Yesterday, DICE and EA expanded their BF3 multiplayer alpha test by inviting a seemingly large size of previous BF players (DICE/EA likes to call them “veterans”). While giving explicit details about the alpha test is strictly forbidden, it’s been widely reported that if you were one of the few who did get an alpha code and invite, to participate in the test, which runs through August 1st, you are compelled to install Origin and link your EA account to the Origin store. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a publisher force a brand new download service and client on gamers just to get a highly desirable piece of content. Remember Steam and Half-Life 2?
While it’s been confirmed that BF3 will be available for purchase from other downloadable services like Direct2Drive and Impulse, EA and Steam have been at odds which may lead to BF3 not being available on Steam. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen EA titles disappearing from Steam, most notably Crysis 2, the delayed appearance of Alice: Madness Returns and now Dragon Age II. Both Crysis 2 and DA II were previously available and now have been pulled completely. EA’s official word is:
“Unfortunately, Steam has adopted a set of restrictive terms of service which limit how developers interact with customers to sell downloadable content. No other download service has adopted this practice. Consequently some of our games have been removed by Steam.”
Valve hasn’t said much, if anything on these accusations, and we’ve yet to hear similar complaints from other publishers or developers (aside from standard Steam complaints). What this almost sounds like, is Apple’s App Store guidelines for selling in-app content or subscription services. Is it that Valve has a similar policy in place? Could it be the DLC has to be made available through Steam, and not link through to a different marketplace which requires a separate checkout process? You could make an argument that streamlining the experience through a single storefront benefits both the customer and obviously the storefront — but that’s a debate for a different day.
For many gamers, this issue may not matter much. Steam isn’t exactly a perfect service and has its share of problems. However, no matter how you feel about it, Steam is the biggest PC game storefront on the market, and as of right now, there is no indication that the one of the highest profile PC games to come out in a while (BF3) will make an appearance on Steam.