So, my column this week is mostly preaching to the choir, but there’s always this mad, delusional hope that some of it will sink in. I can understand (but not condone) when a company acts with contempt for their customers in service of their bottom line. But I find it maddening when a company does so to their own ruin. In short, Origin needs to get its act together, quickly.
The time and money put into Origin are considerable. It could be a great opportunity for EA and gamers. I say this as someone who isn’t even all that keen on digital distribution and would prefer a market based on physical copies. However, I can see this is the way things are going, and I can see EA is squandering this opportunity.
A good litmus test is this: Given the behavior of the competition, would Valve need to change Steam in any way in order to avoid losing sales or market share? If anything, Origin just makes Steam look that much more attractive.
How can so many people be so flagrantly clueless and dysfunctional for so long? They must have unbelievable internal inertia to be this slow and unresponsive to market expectations.
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131 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Dear Origin”
“If you were actually thinking of your customers (and if you were smart like Valve) then you would give free copies of Mass Effect 1 & 2 on Origin to people who already have copies through Steam.”
I do believe a copy of ME2 on Steam can be activated on Origin.
Not ME1, though.
I’m pretty sure I was able to activate both ME 1 and 2 on Origin, along with the DLC from both. In fact, I think they were there when I first loaded Origin because I’d registered them at EA.com before. All in all, I’ve had acceptable experiences with Origin, but it’ll take great experiences to beat Steam as my go-to platform. I don’t see it happening.
When did you buy ME1? I think the rule is that you can’t register any Bioware game on Origin that was purchased before 2009 (before the BSN reorg, basically).
also EVERYONE who had a copy of DA2 got a Free Copy of ME2 (PC) this was mostly biowares doing but it made me get origin, and its not evil, its not as good as steam but give it some time
That could explain things. According to Steam, I bought both games within four days of one another in January 2011.
I tried activating my Steam Mass Effect 1 copy on Origin by copy-pasting the product code but it wasn’t accepted.
Bad Company 2 seems to work (didn’t go through with it). But other than that I don’t seem to be able to find any more EA games in my massive Steam collection.
Even looked at my “box for old boxes and game discs” and I can’t even activate Battlefield 2 on Origin.
I got ME2 for free from EA Download Manager (Origin’s precursor) because I owned Dragon Age 2 on steam. So they did do a little of that kind of marketing, awhile ago.
Yet another insightful and fun to read commentary by Shamus.
The tragedy is that it might not even matter how crap Origins is, when it’s the only way to get massively popular games like Battlefield 3.
Games like Battlefield 3 are massively popular on consoles not PCs. Because despite intrusive online verification DRM schemes, they don’t use those to try to curb the rash of aimbots and other hacks that pollute the PC multi-player game. Why don’t they try, “Hey our DRM may feel like we’re treating you like a criminal, but at least we’re keeping your opponent from cheating.”
“Games like Battlefield 3 are massively popular on consoles not PCs.”
You need to frequent less intellectual circles. I was amazed around September-October how many of my internet hangouts became filled with people gearing up (literally, i.e. buying new gear) specifically for BF3.
Depends on how you measure Origin’s success. If its success is measured by how often it is run, then sure. If it’s measured as a marketplace, I’m not so optimistic.
Origin for me is just something that runs while BF3 is running and no other time. I went shopping there a couple times to just see what’s what and unless it changes dramatically I doubt I’ll even visit their store again.
Fun story: I went there once because they were advertising a sale. From the homepage, I couldn’t even tell there was a sale going on. After fiddling around a bit managed to find it, but the sale wasn’t worth the effort – it brought the MSRP prices down to buy-it-on-Amazon prices. All in all a waste of time.
EA need an incentive for people to use Origin, rather than their current approach, which is using it as a form of punishment that must be endured in order to play a game…
But that very approach is keeping gfwl alive for years now.And if it works for microsoft,it will work for ea.
GFWL has quietly faded it seems. Only recent game that makes use of it is Arkham City. To my knowledge, at least.
I just had to deal with GFWL’s utter BS when I bought it from Amazon today.
Don’t forget that game development takes some time, and the developing or publishing company likely chooses to use GFWL early one. So it might have been a few years since the decision to include it in a current game. Possibly no game under development now might even have it any more.
Genius! Maybe not from a marketing standpoint, but it’s still better than anything they’ve come up with on their own.
A single man can only be so stupid. To be truly, mind bogglingly stupid, you need to be a major corporation.
A committee is an organism with 6 or more legs and no brain.
Remember when EA was the smart people that broke off from a corporation that was killing itself by letting accountants make design choices?
Don’t try to save EA. The best we can hope for at this point is hospice. Let the people who care about games break away and start making games, and EA can keep making Madden NFL: 2012: The subtitle
Heck, I remember when EA was just a publisher with no in-house development teams.
