StarCraft 2

How to buy StarCraft II the right way (for you)

Dan Stapleton at

StarCraft II download

Do you have your copy yet? If not, now is the time to make the important decision of how to get your hands on one. Here are the advantages and pitfalls of the three ways to get hold of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, after the jump.

1: Go to the store and buy it

There's definitely something to be said for the good old-fashioned way. You get to walk out of the store with your game in hand, and have the satisfaction of popping the disc in the drive for a quick install. If you show up to a midnight event to get your copy, not only will you get to hang out with your fellow StarCraft fanatics while you wait for the clock to strike 12, but you'll also get a 10-hour head start on anyone who downloaded the game, as digital copies won't be activated until 10AM on the 27th. As a bonus, you'll get all of the benefits of the digital copy—namely, being able to re-download the game from Battle.net even if you lose or destroy your original disc. Once you've entered your install key and attached it to your Battle.net account, you can download it as often as you like.

The downside? Sales tax, unless you live in one of the rare areas that doesn't have one. Also, there's the risk that if you don't reserve a copy or show up early, the store could sell out their stock before you elbow your way to the front of the line. And even this won't save you from having to download anything—you'll definitely have to log into Battle.net to activate your copy, and once that's done there's a very high probability of a forced-download patch before you can play. Plus, you have to leave your house.

2: Mail order

This method nets you all the benefits of the store-bought copy with none of the downsides—it's delivered to your home or office, and as long as you order from a retailer outside your own state there's no sales tax. And if you haven't already reserved your Collectors' Edition, which includes items you just can't download, this is probably the only shot you've got at getting hold of one.

However, there are catches: you'll probably have to pay for shipping, and your copy could be delayed or lost (or “lost”) in transit. Of course, if you haven't already ordered yours by now, you won't be playing on launch day if you choose to go this route.

3: Download

Right now you can go to StarCraftII.com, enter your credit card number and start pre-loading the locked game immediately. When the game launches, you'll be ready to go after a short install. No fuss, no muss, no sales tax, no shipping fees. Depending on your internet connection speed, this can be either the fastest or slowest method of getting hold of the game.

But just like all digital purchases, there are inherent drawbacks. Collectors get cranky when they don't get their shiny game boxes and color-printed manuals. You can't get the impressive (and pricey) Collectors' Edition package digitally. And there's always the chance of a catastrophic server meltdown or unlocking glitch that could prevent you from playing after the scheduled 10AM unlock time until Blizzard sorts out the problem. And, in what is almost certainly a concession to retailers, buyers customers won't be able to unlock their copies until 10 hours after their retail-buyer friends. Though if Tuesday is a school/work day for you, that might not be an issue.

How are you buying StarCraft II? (Warning: Pirates will be shot on sight.)