While the waters around Crysis 2's sudden disappearance from Steam last night remain somewhat muddy, EA Games prez Frank Gibeau has spilled a few heavily suggestive beans about the big brass balls the publisher has about its proprietary download service, Origin, and how it intends to keep any other download service's grubby mitts off a few of its choicest games.
Steam and Crysis 2 wasn't specifically addressed, but Gibeau told GamesIndustry.biz today that "you talk about platform exclusives like Halo or Uncharted... EA's going to have some of our own platform exclusives."
The game primarily referred to with regard to this was the upcoming The Old Republic, the Star Wars MMO that EA appears to be betting biiiiig on and will launch scloosively on Origin. "In the case of Star Wars we're trying to build an audience for Origin. And it's also an opportunity for us to better manage the downloads and how we bring people over from the beta and that sort of thing."
Does this lock out all the other digital stores? "I think long-term you'll see we believe in reach so we will have other digital retailers for our products because we want to reach as many audiences as possible. But at the same time if we can use exclusive content or other ideas to help grow our audience then we're going to do that because we're growing a platform."
Even longer-term, however, EA wants to become king of the internet: "For us it's really about, we're the worldwide leader in packaged goods publishing, we'd like to be the worldwide leader in digital publishing. And we think that EA has unique strengths there related to what we can do with our content, because we're a content creator as well as a retailer in this business. But in general it's not just a retail site, it's a community, it's a platform, it has traits much like you see with Steam or PSN or Xbox Live, but it's unique to EA."
HMM. This demonstrates incredible confidence in EA's own brands, but the key back foot they're on is that they don't have any other publishers they can bring on board. What would change everything in the war against Steam is if the other major publishers launched their own Origin-like services and restricted their download sales to those. I won't be at all surprised if that happens, as a few are quietly building the infrastructure - THQ have a store, Ubisoft have that uPlay thing, Blizzard obviously sell their own digital stuff direct... You could even see Call of Duty: Elite as heading vaguely in that direction.
While I'm quite sure most publishers are pretty happy about Steam sales figures, they're surely not overjoyed about giving a large piece of the revenue pie to Valve. Or, indeed, to retailers. EA staging this little rebellion alone looks kinda crazy - but what happens if all the big boys do similar?