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EA's Origin seeks a distinct identity in its sophomore year
EA's Origin seeks a distinct identity in its sophomore year Exclusive
June 12, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

June 12, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
Comments
    39 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Electronic Arts' Origin enjoyed its first anniversary last week, and while the publisher had no big announcements to celebrate the digital distribution's platform's birthday at E3, it does have a focused plan on what the service needs to accomplish in its sophomore year.

For many consumers -- and developers, too, likely -- what Origin needs to do is simple: become more like its primary, industry-leading competitor, Valve Software's Steam. That's the complaint EA says it hears most about its service.

"The easy response to that is, 'Well, gives us a few more years, and maybe we'll be better than Steam,'" says Origin SVP David DeMartini. "That said, right now we're not. ... Steam took eight years to get where it is. We're not going to take eight years, but we're going to get there and go beyond."

But while EA wants to get the platform up to par, DeMartini says that becoming more like Steam isn't the goal. "There's one Steam. I think what people want to see is, they want to have another viable option. They want us to differentiate in a way that sets us apart."

While EA spent the past year building Origin's foundation and basic features, the next 12 months will be devoted to those features that will potentially make the service stand-out from its competitors. One way Origin hopes to do that is leveraging EA's spread across both PCs and consoles.

DeMartini explains, "We need to take full advantage of that multiplatform capability that EA brings. We need to be able to visualize that in the service in a way that allows you amongst your circle of gaming friends to differentiate yourself or demonstrate your skills multiplatform versus other people you game with or who you are interested in their opinion."

Emphasizing the need to make Origin a distinct service, he points out EA's first-person shooter series and its main competitor as an example: "Battlefield 3 isn't Call of Duty. Battlefield 3 is great, it's a shooter, but it's a great shooter in its own right. I want Origin to be the exact same thing."

"That doesn't mean Call of Duty is bad," he continues. "I don't want to see Steam become bad. They're a partner. They do a lot of good things. What I want is [for] Origin to be differentiable and better as a service, which is similar to what Steam does."

Many consumers are looking for more than promises before they buy into Origin, but EA has already started to roll features that it believes will separate the platform from others, such as its new program for games that have been crowdfunded by services like Kickstarter.

With this initiative, developers can bring their small, indie projects to Origin without having to pay distribution fees for 90 days, and reach the service's more than 12 million users. EA doesn't require studios to sign any exclusivity deals, but it's won some good will from both consumers and developers with the move.

"One of the exciting things about the crowdfunding thing is we finally got there first," DeMartini said with glee. "There was almost nothing that anybody could criticize. It was kind of delightful. It was like, 'Wow, we got one. We got there first. It's a great idea. We finally thought of something that somebody else didn't think of.' We've got more ideas like that in store."


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Comments


David Konkol
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Sorry EA. I am sure you will try hard and do your best, but I already HAVE one Steam, I really do not need or want another.

I am sure your service is great but you are a day late and a dollar short with this one.

E McNeill
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Did you read the article? They're not trying to just be another Steam. I mean, it says so right in the headline.

"But while EA wants to get the platform up to par, DeMartini says that becoming more like Steam isn't the goal. 'There's one Steam. I think what people want to see is, they want to have another viable option. They want us to differentiate in a way that sets us apart.'"

Give them some credit for trying to do something different (and in indie-friendly ways, at least in the example given).

Nate Anonymous
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The real issue isn't whether gamers want another option from Steam. I would actually argue the contrary as many gamers are locked into Steam, like music consumers are locked into iTunes, and don't want to switch platforms as long as there are still DRM issues.

But even if gamers are looking for another option (despite having Amazon, GamersGate, Greenmangaming, GOG, etc etc) what they don't want is EA's Origin. This is not only because Origin is a bloated, memory hogging, bad piece of software. It is because they don't trust EA to do right by them. When a gamer buys from Steam, they know that Steam will probably not screw them over -- at least in the aggregate -- because Steam has been operating for 5+ years and is generally loved. When a gamer buys from Amazon, they know that Amazon's legendary customer service will make things right. But when they buy from EA, they expect that at some point EA will try to rob them. Why? Because of EA's exploitative practices concerning day-1 DLC, near-mandatory server renting, game passes, lockout DRM strategies, and lack of quality control on acquired studios product to monetize pre-EA goodwill.

