This weekend, when EA posted a list of digital retailers that would be carrying Battlefield 3, there was one very conspicuous absence: Valve’s Steam service. Normally, it’d be easy to chalk this up to simple oversight, especially given the fact that the page in question disappeared from EA’s site not long after it went up. In light of the recent bad blood between the two companies, though, there’s a good chance the move may have been intentional.
Last month, Crysis 2 and a few other high profile titles disappeared from the Steam store without any advance notice or official explanation. According to a statement later released by EA, the removal was Valve’s decision and was sparked by contract violations. Neither company has discussed the specifics of their disagreement, but an EA Support posting sheds considerable light on the matter:
“…when a download service forbids publishers from contacting players with patches, new levels, items and other services – it disrupts our ability to provide the ongoing support players expect from us. At present, this is the case with only one download service. While EA offers its entire portfolio to this site, they have elected to not post many of our games. We hope to find a mutually agreeable solution to this issue soon.”
It took a team of six Piki Geek writers four days to decipher those thickly veiled references, but we’re now fairly certain they’re talking about Steam. If that’s the case, this entire kerfuffle boils down to one relatively simple point of contention: Valve wants all patches to go through the Steamworks backend, and EA wants to push them to players from within the application, possibly to ensure compatibility with their own digital distribution service, Origin.
While EA has previously discussed a desire to make certain titles – most notably BioWare’s upcoming Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic – exclusives to Origin, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Battlefield 3. Many other online retailers, including GamersGate and Direct2Drive, were explicitly mentioned in the now-defunct posting. All outward appearances indicate that this quite explicitly stems from friction between EA and Valve. With over 30 million Steam subscribers and a AAA title like Battlefield 3 on the line, it’ll be interesting to see who, if anyone, blinks first.
Battlefield 3 is currently slated for an October 25th release on the PS3, Xbox 360 and not-Steam PCs.