I don't know where you learned math.
But 343 probably didn't account for downgraded/cancelled pre-orders.
I vote for a physical disc.I'm going to tell you right now that 343 has already carefully considered how much money that decision could cost them and they would not have made the decision if it was going to lose them money. You do not know 343i's financials or the industry better than the people making these decisions at Microsoft Studios.
I've posted the math before, and 343 will lose money if they do a digital download.
I don't have official numbers about how many LCE pre-orders there are, but it'd only take 6 downgraded pre-orders (with 1000 total LCE pre-orders) before 343 started losing money.
But downgrading an order isn't losing money when you're still selling a product.
You don't know the cost of the game therefore you cant ascertain if its a loss.
Does buying a physical copy of the collection ACTUALLY not have the disc in it? For real?
They have to make up costs of production, so downgrading your pre-order effectively takes away money from them.
And my math is geared toward showing that if 343 isn't including the discs to save money, they will end up not saving any, but basically spending money.
If they save money by not making discs, they "lose" money from downgraded pre-order (or do not make as much total profit).
If they spend the money on making discs, they will earn more money in the long run.
But if you want all of the math I did ,I could copy-paste the calculations, or write an equation.
And yes, if you buy the Legendary Collector's Edition, you get a steelbook case, but no physical game disc. Instead you get a digital download. And this is for every pre-order.