Joe Wreschnig
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iTunes hasn't locked in its music consumers since 2009. All music on it is DRM-free standard MPEG-4 audio files.

AJ S
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@nate I agree I trust and love Steam. In my list of companies I don't trust is EA along with Ubisoft and Activision.

Leandro Rocha
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This is so ridiculous. I dont remember reading anywhere about my data being robed from EA servers, but some tons of millions of people were robbed using Steam and its fucking ok.
"In Steam/Valve we trust!"
What? Seriusly? People stolen your data from their servers and you trust then? Great for you, but not for me.
I have both, but Im much more secure using Origins than Steam.

My problem with Origins is that it eats too much memory, but when you have 8Gb Ram this is pretty much nothing. =p

Maria Jayne
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I think EA and Origin are a bad combination, you have a digital store that doesn't want to "cheapen IP" by having discounted sales and you have a publisher that thinks it's games are worth more money than others.

From a customer point of view, they're just bad at being attractive.

Craig Dolphin
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Until they revise their Eula and TOS to allow me to opt out of data collection their origin software will continue to be banned from my system. If that means no more EA games for me going forward then so be it. I'm sick and tired of being asked to jump through publisher hoops in order to play games I've purchased legally. I love gaming but crap like mandatory origin installs and other forms of drm are making me reconsider my entertainment options.

Maria Jayne
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I'm not against developers collecting metrics about my actions within their games but i do think that data should be available to view should I desire. Anotherwords, if they disclosed to you, the data they collected about you. It might dispell or prohibit any dodgy dealings going on about what information they collect.

Given the ammount of companies that force me to register an account with them these days, I think that ability should be standard.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

William Johnson
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Despite that I have no love for EA. I hate to say it...but not being Steam is the right move. If you want to be able to become a market leader, you can't just follow what is already successful. You must distinguish yourself from the competition. See what they do the best, and don't do that. They already have that niche, so you have to find another niche and make people see the value in that.

With that said...I know its not right to say, but I really hope Origin fails. I really just don't trust EA. They have done a lot to deserve my ire.

Travis Griggs
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What exactly have they done to deserve your ire? I think people take this stuff a little too personally. Its really sad that you want people to lose there jobs, simply because you don't like a large company...

William Johnson
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Reasons to hate EA include, but is not limited to, closing and/or ruining Pandemic, Origin Systems, Bullfrog, Maxis, and more studios, and anti-consumer policies such as DRM, online passes, closing servers down, banning users and having them lose access to the games they've already paid for, pulling their games from Steam, a monopoly on the NFL (odd how that happened right after 2K5 released and was about to change the whole business model for sports games), nickel and dime DLC practices (Bioware Points being a good example), and forced data collection.

I'm sure there are a lot more reasons to hate EA, but that's all I can think of right now.

Carlos Silva
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May I add that to your list of reasons to hate EA ?

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/head_ea_origin_rages_agains
t_steam_sales_model

Darcy Nelson
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Maxis?

William Johnson
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Lets say there is a reason why Will Wright isn't with Maxis anymore.

Leandro Rocha
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So, you dont trust EA because their business model dont pleasures you? And you trust Steam... (that company that gave your credit card, and the cc of millions others, to some hackers)

Its really funny when you read about these 'reasons' to hate EA. None of these reasons affects consumers - the only reason that should matter.

William Johnson
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@Leandro Rocha
"None of these reasons affects consumers"

All the reason I gave effect me as a consumer. I don't know if you recall how horrible the DRM was on Spore. And despite the backlash from that EA didn't make their DRM less intrusive, they just made it a different shade of annoying in things like Command and Conquer.

Or lets say I want to buy the DLC for Mass Effect 2. Well, I can't just buy them. I have to give them $20 to buy 1600 Bioware points. 3 of the DLC is 560, so that's $7 a pop. And 3 x $7 is $21 total. But there is one DLC that is 800 points, so is $10. So that's $31 And basically, none of this math adds up. So I have $9 that I can't do anything with. I can buy some of that crappy DLC, which unlocks guns or horse armor or something stupid. But I don't want to encourage them to make that kind of crappy DLC. And yet, I'd have little choice but too, or else I'd basically be just donating $9 to the EA nickel and dime train and get nothing out of it. Like wise, its also insulting that the DLC costs more then the game now.

