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EA ups the ante in its retail game

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Madden 12 - EA Sports

Plenty of publishers have done a lot of saber rattling when it comes to selling direct to consumers, but that's generally as far as it goes. So when EA began touting its Origin service a few weeks ago, no one was quite sure how serious the company planned to compete.

These days, though, it's looking like EA intends to put its full efforts into the fight.

The publisher unveiled plans Tuesday to open its first brick and mortar retail store, which will focus on its EA Sports games.

The first location is already under construction at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. Two other locations are planned this year.

At the store, sports -- and game -- fans will be able to buy copies of Madden, FIFA and more, along with EA Sports-branded jerseys and squeeze bottles. Demo booths will also be part of the stores. (Sadly, there's no word about a Peter Moore tattoo booth.)

On the digital front, Origin actually seems to be getting some unwitting help from its top competitor.

Crysis 2, EA's hit first-person shooter, has been pulled from Valve's Steam distribution service. But to hear EA tell it, they'd be happy if that tag went away.

"It's unfortunate that Steam has removed Crysis 2 from their service. This was not an EA decision or the result of any action by EA," the company said in a statement. "Steam has imposed a set of business terms for developers hoping to sell content on that service - many of which are not imposed by other online game services. Unfortunately, Crytek has an agreement with another download service which violates the new rules from Steam and resulted in its expulsion of Crysis 2 from Steam."

The game is still available for download from other services, including Direct2Drive and Amazon, but that likely won't be the case with some of the company's upcoming big titles. EA has already announced that the only place to get a digital copy of its upcoming online game Star Wars: The Old Republic would be Origin -- and just this week released Alice: Madness Returns exclusively on the service.

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