What’s The Deal With EA’s Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

intro4   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?There’s been a plenty of uproar, whinging and general dismay at EA’s decision to combine their online store and download client into one “Steam-beating” package: Origin.

Forgive me for noticing, but EA are probably not the most well-regarded publisher out there and it seems the launch of Origin hasn’t helped their name at all. Designed as a direct competitor to Valve’s Steam, Origin launched in June as a rebranded EA Download Manager, previously used to download digital copies from the company’s online store.

Since its announcement the software has been on the receiving end of bad press, much of it from disgruntled gamers on forums, message boards and social networks. Is it time to shut up, or put up?

EA’s Point of View

According to Forbes magazine, Valve offer a 70% gross margin (that’s revenue before other costs) to third-party publishers wishing to sell their products via Steam. This means Valve lap up 30% for their part, which is all but done – establishing, maturing and maintaining a content delivery system is no easy task, and Steam has been in development since 2002.

steam   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

Comparably, retail games carry a typical gross margin of 30% with everyone from the delivery boy to the retailer wanting a share of the profits. Steam quite literally reverses the figures – making a 30% cut look pretty reasonable (which is also in-line with Apple’s 30% of all app and in-app purchases).

Clearly, EA are a big company who regularly turn out some of the biggest releases, with massive franchises like FIFA, The Sims, Need for Speed and Battlefield under their belt. This year’s big release is Battlefield 3, and it’s caused quite a stink amongst PC gamers.

bf3   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

Battlefield 3 is not only set to be an incredible feat of games engineering but also a real money-spinner for EA. Steam will not get Battlefield 3 – despite the previous release (Bad Company 2) calling the platform its home.

The game is listed as being available on similar, smaller services (like Direct2Drive) but the main platform will be Origin – that’s right, EA stands to make a full 100% from their own delivery platform. That’s fair enough, right? Sure. So why might gamers be displeased with this decision?

The Gamer’s Point of View

If you’re at all serious about your PC gaming, chances are you’ve got Steam. Why? Because there are new releases every week, an unthinkably huge catalog of both retail and indie games and awesome weekly offers for those who love a good bargain.

It took a while, but Steam is a great way to communicate with friends, meet new gamers and generally get your entrails handed to you at 5am on a German server. Back in the day Steam was often suffixed with “-ing pile of…” for all the right reasons – but now, we’ve got a decent platform and many of us have built up quite a catalog over the last 9 years.

originlogin   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

Except now you’ve got to install another store. Then it’s time to find all your friends again – you know, like the friends you regularly play with on Steam. Indeed, inconvenience is the main reason many dislike Origin. Another piece of software to run, another account to register, another service that requires personal information – all without the catalog, user base and mature system that Valve have got going on.

nofriends   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

All for that extra 30%, remember!

So What About Origin?

Origin itself is still beta software, so to pass judgement at such an early stage would be unfair. Clearly there are still kinks that need ironing out, but the platform has been out in the wild since June and had over 4 million downloads.

freegames   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

Naturally at such an early stage the games just aren’t there. Aside from a demo of The Sims 3 and the new Pets expansion, I couldn’t really find anything to download for free and even EA’s own free-to-play titles don’t use Origin, and launch in a new browser window. This is a stark contrast to Steam which is littered with cracking downloadable freebies like Team Fortress 2.

downloadsims   What’s The Deal With EAs Origin & Is It Really That Bad?

Valve also have a reputation for encouraging, hosting and promoting third party mods, and there are plenty of these available on Steam (most now work even without Half-Life 2 if you download Team Fortress 2). EA has a history of making poor decisions when it comes to the modding community, including dubbing the new Frostbite 2 engine “too complex” for modders, so don’t expect too much of that on Origin.

EA does plan on tempting third-party publishers over to the new platform, but how many are set to be swayed remains to be seen.

Conclusion

Origin isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t really offer gamers anything new. From an end-user standpoint this is just another piece of middleware, sitting between the internet and your purchases. For EA the move makes more sense, and with all new boxed retail games installing Origin the number of users is naturally going to climb.

Still, it might take a few innovative features and some well-priced bargains in order to build-up a community that’s even half as vibrant as Valve’s. It is said that competition is not only good for business, but good for consumers – so in that light; what do you think about Origin?

Have you installed Origin yet? Will you be buying Battlefield 3 (PC)? Disgruntled? Nonplussed? Have your say in the comments.

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16 Comments -

NJ ALL DAY

What about the whole EULA fiasco with Origin where EA was allowed to access any information on your PC and sell it to marketers?

Tim Brookes

Hi, thanks for pointing that out. I heard about this a while ago and it seems that EA are convinced they’re not providing spyware. Due to the fact that PC gamers are now forced to use Origin for new releases (including retail, boxed copies) there’s not much of a workaround – those who play games on the PC will have to have faith I guess.

Still, it’s an interesting tale and one that further agitates the casual gamer who simply wants to buy, install and play.

DisgruntledGamer

User adoption strikes again. Lazy consumers and lazier senior producers (stop outsourcing every facet of your program).  This is happening to google+ as well (user adoptionlaziness).  Sad part is after a decade we still have not evolved from tribes 2…that game had ingame server browser, clan tools, and email to boot through a login system.  Until game developers start encouraging publishers to enable web tools in game interface itself we will continue to go backward evolving the pc gaming community (who unfortunately are the most affected).

