Jun 17, 2011

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Origin: The Start of Something New or the Death of EA on PC?

Origin: The Start of Something New or the Death of EA on PC?

A few days ago, forums and blogs filled with the news that EA had apparently taken Crysis 2 off of Steam. Later, we would find out that the game was pulled by Steam, rather than EA, due to violation of terms regarding Crytek. With EA’s Origin service just launching, and with the news that The Old Replublic would be an Origin-exclusive, many gamers began to speculate that this was the begging of a shift. From now on, would all EA games only be sold on Origin? Even though EA officially stated it Crysis 2“s removal wasn’t their doing, and even though they still have their most recent releases available on steam, this situation hasn’t stopped gamers from complaining and quickly boycotting EA’s new Origin service. These reactions have me shaking my head in disgust. All of these people who are under the assumption that EA will no longer support Steam are apparently not going to play some of the biggest games coming out in the next year only because EA wants gamers to use Origin?

I get it, people hate EA. They haven’t been best friends to PC gamers and they have a rough track record. They have been one of the more aggressive companies when it comes to DRM, and they definitely have made some mistakes with their DRM practices, but does that mean they will continue that with their new Origin service? Maybe, maybe not; I honestly haven’t heard anything about this, but it is possible that they will take the same model created by Steam to run their own service, in which the service itself serves at the only DRM.

Either way, EA is very much intent on creating a Steam-like service for their games, and whether or not it’s on Steam, the game will still play the same. There are plenty of gamers who purchase their PC games at retail stores or through download services other than Steam, so I have no idea why all these Steam users are so upset about this. I’ve seen hundreds of gamers saying things like “Thanks, EA, way to shoot yourself in the foot,” or “Definitely not getting BF3 now.” I’ve even seen a few people who said they were going to get MW3 now instead of BF3 because of Origin.

I know, these are some of the more drastic people out there, but they still make me shake my head. I mean, come on. So it’s not on Steam; who the hell cares? Origin might end up being a service on par with Steam, who knows? Steam wasn’t the best thing out there when it released; it took years and years to get third party titles to show up on the service. So are you seriously going to deprive yourself of what could be a great game just because you might be forced to use Origin rather than Steam? I’m not just talking Battlefield 3; what about Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic (which will release exclusively on Origin)? These could all be great games, and you want to skip them because they make you download it via their client?

Many people hate EA and think of them as the company they used to be, but those people seem to forget that they helped create some of our favorite titles in recent years: Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age, Bad Company 2, Dead Space 2, L4D, Rock Band. Some of these games were made possible because of their EA Partners program, which many third party companies are a part of. This program allows third-party companies to use EA’s assets to help create their game without much intrusion from EA. There’s a reason some of the most popular companies have joined the EA Partners program: companies like Insomniac, Epic Games, and yes, even Valve.

One of the smartest comments I’ve seen said that we have to just accept that more and more companies are going to move toward a download service like this, and at this point EA is one of the few companies with the funds to start such a service. We should be making sure that Origin meets the standards set by Steam not by simply boycotting, but providing feedback. Origin is just starting, and who’s to say it won’t be the best place to get EA games? EA constantly offer great deals on their games, sometimes only a month after release, so with Origin, we might start to see even more deals on our favorite games. Not to mention that if we start supporting it, we might start to see non-EA titles appear. Plus, they also have the benefit form learning from Microsoft with how they handled Games for Windows Live.

Games for Windows Live has done the complete opposite of what it intended to do for gamers. The service has been full of issues that cause more frustration to gamers than it remedies. Things like having separate save files for offline and online modes, requiring you to download a patch even though you don’t play online, and servers crashing due to traffic overload ,leading gamers to not be able to play a game online or offline. Yes, Steam went through some server issues when they started, and even now they are having issues with that on Macs, but what Microsoft failed to do was simply copy the Steam functionalities and format. The way Steam handles updates and offline/online play is exactly what us gamers want,.so if EA’s Origin service were to do just that, I don’t see where the issue is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being upset about game companies giving gamers the shaft, like EA and its Madden NFL franchise and the Online Pass thing that has only benefited gamers in Bad Company 2, but this isn’t one of those times. In my opinion, Origin will have a tough time because it will only offer EA games, but I just don’t see a reason to hate the service because you can’t get a game on Steam. If you come to me and say you won’t download it due to some DRM issue, then fine, I can understand that, but saying you won’t play a game because it’s not on your favorite download client; that’s just idiotic to say the least. Ultimately, if EA doesn’t limit their games exclusively to Origin, and the service is comparable to Steam, will gamers continue to be this irrational? Origin has the potential to offer Steam competition, and competition can be great for consumer.