It seems that dedicated servers in the console versions of Battlefield 3 have largely disappeared since Electronic Arts and DICE launched the recent rent-a-server patch, allowing players to pay $30 for 30 days of private hosting. These lobbies can still be accessed from the in-game server browser, but they are subject to whatever rules that the renting player has established.
The news comes from various players via Venturebeat, which went and peeked at the server browser in the PlayStation 3 version of the game. Sure enough, only 17 EA-operated Battlefield 3 servers could be found amidst the multi-page list of multiplayer lobbies. I took a peek this morning at the Xbox 360 version of the game; without the rent-a-server patch downloaded, I found just three lobbies to choose from. Downloading the patch brought a flood of other servers into the browser, and just about all of them were of the rented variety.
This development isn't sitting well with some players. DICE community manager Daniel Matris took questions from fans on Reddit, responding that "there is only so much physical space and digital space where yo ucan have servers. The community requested [a rental program] and we delivered."
Matros went on to indicate that the change isn't necessarily permanent, and that the complaints aren't news to him. "I've heard this for awhile now and the feedback has gotten louder," he said in a May 7, 2012 posting. "This is definitely something I will raise when I get back into the studio tomorrow."
There's been no further official word on the matter yet. We've reached out to EA for comment and will update this post according if and when we get a response.