Cell Travis

This sounds like a version of protectionism to me. For EA, it’s about protecting business interests and retaining control, while gamers decide whether to grudging tag along with the arrangement or to junk it. I wonder what our choices are.

Inverted720

BF3 looks amazing on paper. But my beta experience was horrific. Graphical glitches, frame rate fluctuations, couldn’t change the keys (except during gameplay where I could be slaughtered and piss the team off), and then Origin just stopped working after a week or two. I loved the BF series but I’m throwing in the towel. I’m content with HOMM 6 and the next Elder Scrolls coming out next month. Maybe I’ll get BF3 in the bargain bin next year… But again the main problem is EA just hasn’t experienced how horrible trying to make a game happen really is. You feel uncertain about how everything works from the minute you install the client. Matches are created through a hokey little webapp, and the game doesn’t even launch until it has found you a game.

Tim Brookes

The beta is just that – a beta! And certainly not representative of the final game that’s out today. I’d urge you not to judge games on their pre-release code in future, you might just miss out!

Tim Brookes

Ok so I bought BF3 and many of the issues have been fixed though there are still some problems. The lag in Tehran Highway makes the map virtually unplayable, I’ve had serious problems connecting to the Oceanic servers here in Oz and the single player campaign is underwhelming to say the least.

The game is still fun, though if you’re used to Bad Company 2 a few of the changes might annoy you (no longer 2 matches per map on Conquest, which makes no sense) but overall it’s a technically impressive game which could probably benefit from a patch or two to sort out the final niggles.

jello

I personally can’t stand EA.  Over the years, I have grown to disrespect EA and their gaming tactics.  Their EA server admins are abusive unprofessional jerks.  On a routine basis when they do updates on their gaming servers, they never give us the customers any advance notice, of up and down times in the forums.   If you try to use their online chat system, people you speak too are totally rude and not knowledgeable.  Every now and then you get a good knowledgeable person, but it is rare.  EA and DICE want you to pay close to $100 to rent a BF3 64 player server a month, how many folks can afford that.  I know tons of people who have fast enough hardware to service a BF3 64 player server without shelling out $100.  Although, I followed the battlefield series for a long time, I hope BF3 falls on its face.  DICE and EA do not listen to their customer base.  COD Black Ops listened to their customers when they made it.  Valve continues to listen to their customers, thats why I love Steam, but Steam won’t have BF3.  With so many web sites, I won’t mention that produce  undetectable hacks for first person shooters, and not being able to afford to rent our own BF3 server, and with so many BF3 server admnis that they themselves will be hacking, we are going to be subject to unskilled people who use downloaded skills.  Unfortunately, Punkbuster and Valves VAC are useless.  Anyway, no more ranting. :)

Tim Brookes

You know what I dislike about EA? The fact that they’ve killed of so many good franchises and developers – Sim City (wtf was Sim City Societies, guys?), Theme Hospital, Populous and developers like Bullfrog and Maxis who were just swallowed up into the endless stream of yearly FIFA updates and The Sims expansions.

Ah… we need a new Sim City. A proper one this time, EA!

Scutterman

“Origin itself is still beta software, so to pass judgement at such an early stage would be unfair”. I’m sorry but if you release major titles on a platform, and indeed make that platform the sole way to access said titles, then I say it’s entirely fair to judge the platform like any other. If anything, I’d say judge it harsher for the fact they’re using beta software in such a way.

I haven’t used the Origin engine yet. I was planning to download BF3 beta at work (much faster internet connection), and was expecting a BF3 installer, but then I saw that Origin would be sitting in the middle and knew it wouldn’t be possible. It’s a shame really, because I haven’t played any of the BF series and I may have gotten into it from playing the beta.

Tim Brookes

Well if you were a PC gamer during the early stages of Steam then you’d probably have had a far worse experience when Valve’s content delivery platform was in beta (though you could probably excuse Valve as they were innovating pretty hard at this point).

Still, it’s very annoying that all new EA PC retail games (even those purchased in a shop) require Origin to be installed.

Blake Beatty

EA lost my business a long time ago, and Origin just keeps me away longer.

MARKBAKER17

it fucking sucks i just tried to use origin to download NFS World a free to play game (“obviously not trying to rip Steam”) but it took me to a website to sign into my EA account and download an exe file for it, i mean the game hasnt even integrated into origin RIGHT NO ORIGIN IS A STEAMING PILE OF SITE!!!

Fabienne_notten

Trying to call EA Origin because i just bought a game and i need EA Origin for downloading a update.. And it doesnt work at all this new platform calles Origin. Like i said, im calling them right now. Holding already for 20 minutes – waithing for someone to take my call.

Ill bring my game back tomorrow if it has to go like this.

Mesugo

Ever try looking for a customer service number to call for Origin? Don’t, because, there isn’t one.

Ben Tremblay

Pre-purchased BF3. Because so many clan associates were moving that direction, and because of previous good times w/BF2 and BF1942.
Snagged: XP Pro SP3 is good enough for everything from Napoleon:TW through ArmA:OA to CoD:MW3 … but not for BF3.

shame on you EA

–Dawks