Any gamer worth his or her carpal tunnel has been following the here-we-go-again saga behind Blizzard's big tease--cries of "Diablo 3! Diablo 3! Diablo 3!" filling basements nationwide, I'm sure. But I'm not going to elaborate on that, lest I further my own descent into madness by speculating about what could possibly await gamers come Blizzard's big June 28 announcement.
In sleuthing through forums and blogs for speculation as to what the new announcement might be, I stumbled across an interesting little tidbit. One user was suggesting that Blizzard isn't releasing a game at all, rather, is merely announcing the availability of the Diablo series on its digital download service.
Maybe I've been living under a rock (in Azeroth, but that's another story) the last few months, but I had no idea that Blizzard was dabbling in a download service for its many titles. A few mouse-clicks into the Blizzard Store uncovered the treasure. Indeed, you can purchase games from Blizzard akin to what you now do on Steam: digital, downloadable, and ready to be installed on any computer you can access.
Since I mentioned it, yes, Steam users have been doing this for quite some time now. But I'm happy to see that Blizzard has adopted Steam's greatest feature: being able to input a retail CD key to gain access to a downloadable version. This is the standard by which all future gaming download services should be measured. More than that, it's critical that retail and downloadable content continue this interaction in the future. I, for one, would much prefer a digital copy of any game. However, I can often find better deals for games from brick-and-mortar stores. It's encouraging to see some of the industry's heavyweights promoting interoperability between both crowds.
That said, it would be awesome if I could buy a game digitally and receive a no-cost version of the game's manuals and such by mail, similar to how one rents console games from GameFly. In this case, you first get the CD by itself. If you choose to buy the whole enchilada, the company ships you out the box, the manual, et cetera.
While it might not be a boon for the industry for everyone to fly their games under the Steam banner--competitiveness is good--I would hope that all developers pondering such a system would consider the approach of Valve and Blizzard. Or, for that matter, perhaps console developers could, you know, step it up. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to buy the "rights" to a game and gain perpetual access to it regardless of my current platform, be it PC after PC, an Xbox to an Xbox 2, or what-have-you.
Blizzard's store only supports games from the Starcraft and Warcraft series right now (the latter, only W3. Sorry, Lothar), although it hints that the Diablo II chunk of games will be available shortly.