In a blog post today, DICE announced that it has signed a timed exclusivity pact with Sony that will give PlayStation 3 players early access to Battlefield 3's expansions. Sony loyalists will be able to play "full-blown" expansion packs one week ahead of other platforms. This will begin with "Back to Karkand," which is being offered initially as bonus content for preorder customers but will be available for all players sometime after the game's launch.
This isn't the first time we've seen such arrangements and it's presumably Sony's attempt to compete with Microsoft's deal with Activision. Since last year, the Xbox 360 has received dibs for a month after the release of Call of Duty downloadable content. Unfortunately, PC gamers have been caught in the crossfire and we assume they'll have to wait the extra week too -- despite EA's repeated assurance that Battlefield 3's developmental focus is on PC.
Back to Karkand is a themed expansion pack that contains about as much content as Battlefield: Bad Company 2's Vietnam DLC. It includes four remastered Battlefield 2 maps: Strike at Karkand, Gulf of Oman and the Sharqi Peninsula. Again, you can get the first expansion free by preordering Battlefield 3 and this might bypass the exclusive shenanigans you'll face when purchasing the DLC separately later. That's purely speculation on our part, though.
In case you missed the news this week, EA announced that Battlefield 3 would finally enter public beta at the end of this month. Folks who preordered the game or purchased the Limited Edition of Medal of Honor will gain entry on Tuesday, September 27. Everyone else will be ushered in two days later. Players will be limited to the "Rush" game mode on the map "Operation Metro." We included Battlefield 3's system requirements in our original post.