EA To Rebrand Its Origin Platform As It Bows Out Of The PC Gaming Platform Wars

from the white-flag dept

It has been a long and largely fruitless road for Origin, EA’s PC gaming client that it had planned on building into a rival of Valve’s Steam. What was originally supposed to have been the chief antagonist to Steam in the ongoing PC gaming platform wars instead is best described as a failure to launch. Released in 2011, Origin began life as it lived in total: the walled garden for most EA games. Critics appeared almost immediately, stemming from odious requirements to relinquish personal information, the use of DRM, and security flaws. Couple that with a game library that was relatively stilted compared with Steam, by design mind you, and it’s not difficult to understand why the adoption numbers for the game client just never took off.

Several weeks ago, to the surprise of many, EA suddenly released its gaming catalog on Steam. Given the long history of the company keeping its toys for itself, it left many scratching their heads in confusion. This week, the inevitable occurred, with EA announcing that Origin will be no more. Instead, the PC gaming client will rebrand, rebuild, and become an optional place for EA gamers to play, rather than a Fort Knox for EA games.

EA has yet another piece of interconnected news to share: it’s rebranding its Origin desktop app to simply be called the EA desktop app, alongside giving its PC platform a visual refresh.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, EA SVP, strategic growth Mike Blank says the overhaul is intended “to create a more frictionless, fast, socially-oriented experience for our players, where it becomes the best place for them to connect with the people they want to play with in the games they want to play.”

I’m frankly not used to giving EA a ton of kudos in these pages, but the overall strategy is a good one. The company appears to have finally realized that being permissive with gamers that just want to play the company’s games is better business than trying to lock them into a failed client few want to use. The revamping of the UX was long needed, too, but the real star of the show here is that EA is looking to be more open in general.

“All of that is signaled by creating a common and consistent brand that is centered around EA and what EA stands for,” Blank says. “And what signals it is this inflection about how EA stands for bringing your players together around the games they want to play on the platforms they want to play on. So yeah, it’s not just a name change. It really signals an ethos that is critically important to us and that we know that’s important to our players.

It’s been a long journey for EA in this regard to where our games show up and where they don’t. One of the things that we value is democratizing gaming, which is: how do you enable more people to play? And how do you make it easy for them to do so? And by bringing our games to Steam, we are doing just that. So whether we were there in the past or not, I look towards the future. And what I think today is that we are stronger and healthier. And I think we’re responding more effectively to the needs of our players today than we ever have, and Steam is part of that journey.”

Again, this is EA we’re talking about, so it’s going to take more than just the right words to convince most of us that this truly is a new direction for the company. Still, these are the right words. EA has long built a reputation for itself as being anti-consumer in many ways, but all of those ways come down to one thing: control. For a company with that history to suddenly start giving up that control, not out of surrender but out of a belief that it’s good business, is a positive step.

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Comments on “EA To Rebrand Its Origin Platform As It Bows Out Of The PC Gaming Platform Wars”

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

I've already learned to live without EA Games

When EA launched Origin and mandated the service, it came quickly that the TOS allowed EA to scan our computers for whatever they wanted and terminate accounts for any reason or one. I had Compuserve flashbacks and stopped patronizing EA.

And terminate they did. Frequently. The most common crime to bring the banhammer was speaking ill of EA or Origin or of EA games on the forum service. (Racism, Misogyny and general abuse typical of teenage flame wars wasn’t punished.) Entire libraries were lost.

It’s now a common policy for experienced EA players to create separate Origin accounts for each game title so that a ban only costs them a single game… and whatever microtransactions they bought. It also helps to just not engage the EA community, on the forums or wherever.

Speaking of which, Star Wars Battlefront II remains the cautionary tale about lootboxes. (It was an EA representative who used made the surprise mechanics justification) EA continues to do the Star Wars licensed games an injustice by focusing so much on turning them into predatory markets. That hasn’t changed, though I heard Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has minimal microtransactions. Still Squadrons is ready to take our money and how!

Maybe when The Sims IV has a complete version for a steal, available without Origin, I might pick it up. For now, it’s three digits for all the stuff and the furniture sets are sparse for the amount paid. Other than that, they’ve either stopped all the franchises I liked, or brought them to ruin.

I’ve never really had reason to regret my oath never to install Origin.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've already learned to live without EA Games

"When EA launched Origin and mandated the service, it came quickly that the TOS allowed EA to scan our computers for whatever they wanted and terminate accounts for any reason or one. I had Compuserve flashbacks and stopped patronizing EA."

This is the reason I never trusted games that required me to install another game service over Steam. Not only is it bloatware that ultimately slows performance but I’ve read enough stories on TD to know they also fuck with your computer in ways unseen.

Still, with the demise of Origin I might actually buy Battlefront 2 now that it resembles a good game. Granted it took 2 years to GET to that point when this is what it should’ve been on Day 1 but I can’t be picky.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: I've already learned to live without EA Games

This is the reason I never trusted games that required me to install another game service over Steam. Not only is it bloatware that ultimately slows performance but I’ve read enough stories on TD to know they also fuck with your computer in ways unseen.