And closure of great studios means we'll never see a new Ultima, Destroy All Humans, or Dungeon Keeper. If you don't think not having great games doesn't effect us as consumers, I wonder if you even care about video games at all.

Not to make it sound like that these are serious issues. After all this really is just "first world problems." But as a consumer, I don't want to be treated like shit. So I take my money else were, and like wise, I encourage other people to do the same.

Jose Striedinger
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At leat I bealive they are in the right track. Not becoming Steam is essential, they must find something that make them unique so people can say like "yeah Steam is awesome but, you know, Origin has THIS things".

I likeness for EA has been decreasing in the past years, it seems they have become nothing more that money-suckers parasites. What they need is to quit this stupid "need" for more and more money and focus on create great products and services and earn the loyalty of theirs costumers once again.

Emperador Alencio
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They will fall behind everybody, even gamestop digital service is a lot better.

Paul Shirley
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Origin and EA need to part company before Origin can be taken seriously, or at least legally firewalled in a way that protects Origins future independence. With perpetual takeover rumours and a company walking the AAA path at a time of uncertainty in that sector, I want more confidence that any download service has a stable future with no unexpected changes of direction.

As long as this remains an EA tentacle, serving EA 1st and users last I'm going to find it incredibly easy to just avoid EA.

Brandon Maynes
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The thing is, THEY ARE trying to be Steam, they are trying to get a piece of the digital distribution pie. . . too little, too late. I will NEVER purchase another EA product as long as I live. And thats not internet fan boy rage, thats me being honest. EA is disgusting.

Origin is trash, it brings NOTHING new to the table. Put your games back on steam, they are mediocre at best and nothing your company produces is good enough to warrant your own digital distribution platform. Sorry EA . . . facts are facts.

Jeremy Holmes
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Glad this isn't internet fan boy rage, I would hate to see what that looks like.

Simon T
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There'd be more spelling errors

steve roger
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"There's one Steam. I think what people want to see is, they want to have another viable option. They want us to differentiate in a way that sets us apart."

This comment by David DeMartini is just plain nonsense. A lot of us Steam users don't really want another option in the way he has framed it. What we want is to see the games on Steam and not be pulled off so that the publisher can milk profits from it. I some will say profits for EA? What's wrong with that?

My response, that isn't the pont I am trying make. What I am saying is that I would to see individual games on more than one digital service. Like Crysis 2 on Steam, Origin and Gamersgate. Some competition on price only helps us all including EA.

But as already mentioned, EA is a publisher that is really just removing it's games from other digital stores so that it can manage pricing and make sure that their games hold their price and not end up like the crazy discounting seen on Steam. Trouble is that crazying pricing drives tremendous sales. Often when the price goes down the games start to sell and provide a lot of profit were before there was nothing. EA's games done by private studios don't get to have such an infusion of cash. Instead, the price stays high on Origin and income from sales is just a trickle.

Nate Anonymous
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Massive price drops are also the norm in entertainment products.

Movies costs $7-$15 to see in the theater. 3-6 months later I can watch it from Redbox for $1.20 a view. 6-12 months after that I can watch it on HBO or Netflix as part of a subscription package as many times as I can handle.

Books cost $20-$30 at release. Eight months later it costs $7 for a paperback. Around that time, I am guaranteed a short or 0 wait time to read it in the library for free.

Almost all of Steam's big discounts are for games more than 6 months old. Some are years post-release. The fact that gamers are willing to pony up even $5 for a four-year old game should make other entertainment industries jealous.

Evan Combs
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If you ignore the quality or experience decrease yeah it is cheaper, but watching a movie on the TV is not the same as watching it in theaters, a paperback book will not last as long as a hardback book. One might last decades, while the other could last centuries.

Also renting will always be cheaper than owning in the short term.

The only thing you said that actual relates is your last paragraph, which is very accurate and spot on, the rest isn't taking in the whole picture.

Nate Anonymous
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Excellent rebuttal. I would argue, however, that with large-screen HDTV and surround sound the movie experience is almost the same, even perhaps better as you do not have other patrons distracting you and the ability to drink a beer. Indeed, it is the big shift from going out to the theaters to watching at home that has studios so interested in opening day VOD opportunities although there has been a lot of push back from the theaters.

