Steam, which recently removed (and reinstalled) a bevy of EA games from its site due to supposed contractual infringement, is not listed among Battlefield 3's digital retailers. EA's new digital service, Origin, is mentioned first, but so are other online distribution sites such as Direct2Drive and GamersGate. EA has said it will offer games on all download sites and that Origin is not an attempt to compete with Steam, which has over 30 million unique users.
EA Support describes its complicated back-door relationship with third-party download sites, mentioning one distributor in a specifically vague manner: "When a download service forbids publishers from contacting players with patches, new levels, items and other services - it disrupts our ability to provide the ongoing support players expect from us. At present, this is the case with only one download service. While EA offers its entire portfolio to this site, they have elected to not post many of our games. We hope to find a mutually agreeable solution to this issue soon."
We have contacted EA for more information on Battlefield 3's online availability.