The swanky collector's edition of Might and Magic Heroes VII promised, among a great many other things, a disc-based copy of the game. Ubisoft actually pulled a DVD case out of the jumbo-sized packaging during a collector's edition unboxing on Twitch, and the Ubisoft Store lists the collector's edition as being for the PC, while the standard edition is explicitly a "PC download." But North American gamers who ordered it did not actually receive a game on a disc; instead, they got a download code and an empty spot in the box where the case was presumably intended to go.
It appears, based on this rather detailed complaint on Imgur, that the advertising was changed at some point: Notice that the CE ad in those images shows a DVD game box, while the ad now on the Uplay store (and posted above) includes the same box but with the words "PC Download" emblazoned across the top.
A physical edition of the game is available, but was only released to European markets. Worse, according to this complaint thread, Ubisoft initially refused to issue refunds to customers who felt they'd been misled. Now, however, it has changed tack, and there will be a semi-sort-of happy ending in the form of refunds for those who want them, and a freebie for everyone else.
"Ubisoft regrets any confusion created by the marketing materials from our Might and Magic Heroes VII Collector’s Edition," the company said in a statement. "We understand that some customers in North America were not aware the Collector’s Edition delivered digital versions of the game and soundtrack. Ubisoft apologizes for any frustration and disappointment resulting from these items being in digital format vs. physical format. We are accepting complete refunds from any dissatisfied customers and will be providing a compensation plan of one complimentary digital PC game for consumers that have already purchased the Might and Magic Heroes VII Collector’s Edition from the Uplay shop in North America. Affected consumers will be able to pick one game of their choice from a selection including Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, The Crew, Toy Soldiers: War Chest Hall of Fame Edition and Zombi ."
It's the right thing to do, and bravo to Ubisoft for (eventually) doing it, but it's still an imperfect solution. Not every Might and Magic fan is going to get charged up over the prospect of playing Zombi or The Crew, for one thing, but more to the point, people who order big honkin' collectors editions like these are, you know, collectors—folks for whom the physical presence of a game, including the disc, is a meaningful part of owning it. Having that yoinked away at the last second because of a marketing mixup is bad enough, but it's especially infuriating when disc-based versions are being released to other territories.
Still, there's no getting around the fact that the practice of excluding discs from collector's boxes appears to be growing increasingly common. As Kotaku noted, the limited edition of Halo 5: Guardians shipped with only a download code, and closer to our PC home, the Kickstarter Collector's Edition of Divinity: Original Sin 2 won't include a disc either (unless I'm able to talk the studio into it). It's a cautionary tale for box fetishists: Check the fine print, or you may be in for a disappointment.