Oh dear. Cunning gentlethings found a way to hack/mod the Battlefield 3 open beta's map - Operation Metro - to enable support for up to 128 shooting men. Officially, it only allows up to 32 shooting men, though the full release version may well raise the headcount. That's not what I'm actually oh dearing about, though. It's DICE/EA's response to this that is troubling. In an official statement on the forum - which now appears to have been pulled, but we have a screenshot of it as-was below - they claimed that playing on the hacked servers "can cause your account to become compromised, stats to be altered or other issues to arise which may lead to having your account to be banned by EA." In addition, horrifyingly, "if your account does get banned it means any other EA game you have on your account would also be unavailable."
So, let's get this straight. If you play on a modded Battlefield 3 server - which simply appear in the official Battlelog, rather than requiring you to actively explore the dark corners of the web - you could be banned from playing the game further and end up with a bunch of games you paid for in the past taken away from you. It's only a threat, not a promise, but even the threat seems a disproportionate response.
And let's also reiterate the nature of that mod - increasing the number of players in the game. It's not like they're replacing character models with ambulatory penises, screaming monstrous prejudice at people, cheating or swindling. They're just raising the playercount because they want to explore the possibilities of the game. Certainly, it's not what the beta's for, but it's not exactly corrupting BF3.
As well as the broader issues of customer service and penalising people who buy your games inherent here, it's also an uncomfortable gut-punch as to just how much the current mania for unlocks and ranks in online games is choking PC gaming as we know it. The precious, precious stats must be protected at all costs - no matter if modding and experimentation and ultimately loyal, paying fans are sacrificed in the process. BF3 isn't alone in this, not by a long shot, but it's a miserable trend.
I entirely understand that EA and DICE want to protect their beta, use it to test and promote the game in the way they want to test and promote it, but the emphasis should be on getting the servers and the loopholes that led to them closed down, not punishing the curious.