Halo Wars 2 is getting a physical release on Windows 10

Microsoft has announced that its upcoming sci-fi RTS, Halo Wars 2, will be seeing a physical release on Windows 10. This will be first of its Windows Store titles to be seeing a disc-based release, without forsaking any cross-platform features.

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2 (Image credit: 343 Industries)

Both the game's standard version and higher-value 'Ultimate Edition' will be offered in a physical form, with content spread across four installation discs. This version of the game still be locked to Windows 10 and will require a one-time use code upon installation. The game will also support Xbox Play Anywhere, entitling owners to a free digital copy for Xbox One, alongside cross-platform saves.

From the transition to a digital to physical release, little has ultimately changed in terms of value. Both editions of the game come with the same bonus content, only wrapped up in stylish new packaging. Ultimate Edition purchases will still include all additional bonus items, including the Season Pass and Halo Wars Definitive Edition.

Although physical releases are nothing new to PC games, Halo Wars 2 will be the first Windows 10 UWP game to be distributed over a disc. This sets some interesting precedents for the future, with UWP still being an up-and-coming platform for game distribution.

Will you be picking up Halo Wars 2 as a physical or digital release? Are you swayed by support for Xbox Play Anywhere? Make sure to let us know in the comments!

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Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • This is actually cool. This will give the best of both worlds, if you don't have the speed or have a data cap, having a physical helps a lot of people.
  • Will the Xbox One Disc version forgo the Xbox Play Anywhere? I'm guessing it will since you could just buy this version, and I'm also assuming that you can't sell it later, unless of course the buyer already has a digital version...
  • I don't think a PC DVD reader would be able I read an Xbox One disk
  • Especially since Xbox One games are Blu Ray discs with a proprietary Xbox format.
  • You could still get a code in the box. So are you saying the Xbox One will be able to read these PC discs? I think not...
  • Good, not everyone can download 50GB+ games.
  • Cool, I wonder if Halo Wars Definitive is a fifith disc, or one the first four as well (or if it's 2 more discs or something). I assume you have the option to just buy the packaging and still install digitally, too. PArt of me wouldn't mind trying this, but I think I'd rather play Civ V. If the Ultimate Edition goes on a decent sale sometime ($30-40), so I can get the full story, I'd probably pick it up for the heck of it.
  • It would have been neat if this came out in November/early December. So you could buy it, enter the code and play Halo Wars: Definitive Edition from 20th December. Guess the catch is HW2 wasn't finished then to put it on the discs :P
  • Like there's not going to be a massive day one patch anyway. They're probably blank disks. LOL. :p
  • Welthere goes that idea of killing physical discs. I guess they decided to add play anywhere feature on discs. Here's hoping its just for this game. Physical discs need to go. Last time I bought a Music CD was 2003, last time I bought DVD movie was 2007. I only bought one Blu-ray movie disc, in 2010. It's time for videogames to go all in on digital. It's the next step to streaming games, like OnLive. Movies and music are already ahead of the game and its working out just fine.
  • No physical disks need to stay, for soooo many reasons. There's not much reason to go digital. You pretty much pay more for less when you go digital. Why would anyone want to do that?
  • Because disks get damaged and lost. In the mobile world there is no way to use the old media. My phone can't play a CD, my tablet can't insert a disk, I literally cannot use physically media without spending more. But I don't think we should kill physical, I understand some prefer it, just as I prefer the convenience of digital.
  •   Discs get lost and damaged if you're a child or generally irresponsible. Blu-Ray discs are known for being tougher to damage than DVDs and CDs, too. In the time I've owned disc-based consoles, I've broken a single disc. By "broken," I mean my sister picked up my Xbox 360 while it was running and caused the disc to fall from the drive and into the console. It came out unscathed. The only people I can recall who successfully damaged discs were my little brother (who was about 6 at the time) and my brother-in-law (who moved a running console like a moron). What's funny is you say you have to spend more for physical media, while needing to remember you also have to spend more for the data used in consuming digital stuff. Downloading the movie, song, book, or whatever isn't free.
  • "you also have to spend more for the data used in consuming digital stuff​" Not true for everyone, as I've pointed out to you on many occasions, your situation isn't everyone situation. I pay a single rate for data, doesn't matter if I use 2MB or 200TB, I have no data cap, as do many people. "Discs get lost and damaged if you're a child or generally irresponsible​" What a completely ignorant thing to say. Accidents happen and console drive fail (which can damage a disc). There are numerous ways a dic can be damaged without being a "child or irresponsible"        
