EA launches Origin distribution service

EA Store rebranded to focus on social features; The Old Republic becomes first digital exclusive

Electronic Arts is to relaunch its EA Store download service as Origin, offering direct to consumer titles including forthcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic as a digital exclusive.

Central to the rebooted service are new social and sharing features, as well as offering limited edition content for EA and EA Partners titles.

"Origin is a game service with two fundamental features," said David DeMartini, senior vice president of Global Online at EA. "It's a download service for the very best content from EA and its partners.

"It also offers a social function which, over time, will connect a player's profile with friends lists and a cross-platform feed that shows what your friends are playing and where."

The move sheds light on CEO John Riccitiello's statements in May when he described EA as not just a content creator. "Increasingly, we see ourselves as a software platform every bit as much as we see ourselves as a content maker for other companies' platforms," he said during a call to investors.

As well as selling all key franchises such as Need for Speed and Battlefield, BioWare's next Star Wars game is likely to be the biggest draw to the service as EA snubs other forms of download such as Direct2Drive and market-leader Steam.

Users can sign up for the Origin beta, a desktop app that allows communication with friends and to digitally download and play PC games, and access to exclusive trailers and game content.

"This is our first step in the evolution of Origin, and in the weeks and months ahead we will look to enhance the features and services as well as an expanded range of content," said DeMartini. "From exclusive demos to full-game downloads, Origin is the place consumers will go for the best game experiences."

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Latest comments (22)

Glen Elliott Partner/Head of Sales, European Game League6 years ago
I'm guessing they are just recycling the name?

Is this a rebrand of the "EA Download manager"?
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Adam Ross6 years ago
Just seems like to me that EA dont want to play with others..
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Joe Martin Journalism 6 years ago
And how is this different from EA Store or EA Download Manager?
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Show all comments (22)
Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University6 years ago
it has the word Origin in it, so that why it different maybe?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
From a company's perspective it might make sense, but as a consumer, would you really go to a store which only carries one brand? What is the incentive to buy at Origin instead of some place else? And I do not mean exclusive editions boiling down to pallet swaps and levels from the cutting room floor. The game experience will be the same no matter where you buy the game, so why bother with yet another online store, instead of the one of the five you already have?
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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts6 years ago
Why bother shopping anywhere other than Tesco? They have everything you need so why go elsewhere...?
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Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor 6 years ago
But Stephen, he has a good people have a god point. I'd be interested to know why EA think this will be a more successful route than using a system that is already tried and trusted which already has the other big publishers on board. Surely doing this is only going to carry on fracturing the PC market and confusing the consumer.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
I was reading an interesting Gamesbrief article recently were Nicholas was commenting on a previous comment he'd made about making sure you tried to get on as many download stores as possible, whereby he was surprised by the overwhelming response that his contacts were selling up to 10 times as many copies on Steam as all other PC download platforms combined.
With this in mind, EA have a really tough job ahead to try to gain a foothold, especially if they only sell EA games, maybe they should think really hard about foregoing steam. I'm not saying they should try with there own store, but foregoing such a large customer base my bite them in the ass.
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Gabriel Deleon Studying Dramatic Writing, New York University6 years ago
I wonder if their social options will be more akin to than steam.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gabriel Deleon on 3rd June 2011 5:02pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
No shop carries all brands, that much is true for groceries and digital downloads. But no company should be so arrogant as to assume people did not know the other brands. If a shop in a mall does not acknowledge a competitor, there is no problem, on the PC there is.

Because a shop on the PC is usually not just a shop, it acts as a social organization structure for your friends, it acts as a copy-lock protection scheme, it keeps people from reselling their game. In total, it is not at all comparable with a brick and mortar retailer. The convention of calling it a shop is a convenient lie, it is a declaration a culture of consumer will not oppose.

Impulse has been bought by what the industry perceives as the enemy, just think what would happen if Gamestop includes a license management system being able to "trade back" digital downloads. Steam is a place where companies are under fierce competition to lower their prices in order to get a spot on the highly clicked "Specials" tab.

From a consumer perspective those are but two highly beneficial things happening in the digital download space mortally dependent upon portals carrying all publishers. From my experience such things happen only to a far lesser degree in single-brand store, which is why they are ultimately less interesting. EA is very self conscious about its products, just go to the EA business booth at a trade show and you see their "fake Gamestop" and how well it is designed. But that will never fully replace EA games stacked at Walmart.

If EA meant business, they would not design yet another client and website, they would build an interface pumping the EA shopping experience directly into Amazon, Facebook, Steam, the Sony Media Xrossbar, and the Win8 interface among other things. In the digital space, you either get your tentacles into all channels, or you might not bother at all. A lonely client software for PC is a joke, if it cannibalizes the presence of EA on established channels it is plain suicidal.

Would EA pull all copies from Walmart, if they had a shop in every town? No, so why build a store next to every Walmart? Me2 behavior? Imo EA does not need that.
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Matthew Farber Senior Gameplay Engineer, Spark Unlimited6 years ago
Calling this thing Origin is a cruel, cruel thing to do.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
You need to look at this from the industry side.