The only ones I do that aren’t Steam are GOG Galaxy and itch.io’s client. The best thing about them both is that both of them aren’t required at all, as the games on both platforms are DRM-free!

Great_Scott (profile) says:

I kept my promise

I always said that when ME:3 came out on Steam, I’d buy it and play it. I never thought it would happen, but it did, and I did.

Hell, I bought DA:3 too, even though I own a useless box I got on Amazon years ago that required Origin to install.

No reason not to encourage EA for doing the right thing.

That said, you still need an Origin account (currently) to play the games, so it’s not completely gone yet. I can only hope.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: I kept my promise

I knew it existed and I heard it was pretty good, but I just never got around to it. Aside from general principle, I’m a Linux user, and it just never seemed worthwhile to try to figure out how to get Origin to run on Linux. (Steam’s done a great job of making Windows games run on Linux.)

Maybe I’ll get around to it one of these days, but then again, I’m just now getting around to Baldur’s Gate, so it may be awhile.

PaulT (profile) says:

It’s worth mentioning that they’re also reworking their console business as well. EA Access on the XBox has been much more well received and better value than their PC offerings, with console gamers being naturally less opposed to additional apps on a locked-down specialised machine than they are with potentially performance destroying spyware on a general purpose device.

But, even there they are both rebranding the service to EA Play, and also allowing it to be rolled into Game Pass, where Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will get all the games on EA Play at no additional cost.

It’s rare that EA does something that deserves some praise, but hopefully this does indicate a more consumer friendly approach for a company that had largely moved using methods that give consumers less choice.

Anonymous Non-Coward says:

Just a swap of clients? That's it?

One of the things that we value is democratizing gaming, which is: how do you enable more people to play? And how do you make it easy for them to do so? And by bringing our games to Steam, we are doing just that.

Wow. That’s it? Replacing one DRM with another? How cheer-worthy indeed. claps

Release your games DRM-free and on more platforms? Not cool. Release your games on yet another locked down platform? Wow, how progressive.

Sigh…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

Baby steps. You’re insane if you think that a company like EA will accept DRM-free any time in the near future, but allowing customers to choose a platform instead of trying to lock everybody down into something nobody wants to use is at least a movement in the right direction. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

I know lots of people love Steam, but I’ve never seen it as good. Maybe it’s the fact that when I installed the Half-Life Game of the Year edition, it insisted on installing several hundred megs of Steam crap whether I wanted it or not. At the time, it wasn’t actually necessary to run the game, they just forced you to install it.

Or it could be the fact Half-Life II was locked to an online account, ensuring that I couldn’t buy a used copy.

Before the pandemic, I saw a retail copy of The Orange Box in Goodwill. It was only $3. I felt like asking them if they knew they were selling a paperweight, because that’s all the retail copy is good for once it’s been used.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Buying Half Life 2 used

Actually that’s exactly what I did. I bought someone else’s account which only had the Valve suite. It means the root name of my account is not related to me, but I could change the public name (and have).

After all these years, I am curiously not bothered by the strange name on my account at all.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Buying Half Life 2 used

Actually that’s exactly what I did. I bought someone else’s account which only had the Valve suite. It means the root name of my account is not related to me, but I could change the public name (and have).

Isn’t that against Valve’s rules and a reason for being permanently banned if they find out? Besides, you can’t do that with a used copy of a game in a store.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Getting banned from Steam

That’s actually a good question. I’ve since purchased an extensive library. In the Aughts, their rules required them to pay me back for the licenses I lost. I don’t know if its the same.

If they did, it would be cruel and serve no actual function. We already know that consistency in moderating services is nearly impossible.

It’s been around a decade since brick-and-mortar franchises sold used PC games in stores around here, but I did enjoy checking the stacks when I could.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Getting banned from Steam

That’s actually a good question. I’ve since purchased an extensive library. In the Aughts, their rules required them to pay me back for the licenses I lost. I don’t know if its the same.

I seem to recall reading about a user who offered his Steam account and all the games associated with it for sale, and Valve deactivated his account and "bricked" all his games. I think it was eventually reactivated after he claimed that he was just asking how much people would pay out of curiosity and not actually offering to sell it. This was a few years ago.

It’s been around a decade since brick-and-mortar franchises sold used PC games in stores around here, but I did enjoy checking the stacks when I could.

There’s still one store around here: Retro Games Plus. There are two locations of it, although one is quite a distance away. They don’t have a huge selection, for any system really, but they have a little of everything. I’ve even seen games for the Vic-20, TI99/4A and Atari 400/800 there. I once bought a bunch of used Windows games, but I ended up returning one of them after looking it up online and seeing that it required a Steam account. This fact wasn’t mentioned on the back of the package. They took it back because they were aware of how some games can only be activated once.

Personally, I love it when there’s a source port for an older game and you can just unpack the archive, copy over the data files and launch the game without even needing to run the installer. I wish all games were like that.

Anonymous Non-Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

You know what I love about physical books? I can buy them used for cheap. I can just take a little detour in my commute back to home, go by the used bookstore, grab me a thing or two, and walk out with fine additions to my collect- ahem, library.

