Look, I get it, okay? Electronic Arts is huge and they want to keep track of their player-base, they want to ensure a certain sort of experience for all of their gamers. So Battlefield 3 (which I just received as part of the Humble Origin Bundle, found here) now has a “Battlelog” component. This is a website that lets you alter your loadouts, manage your friend list, etc. It’s like Call of Duty Elite except EA actually stuck with it. And they made it mandatory.
You can only launch the game through this site. There is no alternative, no recourse. That’s not so bad, I guess. I mean, there used to be MMOs that took you to their website before you could enter the game proper for whatever reason, and the experience wasn’t really affected by the process. ‘Course, those didn’t have a single-player campaign mode included, which is also accessed exclusively through the Battlelog portal. Again, not a huge deal. I have to be logged into Origin to play anyway, right? It’s not like they’re suddenly stacking an online requirement on top of all else. It was already effectively there.
But then I hit the “Campaign” button and, hey, look! There’s more! To play Battlefield 3 I have to download a plug-in for my browser. Not just a native Chrome extension, either, but a full-blown download-it-and-install-it-yourself plug-in. I was immediately uncomfortable. There’s no indication what this plug-in does or what purpose it serves other than potentially providing EA with additional information on how I use my computer (specifically, how I browse the web). Beyond even privacy, though, I have no idea how this will affect my future browsing and computing experiences. Am I going to start encountering new, targeted ads? Will my system run, on the whole, slower than it does now? How pervasive is this plug-in?
But, most of all, why the fuck do I need it? Any function it has can surely be reserved for when I’m on the website or in the game. Having the option of an always-with-you plug-in would be fine, but here it’s strictly mandatory. Maybe I’m a little late to the party on this one, but that’s absolutely absurd. I’ve since uninstalled Battlefield 3, having never actually played it. I don’t think I’ll be trying again.
Then again, EA isn’t known for making the best decisions with regard to its DRM policies. It trends toward invasive, self-serving, outmoded, and draconian. It likes to manipulate rather than facilitate, which we all had driven home with the SimCity DRM debacle. The only reason I’m still linking to the Humble Origin Bundle, all of these things considered, is that none of the money one pays toward that bundle goes to EA at all. It doesn’t even go to charities that could feasibly benefit the company. It’s an opportunity to get a diverse set of their games (quite a few of which also activate on Steam) without EA itself seeing a dime.
Not that I’m advocating a boycott, but I’d certainly like to see gamers send a solid message to one of the two biggest publishers in the United States.