Rushing Digital Downloads?

Posted by Daeity On Monday, December 12, 2011

Some of you wanted to know why I have been questioning if Digital Downloads will be available for Diablo 3 or not. So, I thought I would explain this further.

At Blizzcon, it was already announced that WOW Annual Pass members will receive a Digital Copy of the game, much like Cataclysm, and they can play it immediately upon the game's launch.

However, this has only been made official for WOW Annual Pass members. There hasn't been any word on a Digital Download for everyone else yet (AFAIK).

Digital Content

Activision Blizzard has heavily been pushing Digital Content delivery and it's critical to their revenue and growth (in less than 5 years, digital revenue could overtake their retail revenue). So, it makes perfect sense for D3 (and all future games) to be available for digital pre-download.

If Digital Downloads are available to all customers, it "should" be announced pretty quickly after the release date announcement (or even on the same day.) And, the Digital Pre-Download "should" be made available at least 1 month before the official release date. (Users will also need at least 1 month to prepare their B.Net/PayPal integration as well. The B.Net Balance will be available towards the end of December and if things go well with the GRB, the B.Net PayPal integration will be announced early-mid January along with the release date.)

On A Related Note..

The new RMAH/B.Net Balance system is currently holding back the announcements of other Digital Content and Paid Services as well. After the RMAH is established, Blizzard will roll out the Map Marketplace (Arcade) where players can also sell maps or mods for "nominal fees."

So, while Diablo 3 users are selling items on the Auction House and building up a B.Net Balance account, Starcraft 2 players will also be doing the same.

After all of this money starts flowing into player's B.Net Balance accounts, that's when Blizzards strikes. :)

Examples include, but are not limited to; new Blizzard Store items, new Paid Services, a lot of new virtual items, Blizzard-made SC2 maps and content, DLC, sale promotions (cheaper games that can only be bought from the Blizzard store), classic games finally available, and eventually a full integration of Activision's suite of games. These announcements are all being saved up for a later time.

Players will be able to make money playing D3 or SC2, and buy the latest COD game from the "Activision Blizzard Store" or whatever they re-brand the Store or as. Not only that, but all of Activision's paid services and DLC will also be made available. (They might even have transferable credits between the Activision and Blizzard "Stores", for another "nominal fee".)

Second Guessing Digital Downloads

The reason why I'm second guessing Digital Downloads for Diablo 3 is because it's a delicate and complicated bitch. Diablo 3 is their first "region free" game and they're being really quiet about it.. so there must be a reason.

I think that Blizzard wants Diablo 3 to seem like a normal region-locked game, so that players follow the same purchasing patterns.

You see.. when you buy Diablo 3, you can buy it anywhere in the world, and play it anywhere in the world. This means that Australians could purchase the Digital Copy in the US and save themselves $40 or more. Any other countries with ridiculous prices could also purchase the digital version from the cheapest country they can find. :)

There's a lot about this subject but there's no nice way of organizing it, so I'll just use bullet points for easier reading:

  • If Blizzard were to make this publicly known right now, players could just cancel their pre-orders and wait for the Digital Download instead. They would be screwing over their retailers.
  • Blizzard also doesn't want WOW Annual Pass members to know this, because they're already "purchasing Diablo 3" based on their own region's monthly fees. These players don't know they can get a much better deal waiting for the Digital Download. Blizzard wants to make sure as many players are locked in as possible before revealing just how cheap Diablo 3 will really be since you can purchase it from any region.
  • When (if) Blizzard does announce the full Digital Pre-Download, I suspect that they'll keep it very simple, low key, and leave out certain details. They'll just say "go into your account to see the price and order the game", but they won't remind you that it's a Region Free game, they won't share regional prices, and they'll ban discussions about how you could just create a new B.Net account in a different region to buy it.
  • This is also why they restrict your purchasing methods. Even with this whole PayPal & Blizzard partnership and systems integration, have you ever asked yourself why they still haven't allowed PayPal for Blizzard Store purchases?
  • I'm predicting that the new Balance will allow a "wide variety of debit and credit cards", but they still won't let you charge it up with PayPal (under certain conditions). Even though PayPal is fully integrated with their system already. If they prevent you from using a global-friendly payment system, they can charge you extra for "regional purchases".. even though they're not actually region locked games. To bypass this, they could make a deal with PayPal and use their own systems to restrict purchases regionally (even though this isn't the systems original intention), that way PayPal can be used, but heavily restricted.
  • I also suspect that you won't be able to purchase and give the gift to a friend. The digital version of Cataclysm (and other games) are transferable right now, meaning that they're not locked to a account. Diablo 3 will probably be different on launch day.
  • All of this is connected and Blizzard has thought well and hard on this. (I've only thought on it while typing this, so I can only imagine what a team of marketing professionals and seasoned businessmen have considered.)
I suspect that they're going to make it as hard for you as possible to take advantage of this region-free special bonus. There will be restrictions in place for an unrestricted game (yes, that's weird and unfair if true). And, I suspect they won't let people really know about the "region free" aspects of the game until sometime AFTER the launch date.

This is why I'm curious how they're going to handle this. If Digital Downloads are available before the launch, they have to cover up a lot of things.. which is why there's a small part of me questioning DD's even though it makes sense to release them just like Cataclysm. :)

This is why I'm thinking that the Digital Download might be delayed or rushed in the sense that people won't be given the same amount of time they were for the Cataclysm DD. The idea is to give gamers no time to think about it and to act quickly (while also not being told the whole truth.)

It's much like the limited time offer for the WOW Annual Pass. Gamers rushed out to purchase the package without considering the consequences, and now forums are filling up with posts of regret.

If you want to break it all down: I'd say that 80% of me believes that the Digital Pre-Download will be available at least 1 month before the release date but details will be kept very low key, and the region-free aspects will be left out (and moderated on the forums). The other 20% of me suspects that there might be something strange about this release like a condensed "act fast" time frame. It wouldn't make logical sense (for the customer) for the Digital Download to be made available after the launch, after all. I'm certain, though, that there will be some kind of restrictions in place preventing as many users as possible from taking advantage of better pricing.