I primarily use a Mac without a optical drive. I found a good offer for the physical retail copy and I would like to buy this copy. Will it allow me to download the game since I can't use the physical copy with my Mac?

Apologies if it seems daft, I don't often buy physical copies of games for Mac/PC.

  • I believe that the digital version would come with a CD key, which you could activate with your battle.net account. Not 100% on that as I haven't bought a physical Blizzard release recently.
    – two bugs
    Sep 16 '15 at 19:47
  • I wouldn't mind if the key could activate either digi or the dvd, but not both, but it kinda seems like people would abuse it too much. I'd effectively be getting 241 unless they were intrinsically linked to an account somehow?
    – null
    Sep 16 '15 at 19:49
  • Since this game isn't out yet, I have voted to close this as an unreleased game.
    – Frank
    Sep 16 '15 at 19:51
  • 3
    Typically, the DVD is just the game install - to play, you need to have a valid CD key for the associated with your account. In that case, buying the digital or the physical copy wouldn't matter.
    – two bugs
    Sep 16 '15 at 19:52
  • 1
    @Frank Despite the game being unreleased, the question shouldn't be closed as it pertains to any game where you can buy a physical copy vs a digital one. It should be reworded as such I admit. Sep 16 '15 at 19:53

When you buy a "physical" copy of a Blizzard game, you will still register it with your Battle.net account with a CD key and this will allow you to download the game via the Battle.net. In the instance of World of Warcraft, you're still going to be downloading updates that have occurred since the discs were made after installing from a physical copy anyway. A Battle.net account is required for all recent Blizzard games (basically everything except for their legacy games) although many of their legacy games can now be registered on Battle.net and downloaded.

With "physical" copies of SteamWorks games, installing and registering with Steam is required anyway in order to install the game. This will allow you to download the game through Steam.

In addition to SteamWorks games, there is also a list of non-SteamWorks titles which you can buy as physical copies and then activate the CD key via Steam. A full list of applicable games can be found here, on Steam's knowledgebase.

Other titles will not necessarily require Steam or similar, nor provide a way to add these purchases to these services.

  • thank you! :) I've purchased the retail copy, I would say that when it arrives I'll post back but chances are I'll be too busy ripping the zerg a new one, :D
    – null
    Sep 16 '15 at 21:44
  • 1
    Side note: Not all games on Steam are SteamWorks games.
    – Powerlord
    Sep 17 '15 at 13:51
  • Since the OP mentioned, specifically, cross-platform, you should talk about SteamPlay. There are many "Steamworks" (the DRM) games that are not cross-platform (either by lack of support or by license).
    – Yorik
    Sep 17 '15 at 18:31

It is becoming increasingly frequent for publishers to release new games without a "true" standalone retail release; in other words, the disc you're buying is little more than a Battle.net/Steam key, likely with an installer provided so you don't have to spend time downloading it from their digital distribution service (I believe some games include a disc that doesn't serve much of a purpose at all, providing a tiny downloader app for the game you could easily download yourself -- the real product you're buying lies in the key). However, the game is still tied to Battle.net/Steam; really, all you've done by going out and purchasing the retail copy is saved yourself some bandwidth and, depending on your connection speed and closest game retail outlet, time.

This practice is now occuring on all Blizzard/Battle.net games, if I am not mistaken, and it is very common for Steam games, whether or not they use SteamWorks. A few games on gog.com also follow this release practice. Even games which used to have a standalone retail release that did not have to be tied to a distribution service are now being repackaged to follow this practice.

I personally used to enjoy having a retail copy because it both allows you to have a way to install your game without an Internet connection, and it usually looks nice on a shelf. However, unfortunately it seems like it's not worth it to buy these newer retail "releases" since they are just a repackaged version of the digital distribution; even instruction manuals are released digitally now, usually exclusively. My personal opinions aside, I just wanted to make the point that physical and digital releases are the same for most games nowadays.

  • Thank you. Very comprehensive. If it wasn't sc2 I probably wouldn't have bothered with the physical copy. A keepsake if you will. :)
    – null
    Sep 17 '15 at 18:26
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    @SteveGreen I feel the same way about wanting a keepsake, but to me, it just doesn't seem worth it when you can't install the game without going through the service anyway. Game memorabilia is going to have to be merchandise from now on for me, if I want any at all. Sep 17 '15 at 18:29

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