By April 26, 2010

Starcraft II Pre-Order Beta Key Experience Comparison

GameStop and are both running a promotion wherein if you pre-order Starcraft II you will get a key to participate in the beta program.

Previously you had to luck out and:

  • get an invitation to the beta at random
  • get a one-time buddy invite from someone already in the beta
  • get a key through one of Blizzard’s ridiculous Facebook contests
  • buy a key on eBay for up to $200+

I wound up pre-ordering through both Amazon and GameStop — Amazon for me, and GameStop as a thank-you to a co-worker who loves the original Starcraft.

Here’s a comparison of my experience.


Ordering via Amazon was easy — I searched for “Starcraft 2,” clicked the 2-day pre-order link, and was done. Of course, I am already an Amazon customer, belong to Prime, and set up a one-click address and payment preference.

You can order online or at a GameStop store — which also seems pretty easy until you realize what the beta key delivery ramifications are for each ordering option.

Advantage: Amazon

Key Delivery

Amazon will deliver your key via email. In up to five business days. WTF Amazon? I had to wait four.

You’re going to need a fucking flowchart for GameStop, though:

  • If you order in the store, you walk in and hand them $5 as a deposit (this is what I did). The beta key is printed on your receipt, and you can start playing as soon as you get home and download the client.
  • If you order online and select in-store pickup, you have to wait 24 hours and then go to a store to get the beta key.
  • If you order online and select home delivery, your key will be emailed to you within one business day.

The most boggling option is #2: why would you need to go pick up the key in a store if you ordered online? They should just email you the key. Totally weird.

If GameStop can get a beta key and print it immediately on your receipt, then why do Amazon and the other GameStop options take a day or more?

Advantage: GameStop — but only if you put go to the store to place your pre-order.

Deposit Options

Amazon requires you to buy the game at the current retail price: $59.99. Amazon promises to charge you a lower price if the cost drops at launch.

GameStop requires you to pay the full price if you buy online.

In either case, you are committed to buying the game from either retailer once you activate the retail key.

However, if you pre-order from the GameStop retail store, you have the option of putting down as little as $5. The good news is that you can game the system — put down $5 in cash at GameStop and then buy from wherever you want at launch. If you buy from GameStop, great; your $5 will serve as credit towards your retail purchase.

However, if you decide to buy from Amazon or wherever else, GameStop can’t put you on the hook for the rest of your pre-order purchase. You’ll be out $5, but that’s a much cheaper way of getting into the beta from an eBayed key.

Advantage: GameStop — but only if you put go to the store to place your pre-order.


If you can’t wait for retail, or if you’re tired of waiting for a key from the lottery, going into a GameStop store and putting down $5 cash is your cheapest, fastest option for getting into the StarCraft II beta.

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