Blizzard's Rob Pardo has said that the time for a simultaneous digital and boxed released of all its online games is coming - and is an inevitability of market changes.
At the weekend during its annual BlizzCon event, the World of Warcraft creator said that its next expansion, Cataclysm, would be the first that users could buy and pre-load before release, ready to play as soon as servers are turned on at launch on December 7.
Traditionally Blizzard has given bricks-and-mortar stores a small head start and made a big fuss of in-store launch events.
"We've just been slowly changing it over time," said Pardo of the window between boxed and digital product. "Each time we've had a narrower window and I think it's just borne out of the industry changing and digital distribution becoming more and more popular."
"We're now at the point where it's time, especially for the World of Warcraft community because they're online by definition. They are already able to handle very large pieces of data so we felt that this is the best thing for the community, the opportunity to download and pre-order the game before we launch."
Although he said discussions about full games, including the forthcoming Diablo III, were ongoing, he admitted the "day is coming."
"I can't say for sure that this is the way for sure that we'll deliver now all future games, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was, either. Once we get a little closer to Diablo III we'll make a determination. But the day's coming. You can definitely see digital distribution all around the industry, it's becoming a bigger and bigger per cent of the market."
Number-crunching firm The NPD Group said recently that it will no longer detail specific sales figures of boxed product in the US as it is unable to give a fair representation of the retail landscape due in part to the growth of online subscription and digital sales
"It's always been tough to do metrics in any industry and especially once you start having a lot of digital distribution it's hard to capture the real metrics of the health of the industry," added Pardo. "Even if you look at something like NPD there's still an estimation involved there, they don't really have real-time data from every retail chain.
"By necessity they're guessing. But I think the industry is as healthy as ever," he said.
The full interview with Rob Pardo, where he also discusses why Blizzard can give advice but would never be able to dedicate resources to any of Activision's other projects, can be read here.