EA VS Valve: Beneath the Surface

By now it is no secret that there is a bit a a division growing between EA and Valve. The heart of this division is Steam, Valve’s extremely successful digital distribution service. EA is claiming Valve’s terms of service is limiting them from being able to directly support their games, which is why Dragon Age II has been pulled from the service and, as things stand right now, Battlefield 3 will not be coming to it.

So just what does EA find so restrictive about Steam’s terms of service? According to EA, Steam requires all patches to be released through the Steam client as opposed to allowing for them to be distributed through a game specific client. EA states no other digital distribution service has this restriction, and because it is in place, the company cannot support its games on the service. To quote EA’s twitter accout, “BF3 will not be available on Steam as the service restricts our ability to directly support players.”

While some may argue Valve should just drop this requirement for EA since it is not required by others, I can understand why things would be a little different for Steam. With Steam, Valve has not just created a digital distribution channel; it has created a community of players who interact with each other and play multiplayer games online through its service. As such, the company would be keenly interested in making sure any patches were designed to work with the Steam specific client and were available to everyone at the same time. This does not mean that versions of the game sold elsewhere cannot have separate distribution channels; The Witcher 2, for example, has a patch for the Good Old Games version of the game as well as the Steam version. It just means that the Steam version needs to be patched through Steam, a good idea if only to make sure the game patches correctly.

I cannot help but wonder what the far reaching affects of this schism could be. When Valve decided they wanted to start distributing its games to the console market, it formed a partnership with EA, and ever since Orange Box, all console versions of Valve’s games have been distributed by the publishing juggernaut which is Electronic Arts. EA claims it wants to try and resolve the differences between the two companies so EA’s games can be distributed within Steam. Still, what if they cannot come to an agreement? Does this division cause problems when Valve goes to release the console version of Half Life 3? Could we see a complete split between the two companies, leaving Valve to look for new partner or abandon the consoles all together?

Also, does anyone else find the timing of this rather convenient? After all, EA had no issues distributing its games though Steam before the Origin store opened.

Eric Bouchard

I am the Senior Editor and current Admin for Everyday Gamers as well as the primary editor of the podcast. While I tend to gravitate towards shooters or RPGs, I will play any genre of game which catches my eye.

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