Video game giant Ubisoft appears to have started the process of transferring business away from PC gaming's dominant download platform, Steam, and onto its own proprietary Uplay portal.
Upcoming big name titles "Assassin's Creed Unity," "Far Cry 4" and racing game "The Crew" were noticably absent from the Steam store as their respective pages were quietly removed on November 6.
"We've been in discussions with Valve about Assassin's Creed Unity but for the time being the game is not available via Steam in the UK," was the statement given to PCGamesN upon enquiry.
"In the meantime, UK customers wishing to purchase the game digitally can do so by visiting the Uplay store, our retail partners or other digital distributors."
Though the UK was the subject of first enquiries, it was not the only regional store affected -- and while older games remain, the trio of newer titles had disappeared.
On the face of it, the scenario resembles that which saw Electronic Arts withdraw its games from the Valve-owned Steam store in June 2011.
Well-promoted action game "Crysis 2" was withdrawn from Steam as a result of disagreements between the two companies -- Electronic Arts had launched its own PC games platform, Origin, the month before, and was understood to seek retention of a greater proportion of publisher revenue, specifically through the sale of optional add-ons.
That led to a general policy of EA's future PC games being excluded from Steam, as "Crysis 2" was followed by "Battlefield 3," "Mass Effect 3," "FIFA 15," "SimCity" and "The Sims 4."
Ubisoft's own PC-oriented storefront, Uplay, had incrementally evolved out of an incentive system, only relaunching as a standalone download client in July 2012, at which point Ubisoft started inviting other publishers to sell through the Uplay storefront just as they would on Steam and other web-based stores.
Initial consumer reaction to the latest development has not been positive: Steam is perceived to have a more robust and versatile client, better appreciation of user needs and bandwidth speeds, and more generous seasonal sales. In general, any move to further fragment the PC gaming experience tends to be met with loud groans.
But with Steam said to retain between 30% and 40% of all store sales revenue, there's certainly motivation for EA and Ubisoft to reclaim that cut, even if doing so means overriding their consumers' preferences.
In contrast, Activision's Blizzard Entertainment has largely avoided such backlash by keeping premium products "World of Warcraft," "StarCraft II" and "Diablo III" off the Steam store in the first place.