EA sees digital distribution replacing their traditional distribution chain. This is shooting their traditional value to developers in the head.

This is an attempt to build a digital distribution presence to replace their old retail chain and retain relevance to developers. And they are using their most hotly anticipated product, TOR, as a way to entice the end users to join.

Calling it "Origin" is very clever as it both says what they want it to be, the place people get their games from AND conjures images of Origins which is deeply associated with the beginning of the online game industry.

Its a good play and just might work.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 3rd June 2011 6:17pm

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Abel Oroz Concept Artist, LANI Pixels6 years ago
I always think monopolies are a bad thing and it would be nice to have some serious competition, but when you look for serious alternatives, you come up with Gamestop (a retailer only looking for a share of what they despised) and now EA, that demonstates clearly their ambitions by announcing the service first in Wall Street Journal.

So, doubtlessly, my bucks stick with the development studio that does awesome games and with the phylosophy of caring about the consumer first before thinking in the big bucks.
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A little dissapointed by this news I exclusively use Steam these days so to not get TOR on Steam sucks.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
Telltale have done a very good job with their own store presence, but it's telling that they still also sell through steam. Sure they don't have the same budget to promote their store, but they also don't need to sell the same numbers to be profitable. The bizarrest thing to me is that EA would be the major to boycott Steam, when they publish the console versions of all Valve games.
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Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University6 years ago
All my games are on Steam, same with most other people. Steam provides just about everything you need, why would anyone move away from it? For me also, there isn't that many games EA release that I want to buy anymore.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago

I can very well imagine EA thinking of Steam as being a platform full of cheap people only buying heavily discounted games. Assuming people still compare prices, then Steam offers no incentive to buy within the first month. The situation in Germany is like this: games on Steam cost 50, while the largest chains in Germany usually sell at a discount of 10. Meaning a game will cost 40 during the first week and then go up in price. Granted, only the Metro chain (Media Markt, Saturn) seems to do this in order to annihilate their competition, but I have to say it works.

We then have a period of about two months where it does not matter whether you buy the game at retail, or on Steam. But the important first day and first week sales have gone to retail already. Then the discounts start, which is usually when Steam shines the brightest.

In essence, we can assume Origin is being launched in the midst of a very competitive pricing situation, at least in Germany. For Germany that means Origin either matches the price with the best retail offers, or it will stand no chance becoming more than a forced install.

What puzzles me most I guess is how Origin puts the actual purchase two brand names further away. Your average idiot customer buys Fifa or Need for Speed. It is already one step removed to direct him to the EA store, the brand name Origin forces customers to learn another connection. People wanting to buy Fifa think of EA, then think of Origin? That will take some time to teach them. Ask Valve about it. The retailers whose job it is to earn money by standing between publisher and customer will not take kindly to being pushed aside. I can't imagine them being too happy at the prospect of essentially becoming payment processing stations selling little more than scratch and sniff codes. Take Gamestop Germany for example, half the German video game market is PC games, yet PC games take up little to no shelf space at all.

I do not believe EA wants other retailers to go down that road.
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Roland Rothbart6 years ago
I like reading, because ppl who write here understand the interrelation of events and statements better than authors on few other gamingsites. I think Origin is not just digital distribution. Aditionally it offers components of social media and "Gaming Platform"-stuff. Activision still declared they will move in the same dirction recently.
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Andrea D'Orta6 years ago
@Klaus - by selling direct to consumers, EA is in full control of pricing and especially margins. So I would expect this will help in having some parity between Digital and Physycal pricing. As you rightly pointed out, today at launch the digital version is more expensive than boxed copy. A total nonsense only caused by the fact that Steam and other Digital Distributors cannot (pehaps wont) discount during the "short head" launch window.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
The disparity of prices on Steam is not because Steam won't set prices lower. It is mainly that if they are sold lower than RRP, retail will cry foul and refuse to stock the game, which would be a problem for the publisher but good news for Steam and other portals. This is the case regardless of whether it is sold on a portal such as steam, or one owned by a publisher. I would guess this is the reason (along with poor PC representation in games specialist stores) that somee AAA games are ignoring PC packaged product altogether.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
Retail is not retail, EA might be maneuvered into setting a minimum online price, only to find out one particular retailer is undercutting this price at his personal loss, hoping to make it back with volume. Or take Gamestop, they consistently sell new games for 10 more than any other retailer (again, German reality)

My guess is Origin will change nothing here and be somewhat of a letdown in this area. What it will help to achieve though, is to increase the yield EA has on special offers six months after release. Those might shift away from Steam. The social aspects are fairly negligible. People play more than EA games, meaning Origin will be a secondary friends list at best. If you want to organize all your social contacts, you need something publisher agnostic.
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Patrik Kotritanta Lundberg Game Designer, Acony Games6 years ago
Renaming "EA Store" to "Origin" will not help... they first have to fix their web sites and functions before they will gain any success.

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