Browsing through my Steam library – numbering well over 50 titles – I was struck by what digital distribution has done for the gaming industry. These are games that I own (regardless if I ever get around to playing them), that outnumber the amount of physical games seemingly collecting dust atop my shelf. The list can be augmented with games from GoG (Good old Games,) the currently in-flux Direct 2 Drive, and EA’s new Origin Service. All four of these distributors handle its business differently – whether it be DRM free or license keys. But out of the three non-Valve owned services, Origin is the only one that stands a chance to take on the house that Gabe Newell built.
When Origin launched last year, I ignored it, intentionally. Inundated by the gamer-rage spilling out from all sides of the internet, I decided to let things settle down before I went on board. And am I ever glad to have waited. Since its launch, EA has slowly carved Origin into a success – though it does help to be able to offer some of the most popular games currently available. To be fair though, Origin had somewhat of a sloppy start, from having to edit their User Agreement to remove mention of selling user info for marketing purposes, to dealing with admittedly hotheaded gamers over the manufactured controversy. As expected, Origin went through its share of growing pains. But now that the service has been around for a little over a year, it's time to take a look at the new kid on the block.
A simple Google search will reveal multiple articles concerning the supposed “evil” nature of EA and Origin. This, of course, is not aided by the fact that EA is known for having some of the worst customer service - ever. But in the year since Origin’s launch, gamers have seemed to soften their opinions of it, and there is good reason for that. Origin functions much like Steam does, again leaving GoG as the only other mainstream service to not feature a dedicated client – and also the only one to not use any sort of DRM. After easily creating an account and browsing through the store, it’s now difficult to see what all the fuss was about six months ago.
Origin’s pricing is just about even with that of Steam, but gamers looking for a better deal would still be better served by playing the long waiting game for one of Steam’s massive sales, as EA has stated that Origin will not be participating in the same sort of frantic discounting. Browsing through the available games, it’s easy to see Origin’s greatest strengths and weaknesses; a serious lack of games, juxtaposed with some of EA’s most popular, and profitable, offerings. Origin offers nowhere near the amount of games that Steam does. Nor does Origin have Steam’s stellar deals. It’s sort of like reading a poorly written book with a very compelling plot. So, what’s the point then? Well, there really isn't except for EA's requirement of an Origin account for its games. On the other end of the spectrum however, using Origin will not forfeit your soul, install terrible spyware, or cause you to become a social pariah. The only serious problem for Origin is that it just so happens to be run by EA.
Back in April, EA was voted the worst company in America by the readers of the Consumerist. While I don’t fail to see the humor in that, I've slowly come to realize that the reason that Origin was so easy to rag on (the services own errors notwithstanding ) was because of EA’s less than stellar public image. No matter how many fantastic improvements EA is able to implement, there is always going to be a very vocal group of people that are going to be see Origin as nothing more than an EA run business, and dismiss it due to its association.
Eventually Origin will become a worthy Steam alternative, but after a year in it’s not quite there yet – yet being the operative word. But if you are willing to looked passed it's shortcomings, it's a service worth checking out, just as long as you don't hiss when you read: "Powered by EA.”
Post contributed by Rueben Levine. Questions for the author? Send an email to email@example.com.