EA has pulled no punches in its recent round of conflicts with Steam removing its games, using words like "restrictive," and not-too-subtly singling out digital distribution giant for being the only platform with those rules in place. Valve boss Gabe Newell has finally responded to the kerfuffle, and like a Facebook relationship, admits that the situation is "complicated."
"We have to show EA it's a smart decision to have EA games on Steam, and we're going to try to show them that," Newell said.
"Companies have to earn the right to install content on their customers' PCs on a regular basis. The same thing is true of Steam. We have to prove we are creating value on an ongoing basis, whether it's to EA or Ubisoft or whoever," Newell told Develop.
Citing "a whole set of complicated issues," Newell claimed that it's up to Valve to prove a beneficial relationship for EA. "We really want to show there's a lot of value having EA titles on Steam," he said. "We want EA's games on Steam and we have to show them that's a smart thing to do. I think at the end of the day we're going to prove to Electronic Arts they have happier customers, a higher quality service, and will make more money if they have their titles on Steam. It's our duty to demonstrate that to them. We don't have a natural right to publish their games."
Though Newell didn't specify the exact nature of the problem with EA, comments from EA regarding their various pulled games shed a little light on the situation. It seems that that Steam has adopted a new policy that requires all associated content to be available through Steam. Older games that sell DLC directly through the game interface are grandfathered in, but when EA brings out a new piece of DLC, it violates Steam's policy and the game is pulled. We saw this happen with both Crysis 2 and Dragon Age 2.
Since Steam takes a share of profits from all content sold, EA seems to be banking on the notion that keeping that cut will net greater profits than the sales that come through Steam. For their part, EA has even started preemptively avoiding the service, announcing recently that Battlefield 3 will not be available through Steam for the same reason. In a statement, the publisher said it is "happy to partner with any download service that does not restrict our ability to connect directly with consumers."