My one great fear is that EA will see Steam still beating their sales on non-Origin exclusive games and decide the only logical response is pulling everything old and new off Steam. I’d hate to see a future where every single game publisher has their own download platform with all their products exclusive to it.
Sadly, I fear this is probably where we’re headed. :/ I’m no fan of Origin either, but then again, I’m not that big a fan of Steam either. I launch it only to play games like DX:HR or L4D2 that require Steam to be running, then I promptly close it once I’m done playing to free up memory. I’ll just end up treating Origin the same way, I guess.
Not the point, I know, but you do realize that’s not how memory works, right?
I think he means the memory of the background steam service, not the running game on steam.
Yep, Nick has it right. :) Steam, Origin and other such services take up memory of their own separate from the memory the games themselves need to run. In general, to improve performance as much as possible, I generally shut down all non-essential programs/services when playing games, which is another reason why I find Steam/Origin annoying.
You probably save most on the threads and network bandwidth than anything. I can’t imagine the steam platform is much of a RAM hog. But yeah, closing all nonessential garbage really helps performance. And minimizes bizarre, hard-to-find errors. I really hate that steam tries to auto-launch on system boot by default. I’m sure you can disable that but I’ve never really messed with it.
Command bar > Steam > Settings > Interface > “Run Steam when my computer starts”
There ya’ go!
You mean like Valve does?
Exactly. Shamus wrote, “your only plan is to strong-arm fans into signing up,” which is exactly what Valve did to launch Steam.
“Wanna play Half-Life 2, the sequel to one of the best, most popular PC games ever made? Well, you’re gonna have to make a Steam account.”
The difference is, after strong-arming everyone onto Steam, Valve stopped and thought “Hey, maybe we should make this service stop sucking now?”
EA won’t. They will keep strong-arming people onto Origin, and then they will ignore your pleas for mercy.
I think the “only” part is what’s important – Valve has many tricks to get and keep customers, EA is currently only using exclusivity.
The big difference is that at launch, Steam wasn’t launching yet another inferior copy of an existing service, but a relatively trailblazing download service. I’m sure there might have been a few games download services of some kind floating around, but I’m assuming they were primitive compared to what Steam offered. It’s the problem of all services that come later, you’re going to be judged against the competition now, not what the competition was like when they launched.
However, I will say that it’s probably in Valve’s best interests to provide their games on other download services, with a few exceptions (free to play games primarily). Not for their bottom line, but as an example for other publishers to follow. Although, with how closely Steam is integrated into their games for patching, multiplayer, and the like, I don’t know how that would work in the end.
Why would Valve ever want to help out their competitors instead of watching them crash and burn and then condescendingly offer to help them transition to a digital download service that is not terrible? I mean, besides lowering the rates for the avalanche insurance on their gigantic pile of money.
The worst thing about it is that Mass Effect 3 is Origin exclusive :-/ Almost giving me second thoughts about buying the game^^.
Oh I’m already there – I’m not even considering Mass Effect 3 if its on Origin, and I was practically sold before I heard that news.
Same – I played the TGS demo last year, and I was absolutely sold. Now I will never buy it.
I abandoned Mass Effect 3 as soon as I heard Battlefield 3 was Origin exclusive. I knew they’d make it like that as well, so meh.
I’ll try the ME3 demo, but I doubt it’s going to convince me it’s worth going for Origin.
Same here. I might probably even have not bothered with SWTOR had they not assured us that Origin would only be required for a digital purchase of the game. Here comes another useless piece of plastic where a download would suffice – I bought the game on Amazon and still don’t have Origin on my machine; I did not even touch the discs, only used the retail key in the box. Sigh.
Phew, I’m so glad I played Mass Effect 1 and 2 on the Xbox now.
Indeed. I find it troubling that you have to select one or the other (PC or console) to complete these trilogies (or continuations). I got a great deal on all the Dragon Age 1 content via coupons for the PC even though I owned only Dragon Age:Origin on the Xbox. So I switched. When Dragon Age 2 was coming out, I decided to get the PC version. On the other hand, all my Mass Effect gameplay has been on the Xbox. So now I’ll need to get ME3 on Xbox to “continue where I left off”. I wish there was a way to switch between the two, but I guess the developers haven’t gotten that far yet.
I’m interested in your reasons why you prefer a physical copy-based market over digital distribution. Would you be willing to share (and or summarise)?
He’s discussed it at length in previous posts and columns. As I recall, it boils down to the fact that when you purchase a physical disc, you are buying something. You, as the buyer, now own that game. You can (barring absurdly horrible DRM schemes) install it on as many machines as far into the future as you want, you are responsible for keeping it functional, but as long as the disc remains readable, you can always install the game and play it again. You also have the right to give it away, or sell it to someone else if you don’t want it anymore.
