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Digital downloads and midnight releases

Anne Stickney

In July, Blizzard officially opened up preorders for Mists of Pandaria. But they went a different route than they'd ever taken before. Not only could players pick up a digital download version of Mists of Pandaria, they could pick up a Digital Deluxe edition that contained all the in game items and rewards of the Collector's Edition as well. This meant that they'd get the mount, pet, and rewards offered for other Blizzard titles as well, all at a price slightly less than the physical Collector's Edition.

Of course by ordering the Digital Deluxe edition, players would miss out on the physical goodies. No art book, no mouse pad, no behind-the-scenes DVD or Collector's Edition Soundtrack. But there's the luxury of not having to leave one's house in the middle of the night and head to a store to consider as well. For many players, that luxury is one that makes the Digital Deluxe edition the top pick.

And for game stores, that means the likelihood of a midnight release is not as high as you'd think.

Every previous expansion for World of Warcraft needed to be physically purchased in order to play, which meant that stores were flooded with preorders, and absolutely set up midnight release events as a result. But with the convenience of digital download, I find myself wondering exactly how store preorders were affected. It's good news for Blizzard if the digital editions of the game are selling well, but that means that there are plenty of people no longer picking up a physical copy.

So what does this mean for midnight releases? If there aren't enough preorders to warrant paying staff to stick around until midnight, it means they aren't going to be available. A quick call to a local game store confirmed my pondering, as it was mentioned that midnight release events are no longer required by corporate, likely because the preorder numbers simply weren't there. They had been switched to digital versions direct from Blizzard instead. And in my town, that makes perfect sense. It's a smallish town, there's not a ton of people to preorder in the first place.

Mathematically speaking it doesn't really matter, of course -- Blizzard is still making a sale, and there are still plenty of people playing this game. But as someone who has attended every local midnight release for every expansion, I get a little sad when I think about it. There's something fun about midnight releases, an air of shared excitement. It's fun to meet the people who are as into playing the game as I am. It's like a mini BlizzCon on a local level, almost.

Yet there's still a part of me that quietly pondered ordering the Digital Deluxe edition. Just for a moment, and then I decided missing out on the art book and soundtrack wasn't for me. But if Blizzard had released a Digital Collector's Edition, one in which you could digitally download the game, then receive your physical items by mail ... I have to admit I may have gone that route instead.

Have you attended midnight releases for Warcraft games before? Are you planning on attending one this year? If you ordered a Digital Deluxe edition of the game, what prompted you to do so? Do you like having a physical box in your hands, or are you content to simply play the game itself? What do you think of midnight release events -- are they a treasured part of your gaming experience, or something that may very well shuffle off into the sunset?

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