Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch will be available at certain retailers on May 23 — one day before the game's public release date of May 24, as a NeoGAF user noticed. Amazon, Best Buy and GameStop all have the launch date listed as May 23 now.
You may be wondering why that matters, since Overwatch is an online-only game and the servers won't go live until May 24. Here's the significance: It puts retail pre-order customers in the same position as those who pre-order digital copies.
Anyone who pre-purchases Overwatch digitally from Battle.net, the PlayStation Store or the Xbox Games Store will be able to download and install the game ahead of time. Preloading the game allows people to start playing as soon as Blizzard flips the switch on the Overwatch servers. If this were to become the norm for retail versions of online-only games, it would be a welcome trend indeed.
As for when exactly Overwatch's servers will go live, it's unclear. The PlayStation Store listing says the game will be playable at "mid-day Pacific Time" on May 24, while the Xbox Games Store product page gives a time of 12:01 a.m. ET on that date. We've reached out to Blizzard to ask about that, and to ask for more details about the retail changes, and we'll update this article with any information we receive. For more on Overwatch, check out our video below about characters that are easy to learn.
Update: A GameStop representative provided the following statement to Polygon about moving up the Overwatch release date: "Providing our customers access to Overwatch on May 23 is not only great for our customers but the industry as a whole," said Eric Bright, the retailer's senior director of merchandising. "We have worked closely with Blizzard to make sure Overwatch fans, whether they pre-ordered physical or digital versions of the game, can all start playing at the same time. We expect this to be first of many similar opportunities to come."