  • Yeah... you need to pay more 15€ to buy a USB DVD Reader...
  • L0n3N1nja, your phone is still a media holding device just like a disk.   What's the difference between a Blu-ray, CD, DVD, HDD, SSD, MiniSD, etc when it come to getting damaged or lost.... there is no difference... they can all get lost and damaged.   Of course, there are probably countless former Games for Windows Live users who probably would love to have all their physical disks for the digital content they bought.  (I'm not saying digital isn't the way the go but its not very clear cut either)
  • Not to mention the fact that if your drive fails (mine has and I'm out of warranty) digital is the only way to go. Luckily I embraced digital starting with the end of the 360 so all 97 games I have on my Xbox1 HDD are accessable to me. Sadly I do miss out on the BC games that I own physically.
  • I bought about 40 Blu-Ray discs in the past couple of years. I've bought 50+ CDs in the last 2 years. I've never bought a digital movie, and only purchased a single song digitally in my entire life. Digital needs to go.
  • I haven't bought a DVD in nearly a decade, never bought CDs, last PC game on disk was over 7 years ago. You want a bunch of antiques sitting around collecting dust go right ahead, I'll stick with digital. I don't even have a computer with a disk drive, don't own a CD player anymore, PS2 was my only DVD player and I've never owned a Blue Ray player.
  • I'm sorry you struggle with sarcasm. My point is that he calls for the death of physical because he doesn't use it. I don't keep antiques, so your ignorant assumption isn't exactly helpful here either. I buy CDs because they are much cheaper than digital music that I can't 100% guarantee I get to keep long-term. I bought the movies because they were substantially cheaper than digital (I paid under $50 for all $40 movies, which would have been probably $200 to RENT digitally). I don't keep my games, I get them physically becuase it's vastly cheaper than digital (I prefer to spend $20 on my game than $60). I don't own a computer without a disc drive. I don't own a CD player, and the things I have that can play DVDs aweren't purchased for that (PC, XB1, PS4). The same goes for Blu-Ray. But please, keep volunteering your use case I didn't ask for as a reply to my sarcastic comment to someone being a selfish fool. It makes for great conversation...in a suicide booth.
  • I mean, you can keep watching your digital content with poor streaming. I'll stick with true 4k and FLAC with my physical media. If physical media is so antiquated why is the market still so massive? The world doesn't revolve around you.
  • You don't necessarily need to stream digital movies and TV shows purchased through Microsoft. The Xbox One sure to rewrite you to dream, but the Xbox 360 and Wishes PCs let you download them for later viewing. I see there are advantages to staying with physical, and with going digital, but my vote is entirely for digital. The convenience of digital wins, plus I hated storing, moving, organizing, dusting, etc., an ever-growing collection of physical media. I don't have a high-end TV or sound system so convenience rates more highly than lossless compression for me.
  • I bought Dirt Rally on disc for PC. Just entered the code on steam and downloaded it though. Did the same with project cars too. I also only really buy Blu-ray discs that include the UV digital code. Just a shame Xbox One games don't work in the same way. Also that Microsoft Movies and TV doesn't have UV linked to it. I have bought a fair few Box Sets on Xbox Video when theyve been on sale.
  • If they worked that way, the used game market would be tanked and game prices would be even worse.
  • If i buy the physical xbox one copy, did i get a digital code for xbox play anywhere too ?
  • No, it's only for the digital license, which is account-bound. Discs do not work that way. The reason it will for PC is that the discs in that box will ONLY install the game, not actually run it. You will need to enter that single-use code coming in the PC version to actually play the game. That is where the Play Anywhere license kicks in. You pick multi-platform or better pricing and resale options when determining physical or digital. I prefer the pricing and resale.
  • How is it better pricing for physical? At launch at least (there only proving that matters to me as I'm a big fan of Halo Wars), they're going to be approximately the same price, aren't they? In any case, I've been playing Halo Wars Definitive Edition for three weeks already thanks to going digital, and no price advantage to the physical copy can beat that advantage for me.
  • Well, it depends on where you are, and if you do any real shopping for deals. In the US, Best Buy and Amazon make everything a clear win for physical. Amazon Prime members get 20% off all new games either pre-ordered or purchased within 2 weeks of release. At Best Buy, for $15/year, their GCU membership gives you 10% off ALL used game purchases and 20% off ALL new game purchases, anytime but Black Friday. So, if I wanted to get Halo Wars 2, it would be $65 through MS, after tax, or $52 from BB, also after tax. That's every new game purchase I make. On top of that, physical hits sales MUCH faster, and the sales are often better. Within 6 weeks of release, I had the option to buy Gears of War 4 from Best Buy for under $30--and get a free mug and coaster set to boot. Oh, and Best Buy does 2-week post-purchase price matching (longer for big-spending