Paperbacks I would argue are about the same experience, since most books are single-use items. Regardless, you also see huge discounts on hardbacks during around the same time periods as the paperback release in the bargain bins, sometimes the hardbacks end up being cheaper! Plus, paperbacks are more portable and cheaper to sell in the used book market.

Finally, games are arguably less valuable as time progresses. Multiplayer populations are usually smaller for FPS as time progresses. You also have an increased difficulty as you enter the MP arena as a "newbie" victim to the veterans that have played the game for year(s). Also, waiting to play a game increases the likelihood of being spoiled.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

John Flush
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It will be hard for me to ever become an Origin customer seeming I won't buy anything with EA backing it. For reasons see the post by William Johnson.

The good thing is EA slaps their name on everything they publish big and huge so it is really easy to avoid. It is the only thing EA does right.

Leandro Rocha
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So, no reason at all. Just non sense hate.
Dont get me wrong. You can hate then for being a big company, but really, what it affects you? You want to shove all your money in Valve's pocket (and the hackers that steal then from time to time)? Its ok!
But think about it: This is really a reason? Do you hate BMW, Fiat or KIA for being big companies, that closes and open some factories here and there when necessary?
I dont think so.

Nate Anonymous
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I don't understand EA's messaging.

First they call out Steam for offering 75% off deals. But EA is one of the most aggressive discounters of their IP, as just this past year I was able to buy Mass Effect 1 & 2 for 75% off ($5 each), Dragon Age 1 Ultimate and Dragon Age 2 pack for more than 75% off ($10 total), Dead Space for more than 75% off ($3 or $4), and Mass Effect 3 50% off four months after release (it hit a lower price point just recently) through direct download retail partners but downloadable through origin. If I felt like it, I could buy Battlefield 3 for $26.99 or more than 50% off right now...

Now they say that they are different than Steam like BF is different from MW. Yet at the same time, they want Steam to be "good" because they are a "partner." So, which is it? And if Steam is such a great "partner" why not put at least the GOTY versions of games back on Steam since Crytek seems to have 0 complaints from Steam on this strategy?

Ron Dippold
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Their disdain for Steam sales is nonsense, and typical corporate disconnect from reality. If there's a good new game on Steam I will buy it for full price. If a game shows up at 75% discount I may buy it even if I would have never bought it at full price.

The Humble Indie Bundle has made millions for the creators even while seriously underpricing what any individual game is worth - Humble Bundle V has got to be the best gaming deal in the history of mankind (if only I didn't already own them all, well I bought it for the soundtracks).

Steam isn't cheapening games. I have assigned every single game a worth in my head, and when it hits that price or lower I will buy it. I bought Crysis 2 when it showed up on Amazon cheap. I still haven't bought Mass Effect 3. Get it down to $10-20, DeMartini. You hollow, corporate, suited whore.

Nate Anonymous
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Almost forgot to add this oldie but still a goodie:

Origin, I gamed with Battlefield, I knew Battlefield, Battlefield was a friend of mine. Origin, you're no Battlefield.

Geoff Schardein
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I find it really annoying that every time I reboot the Origin Application launches and there is no setting to disable it. I even looked to see if it was running as a Service so I could turn it of there. I am really annoyed that EA pushes the in your face buy, buy, buy and will likely uninstall it and only reinstall if I choose to buy some more DLC. With the current tactics buying more using Origin is highly unlikely. Even the Gamestop allows me control to not show at startup.

Brandon Maynes
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type in MSCONFIG in your win 7 run bar and it will show you all the items you have on start up, you may uncheck origin from starting.

But, the better solution would be to click the Origin 'Un-Install' button.

Mike Kasprzak
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> EA's Origin seeks a distinct identity in its sophomore year

Yeah, it's the online service everybody hates. Not the best identity, but it is distinct. *shrug*

Matt Cratty
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Edit: Nm, this is basically a rehash of things already said.

Abraham Tatester
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I'm just wondering about the "12 million users" of Origin...

Is that maybe a couple million people who installed Origin by choice and several million more who were forced to do so in order to play BF3 and ME3, never to open the program again? If so, the latter group really shouldn't be called "users."


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