Update (8/17): IMPORTANT, READ BEFORE BUYING. Several readers have messaged me saying EA/Origin's offer only ran through the first week of August although the email text Ars Technica received for the free game deal reads "this offer is only good for the month of August, and is exclusive to Origin customers only." My most sincere apologies if we mislead you and made you buy the game from EA's store. I'll be contacting EA and see if we can get them to honor the deal somehow or at least let us run some sort of giveaway around Battlefield 3's launch.

The original story is below:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as PC game digital distribution goes, Valve's Steam is king. They pioneered the industry with compelling game offers and a service that has worked well most of the time since its inception, but today they face fierce competition from other well established companies in the industry that want to take part of the action.

It's already been confirmed that Battlefield 3 won't appear on Steam when the game launches later this year, and that it will require EA's Origin service to be played regardless of where you buy it, including retail. The move won't necessarily please gamers, but at least EA seems willing to sweeten the deal by offering early access to the game's beta and most recently a free game if you pre-order Battlefield 3 today.

The bonus game deal runs until the end of the month. You get to pick from the following three titles: Mass Effect 2, Dead Space 2 or Medal of Honor. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Formerly known as the EA Store, Origin joined the party not long ago taking a more aggressive approach against other distribution platforms. EA reportedly plans to tie certain game features to the service including cloud game saves, auto-patching and achievement tracking.

So far only the upcoming massively multiplayer online RPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic has been announced as an Origin exclusive. Other games' special editions have also been released primarily on Origin and there's of course the Crysis 2 case, which was pulled from Steam indefinitely though the game remains readily available from other services like Direct2Drive.

As a reminder, every Friday we post the best game deals on offer from the different services including Steam, Direct2Drive, Impulse, and others whenever we find something worth reporting about.