members, either 30 or 45 days, depending on levels of spending). Plenty of people get a game at launch for $48 (pre-tax price with GCU), and when it hits a sale 3 weeks later, they get a "price adjustment" that refunds them the difference (usually $10 or so). Oh, lastly, Best Buy will sometimes offer $10 rewards incentives for bigger pre-orders (none going now, but it previously went towards games like Halo 5, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Final Fantasy, and a bucnh else). Simply pre-ordering the $60 for $48 gets you $10 back that you can use on a later purchase. So, the holiday rush makes a lot of $60 games more like $38, thanks to those two programs. Lastly, there's the nice benefit of reselling stuff. I don't keep games long-term. Few have the depth to replay them. So, pay $52, play for 2-4 weeks, beat it, and Best Buy gives $44 in credit right after. Thanks to that as well, I went on a spree of buying stuff from the fall of 2014 to the winter of 2015, where I basically spent $120 and was able to pick up Sunset Overdrive, Shadow of Mordor, The Evil Within, Halo 5, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Dying Light, and World of Warcraft: Warloards of Draenor. I think four of those games had the $10 rewards sent to me as well, so I spent $120 and got $40 back to get 6 launcch games and basically try out the then-latest WoW expansion for free. That's how physical beats digital, retailers actually make an effort to get your business through better pricing programs.
  • Hopefully this will result in better prices for Windows Store games, at least if bought retail. After all those Steam Key stores exist mostly because of cheap retail leys from other regions. 70€ for a Windows Store game is too much if you don't have any use for Xbox Play Anywhere
  • Not a chance. The Xbox Store is a total joke on pricing, despite physical. It's why the only time I've deliberately made digital purchases are for digital-only games (Powerstar Golf) or when there was a major pricing error ($20 digital FH3 from Target shortly after launch). DLC never drops in price permanently, and digital sales are much later than physical, with higher prices to boot (nothing like seeing a game hit $40 on the Xbox Store when I beat it for less 6 months prior!).
  • But unlike Xbox One retail games those for PC will include a key = be a digital license. So you won't have to buy from Windows Store. You could even buy a cheap retail version for PC and use the key for your Xbox One
  • Not many games go this route, though. Yes, I can go get THIS GAME at a discount at Best Buy, but I think it's the only Windows Store game I can do that with. On top of that, again, this doesn't fix the Xbox Store at all. That it's a digital license won't change that for many, if any. Unless something crazy happened, where the retailers started getting everything for PC on disc and selling it for $20 less, it won't change anything. Launching one game on disc for the same price isn't affecting anything.
  • Because the Play Anywhere titles allow play on both Xbox One and PC (which is useful to me), the pricing is far from a joke on those titles. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison to look at physical or digital titles that're only for one platform. Also, I can get additional discounts by buying Xbox Live cards on sale (usually about another 7% off).
  • Being useful to you doesn't make the pricing less terrible for those who aren't you. I got FH3 for $20 digitally from Target (only reason I got it digitally, nice price error). I just got a new video card that can run it. I still am unlikely to care enough to play it on the PC--the card's for power consumption and size improvements over my old one. Play Anywhere works for some, but not me. I'd rather pay $40-50 for a game I'll play on console than $65 for it on bot platforms, one of which I won't touch. What's more, all things considered, the pricing is still a joke. The costs are driven way down for MS with digital, and they don't pass on those savings. I won't pay full price for a Play Anywhere title on that principle alone. I would probably rather get HW2 on PC than console, if I ever got it at all. That might make Play Anywhere tempting, but RTS plays terribly on a controller, so I'd always just play on PC. Even if I didn't have that thought on it, I would sooner buy it physically from BB and save 20% (if they have it), since it comes with the same code that I'd get going to the Xbox Store and paying more.
  • Normally the Physical PC release is kind of a celebration that the exclusivity worn off and the game is finally entering the free marked like it should; No more UWP and all of its restrictions and bugs, no more fixed price dictated by the Windows Store, no more Play Anywhere that forced PC gamers to cough up extra for ports they don't need. It worked out really well for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Quantum Break and Ori an the Blind Forest Definitive. The publishers of those re-releases really went the extra mile to make the physical PC boxes worth your while, almost like they are rewarding you for holding out until proper release. Guess that won't happen here since Microsoft is keeping every Halo firmly in its paws. Oh well.
  • What bugs are you taking about with UWP? I'm playing the UWP version of Halo Wars Definitive Edition on both Xbox One and on Windows 10, and it's been a great experience. And what restrictions are you concerned about? UWP seems less restricted than Steam.