying the wow annual pass.  We call this a win/win/win situation.

  46. The article is kind of strange. Buying a second copy because of a broken DVD will no longer happen. Once the key is registered in your BN account, you will always be able to download the game. As it now is the case if you registered your D2 key in your BN account. So really, the physical support is just that: an additionnal physical support so that you do not have to download the full client. Saying that people may prefer a digital copy because it cannot get lost is simply wrong: buying the physical copy, you also get all the advantages of the digital one.

  47. It is my dream to go to the store and purchase Diablo 3 so that is what I will be doing.

  48. I’m getting the CE for the extra goodies. It’s also the first time ever that I will be getting a CE.
    Over the last couple of years I’ve come to purchase games digitally whenever I have the choice. I prefer it that way because no money is wasted on the B&M store and those same stores here never have the kind of sales Steam or GOG have.
    I think I might make an exception for Origin only games, because they’re trying to force my hand by not publishing on Steam as well.

  49. I have the wow 12 months plan with a free digital copy, i pre-ordered the CE and maybe will get another digital copy for my girlfriend 😉 crazy fuckin world. it is not possible to switch the digital copy to another account so I can have the CE on mine. I got to get another one. 

  50. Here’s the calculation in Indonesia:
    Box: 700,000 IDR = 77$ USD
    Digital: 545,454 IDR = 60$ USD
    lolwut? Digital is by far 28.3% cheaper in my country. I like the box one better, but this time I just go with digital.

  51. I see no reason to pay 59.99 for a digital copy, when I can pay 59.99 for a physical copy.
    Seriously,  make the digital copy cheaper and ill have a reason to skip the physical one.

    In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get the physical one for CHEAPER than the digital one directly from blizzard.

  52. Digital unless it’s CE. Preordered CE when they announced it last year and hope to get it delivered to me a couple of days before the release date so I can slay monsters from day one (hour one even! (minute one even!!!)).

  53. Buying the box gets you both. After registering your copy on Battle.net you can then download the digital copy.

  54. Well I believe I will get the physical copy, as I can get it for about 10$ less than the digital version. Plus, you get a manual to read on the john. 

  55. digital for sure, unless getting the collectors edition.

    The DVD will be outdated in 2 weeks, the box just takes up space, you need a highspeed internet connection to play anyways and an 8 gig download takes less than a half hour on a good connection these days.

    “but what if I cannot re-download it, so the DVD saves my butt” – your DVD reinstall will already be out of date, and the servers will not let you play anyways for that reason.

    The DVD copy is a novelty only, this is the new reality. 

  56. Digital via WOW annual pass so I can play At 12:01 considering you can already download game installer.

    Collector’s after so I can have that sweet Diablo head >> MUST have!!

  57. Ill probably buy a hardcopy from amazon.uk.  Cheaper than digital in other european countries and only 2 days delay. Dont really understand the pricing policy. selling retails costs extra money for production and distribution, but they wont make the digitals any cheaper. Buying a game in europe costs 30% more, which is partially undestandble since there is a much higher VAT in europe, but amazon.uk can offer it for 32pounds (=40 euro = 52$) while the UK also has a 20% VAT rate just like other northern european countries. I wont be ripped off, ill buy cheapest and ill have the disc if i am paying for it anyway, too bad its gonna cost me 2 days of playing.   

  58. Digital, to be able to play straightaway and the CE for the added value. I am only not sure if i can add the extras that come with the CE to my account which has the digital version allready tied to it.


  59. My concern is that the Battle.Net download servers are going to be OVERRUN with people trying to download Diablo 3 whenever it gets released.(Will that be at midnight?)  I would hate to be sitting there watching it download slowly at 1AM, 2AM, and so on when I could’ve just gone and picked it up at the store at Midnight. What do you guys think?  Anyone know the time it will be available for download?  I think, like everyone, I wanna maximize the time I have with the game that night!  

  60. Digital copy because I’m lazy to go buy it at retail and there’s no reason to get the hard copy since the DVD is gonna be outdated really quickly with all the patches. If you want something to look at the CE is really the only reason to get a physcial copy.

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