But I’ve only ever seen one used PC game where I live. It was attached on the inside of the back cover of its hardback manual, which was sold at that same bookstore. I found the manual nice, but not enough to justify spending money on it in good conscience, until I found the disc and it was immediately upgraded to instabuy.

Now, thanks to the likes of that game client, I can’t really find used PC games as easily as I could used books. Whatever physical copies are released just include the code and no game content whatsoever, like that Orange Box. That and I’d have to deal with account based DRM on top of it all, or buy from GOG (which is nice and it’s incredible we have it, but it almost always feels like a compromise rather than a true solution to this mess).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Just a swap of clients? That's it?

"Now, thanks to the likes of that game client, I can’t really find used PC games as easily as I could used books"

For two main reasons – first off, while the book is the product, a game box is just the delivery device. Unless you’re running a CD installed game without no CD cracks, you never need to look at the box after the game is installed, while you obviously need to look at the book. So, why would you pay have a box delivered when you can have the game on your PC immediately after you buy it?

The second is that most online stores run regular sales events, which often drive prices way below what even a used copy of a game would sell for physically.

"GOG (which is nice and it’s incredible we have it, but it almost always feels like a compromise rather than a true solution to this mess)."

Which is…?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Online validation

I’ve never test how often Steam requires online signing in, but I’ve never had a problem starting a (single-player) game in offline mode.

Even my Ubisoft games will run when my connection is offline or preoccupied. I just won’t get the benefits of cloud-saving (or buying microtransactions, which I don’t do anyway.)

I did play The Division with friends, and eventually its online mandate became a dealbreaker, especially when the servers lagged out and could set me back hours of play. But I’ve avoided MMOs for that reason, and MMO-lites (like The Division) had all the disadvantages of MMOs with fewer advantages.

The game had pretty weather effects though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Just a swap of clients? That's it?

No. That is a myth propagated by dishonest people and the main reason for Steam hate. I have played games offline at least for a month. Tools who couldn’t run their online only games once start blame Valve for something they have no control of. Typical ignorant mob mentality.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 GOG

GOG doesn’t require a client to download and play games, and part of the service is assuring that old game stay compatible with new OSes. Even DOS games.

Old games on Steam or on disc are often not compatible with more recent OSes. It doesn’t always mean they’re unplayable, but often it has to be tweaked until it is. GOG does the tweaking for me.

As a result I’ve repurchased a bunch of old games so that I don’t have to rely on the optical media (or plugging in an optical drive) to play them.

Granted, like any other corporation, it might someday get bought out by something bigger and more malicious and turned into a parking lot and we all lose our licenses. But this is true of a lot of licensed content including most recent consoles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

I remember Half Life 2’s launch week, having to set it trying to connect to Steam just to be able to play it each and every time, then go and make a pot of tea, maybe visit the toilet, pop across the street to pick up a takeaway, and MAYBE, if you were LUCKY, it’ll have verified your game and let you play it by the time you got back from all that, but no guarantees.

I cracked that game the moment I was able to, and went on to have a fun time playing it once I was able to uninterrupted. And I didn’t buy anything else that needed Steam for a good decade after that.

Anonymous Non-Coward says:

Re: Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

That’s what gets me. I’ve been hearing this baby steps argument for years, and all we see are incremental changes. For big corporates, their baby steps towards being better companies might as well take decades.

And when they make a step, it’s simply just a swap of the clients. Replace the Origin logo with the Steam logo. They’re talking about it as if it’s the ultimate game changer, when in fact it’s the same scenario as before but they’re now using the Accepted Client(TM) instead of the Hated Client(TM). Then again, I guess it’s a matter of extremely hollow PR.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Just a swap of clients? That's it?

Take off your hate googles. Steam is much more user friendly than Origin will ever be. It is not just a "logo swap". Also while I would prefer to have no DRM, the minimum DRM Steam may require was already present in many games independent from a launcher even when it was relatively new. When there was DRM built into the games independently people weren’t making such a fuss about it.

I would like to clarify the games on Steam still depend on developer’s decision to have DRM, and how strong will it be. Thinking that Steam is an evil corporation that forces DRM is childish. You cannot solve problems by blaming the wrong people.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly, and likely the reason I’ll still be using whatever their app is called in the future. Crysis 1/2/3, ME 1/2/3/A, and several other big franchises – I’ve got them all on Origin. If I can’t migrate them over, I’ll just keep playing them through the EA client vs buying them all over again.

Rekrul says:

I don’t use Origin or Steam, but I’m curious; What’s going to happen to previously purchased games that needed Origin as the DRM? Even if they’re patched to use Steam instead, will that still apply to retail copies of games? In other words, if a user were to buy a copy of an older game on eBay (sealed copy of course) that requires Origin, will it automatically be patched and redirected to Steam? Or will Origin continue to be used as DRM for existing games?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"What’s going to happen to previously purchased games that needed Origin as the DRM?"

Well, you already agreed, when clicking the EULA, that you couldn’t hold EA responsible if your game stopped working, blew up your computer, or absconded to the seychelles with all of your money as well as your wife.

You don’t get to complain if your always-online or always-origin game stops working.

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