The "Battle" Continues: EA's Battlefield 3 Will Not Be Available on Steam
If you're an active gamer, then you've likely heard about the issues between Electronic Arts and Valve in recent months. Despite producing mostly quality titles, EA doesn't exactly have the best reputation among gamers, especially with the PC variety, and a lot of that has to do with certain... capitalistic... decisions they've made over the course of 2011.
You see, EA is into making this little thing called money. And apparently, that bothers some people. Back in June, EA turned a few heads on the Internet when they did the unthinkable, announcing Day-0 DLC for their highly anticipated upcoming shooter, Battlefield 3. That's right, pre-order DLC! I've never heard of such a thing!
In case you couldn't see through the sarcasm, this obviously isn't that big a deal. Nearly every major release has pre-order and Day-1 DLC these days. It's not exactly the nicest moneymaking scheme, but it's a reality that people have to get used to, because it isn't going to go away. Companies want your $60 when you purchase a game, but they want to make sure you give them even more of your money for extra content. Whether this content should be on the game disc or not is a discussion for another day, but it's a reality, and it's not just limited to EA. Valve has especially been a culprit when it comes to this, with gamers threatening -- but eventually failing -- to boycott Left 4 Dead 2 a couple of weeks ago, essentially because Valve failed to deliver on promised content for the game's predecessor, calling the sequel glorified DLC.
The news would get "worse" and worse for gamers as the weeks went on. From Crysis 2 to Dragon Age, EA published titles were starting to disappear from Valve's Steam service, citing a restrictive Terms of Service which forced EA to do everything Valve's way when it came to delivering DLC -- so they took the highway. With Battlefield 3's October 25th release date getting closer and closer, the news is now pouring down, and gamers likely won't be too happy with any of it.
Early last week, DICE and EA reps revealed that the game would "probably" ship with an online pass, but were unclear on how this would be implemented. This means that when you buy the game, you need to enter a single-use code in order to access the game's online/mulitplayer capabilities. Of course, this hurts the aftermarket of the game, forcing players to purchase used copies of the game -- or, since we're being honest here, pirated versions of the game -- to pay a fee in order to play online. Dice's Patrick Bach on the matter:
"The whole idea is that we're paying for servers, and if you create a new account there is a big process on how that is being handled in the backend. We would rather have you buy a new game than a used game because buying a used game is only a cost to us; we don't get a single dime from a used game, but we still need to create server space and everything for you. We want people to at least pay us something to create this because we're paying for it. It was actually a loss for us to have new players. Hopefully people understand why. It's not to punish people. To us it's compensation."
Pardon me for being frank, but this actually seems like a pretty honest answer. The truth is that DICE and EA don't make a penny from someone who buys the game used or pirates it, and the developer definitely deserves to get paid, no matter what you may think of capitalism. It's one thing to screw over customers for no reason like Capcom does with un-eraseable save files or Ubisoft with its DRM policies, but if you're buying the game legitimately, then an online pass system shouldn't really be an issue.
Soon thereafter, EA announced that early access to the game's Beta would only be available to people who pre-order it through Origin, basically their version of Steam. Again, another move that makes sense. You need to promote your own products, right?
Well, if all of that wasn't enough -- and we left plenty out -- the hammer truly and finally dropped this weekend, when it was revealed that Battlefield 3 wouldn't be available at all on Steam at all come its release in late October.
I don't really need to get into the details and implications of a huge bomb as this. No Steam means a large amount of potentially angry gamers. Logically, this shouldn't affect anyone's ability to play the game. Origin doesn't cost anything extra, and the game is still the same price whether you buy it on Steam, Origin, or any bricks & mortar store. But gamers have grown accustom to purchasing their games through Steam. The service offers many advantages when it comes to downloading patches and DLC, all done through Valve's client.
The issue for EA here is that they want to do all of this through their own client. I.E., promote their content directly to the gamer, instead of having to go through Steam. Some people may call this spamming. In any case, it means that on Steam, Valve controls what you market to your users. EA doesn't want to accept that, nor should they. See, the problem isn't EA being unreasonable. In fact, all they're doing is cutting out the middleman. In 2011, retailers are no longer necessary for companies to sell their products. You don't need to go to Gamestop or Best Buy anymore to purchase games. So why should that middleman exist on the internet as well?
In the end, Steam wants to make money as much as EA does. And they're not really at fault for their practices either, they're entitled to have their own terms of service and gamers obviously like them. But they really are, in a way, restrictive to other publishers. Steam offers certain freedoms to gamers, but what you give to one party, you have to take away from another, and that's where EA establishing Origin comes in.
And really, how does it affect anything you do as a gamer? Early reviews for Origin as a service have been positive, and downloading it on one service or another shouldn't affect your enjoyment of Battlefield 3, which is looking better and better with every new preview or piece of footage. Hate EA all you want, but they're really one and the same with the company that everyone seems to blindly back. Why should they have to give part of their profits to a direct competitor, another publisher?
Think about it that way for a second, before making any rash decisions over whether you're going to support EA or not in the future.