BioWare has confirmed on their forums that the PC version of Mass Effect 3 will require Origin.
1) Will Origin be a requirement to play all versions of Mass Effect 3? (Digital and/or from a retail brick and mortar store)
Yes, Origin is required for all PC editions of Mass Effect 3, physical or digital.
As a part of parent company Electronic Arts’ ongoing battle with Valve, Steam users will be out of luck.
4) Will ME3 be available on Steam?
During initial release Mass Effect 3 will be available on Origin and a number of other 3rd party digital retailers, but not on Steam at this time. Steam has adopted a set of restrictive terms of service which limit how developers interact with customers to deliver patches and other downloadable content. We are intent on providing Mass Effect to players with the best possible experience no matter where they purchase or play their game, and are happy to partner with any download service that does not restrict our ability to connect directly with our consumers.
Elsewhere in the Q+A, BioWare noted that they will require only a single authorization for solo play, that an Internet connection will not be necessary, and clarifications for data collection options for German and non-German users.
BioWare took special note to state that Orgin was not spyware and that they have permissions to review filenames in Program DataOrigin, which is a standard Windows permission. Gaming Bus reported on EA’s previous data collection policy, though that section has since been removed from EA’s Terms of Service.
Electronic Arts had also kept Battlefield 3 from going to Steam in the past due to disagreements with Valve’s policies revolving around updates.
Analysis: Back when Origin was announced, I stated that Origin would make it so “every other digital offering EA gives via the PC will be forced via Origin.” So far, I’m three for three (The Old Republic, Battlefield 3, and now this), and I expect the PopCap acquisition to bear fruit in this area as well.
This is much less about Steam, updates, and EA’s rights than it is about EA solidifying their online foundation. John Riccitiello is on record as stating that EA’s way to the future is through digital, and why not? Digital revenues are through the roof, players will pay the same price no matter how it comes through, and they retain control of their own world and can change the rules at any time without notice (i.e. expect that whole data collection issue to come back in the future). It’s all positives for EA, even if there’s no apparent positives for consumers. However, we’ve proven that we don’t matter until we actually start voting with our wallets.