Well, I think you can pretty much stick a fork in "Battlefield 3" as far as Steam is concerned. For the past month or so, Electronic Arts and Valve have attracted some controversy over EA games suddenly disappearing from the Steam store. Now, it seems, "Battlefield 3" is receiving a pretty convincing pre-order incentive through EA's new digital distribution service, Origin. The game is still completely absent in regards to pre-order availability from Steam's virtual shelves.
There's two mildly differing concepts at work on the EA vs. Valve distribution situation. First, it seems readily apparent that Electronic Arts would want to have exclusivity in their PC game distribution, considering they are in the midst of pushing their own client. Steam is clearly a direct competitor, and releasing a massively popular franchise like "Battlefield" on a competitor is – well, it doesn't entirely make business sense. Conversely, EA has maintained throughout the strange game disappearances that, in fact, Valve is to blame for the removals.
The first instance in the ordeal occurred almost a month ago, when the EA-published "Crysis 2" suddenly disappeared from the Steam store. At that point, EA blamed Valve, but didn't go into much detail. Then, last week, "Dragon Age 2" – another EA game – disappeared from the Steam service, as well. This time, EA spoke out, saying that Valve had forced the game off the Steam store due to "restrictive" policies about the sale of downloadable-content. EA had shot across the Valve bow so to speak, and yet, Valve has remained completely silent throughout the entire debacle.
So, if you're a PC gamer, you have a couple of choices: purchase "Battlefield 3" via any number of online or brick-and-mortar retailers – including EA's own Origin – but it doesn't look like you're buying the game from Steam. Of course, I'm sure it's entirely coincidental that EA is now offering early access incentives to Origin pre-order customers. Other retailers will receive early access to downloadable-content, like the "Back to Karkand" pack.
If you head over to the Origin store right now and plunk down your pre-order dough – effectively eliminating any middle-man between you and EA – you'll receive early access to the "Battlefield 3" beta. That's a fairly difficult incentive to turn down if you're a PC-gaming fan of the franchise.
Personally, this feels like only the beginning in terms of PC exclusivity through publisher-owned distribution. How long until we see an Activision download client, with beta access to a "Call of Duty" title? Not long, I imagine.