By contrast, when you buy a game digitally, you’re really only leasing it for a term to be determined by the seller (and renegotiated without warning by them as they see fit). If you ever uninstall it, and sometimes even if you don’t, and the company disappears, or decides to stop hosting it, your purchase is gone forever, even if it is a single-player game. It becomes trivially easy for the seller to restrict how many machines you can run the game on, and you can never pass it on to another person. When the developer fails, or gets bought out (or the publisher)–and this happens A LOT in the games industry, there’s absolutely no guarantee than anything you have ever bought from them digitally will survive such an event, and a very strong chance that it won’t.
Basically, digital purchases put you entirely at the mercy of the seller forever with respect to the purchase, while physical purchases leave the buyer with some measure of control over their purchase.
Except on GoG (possibly others?) titles have no authentication – once you get that .exe you can do whatever you want with it (practically, not legally!); and most physical titles have far more strict usage restrictions and dependencies than Steam*.
Your arguments seem to me to be against DRM, not distribution methods.
Most arguments for physical are about general philosophical preferences – “I like seeing a shelf of my games, rather than just a list of text”; or for the (unfortunately mostly restricted to special editions now) physical extras like art books, statues, etc….
* In fact Steam (by default) offers better long term availability than even raw, DRM-free physical disks through the ability to download and install any game you own onto any computer anywhere for as long as Steam exists, and barring some horrible market crash of some sort Steam should exist for a very long time – it has already existed double the average amount of time it takes me to lose a disk!
As Simon Buchan said, that’s not the case for all digital distribution platforms. I only have experience with Steam and Gamersgate, but with gamersgate, you download the installation files, and you can do anything you want with them. Put them in a backup folder, copy on a USB stick, burn on a disc, … The only ‘DRM’ is for the download itself (and possibly a license key if the game requires it) and after the first time you theoretically don’t need to access gamersgate’s servers ever again.
I should add that some installation files seem to disappear after the game has been installed, probably due to a bug, so you need to copy the files before you install the program. It’s really not much of a hassle really.
I greatly prefer GG over Steam, especially due to lack of a client-side program like steam.
Because external hard drives have become so cheap, I actually keep a copy of all of my steam games (and images of all of my discs for physical games) on a back-up HD.
Basically, if I suddenly want to play Portal 2 again, I copy if over in 2 minutes rather than download it again — this goes septuple now that I’ve downgraded my internet connection to save cash.
I agree. I vastly prefer GamersGate over Steam. I really like the no need for a client or internet connection to play games you’ve bought and downloaded. I also love the wide selection of indie games. I only own a few steam games, because if I can get a game from GamersGate instead, even if for a little bit more, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. Also steam being owned by a game development company kinda seems like a conflict of interests. Though, Gamersgate was originally owned by Paradox and no doubt still has a close relationship.
Well, if a product was about to lose its support from a digital distribution provider, I’m more than confident the provider himself would offer ways and time to make backup copies on disks or hard drives.
Also, with regard to what Shamus said in his article, it’s not necessary that a digital copy of a program can’t be traded. Business models like that of Green Man Gaming are proving to be quite successful. Not astoundingly so, but still, the point is made that there is a market segment for that.
I believe there is a much stronger argument in favor of digital distribution, that is the freedom it grants from that scourge of the gaming industry that are publishers. Steam and Desura offer indie and small developers access to the market in a way that was unthinkable of before. Even big software houses would greatly benefit if they had not to submit to publishing deals:
Remind me why we need publishers again?
At this point, why don’t game developers just go directly to investors, then handle marketing internally (or through an ad agency) and distribution through digital channels and/or contracted production groups? The publisher’s role in the industry keeps shrinking, and it’s high time it was replaced by a less parasitic model. Preferably before all the great old studios are killed off and gutted.
Why do you think they would help? If they’re, say, going out of business or being bought, it’s not their problem anymore. They have no particularly incentive to help you. It’s usually unwise to rely on the goodwill of people whose job is acquiring your money.
When a company declares bancruptcy, either it’s bought by someone (especially if we’re talking about an important brand, as would be the case), or some of its former members will still somehow relocate someplace else. In both situations, keeping a good image would always be a priority. And, even if this wouldn’t happen, you as the customer would always have time to learn of your digital store’s difficulties and make personal backups. It wouldn’t happen overnight.
To fear digital distribution because you could lose your files seems pretty foolish to me.
Considering how many extant publishers ditch support for older games, I’m really unclear why you would believe ones that no longer were extant would be in a better position to do so.
Companies revoke access to DRMed content all the time. Sony revoked their music. Wal-Mart revoked their music. Yahoo revoked their music. Microsoft revoked their music. Major League Baseball revoked their videos. Google revoked their videos.
Clearly large corporations either don’t care that their image is tarnished when they take content away from people, or they’ve concluded that the backlash is negligible. It’s the 21st century and consumer in the free market have voted with their dollars: so long as stuff is reasonably cheap, you can treat them like shit and occasionally rip them off. Why would someone purchasing assets in a bankruptcy be interested in voluntarily assume debts and obligations (in the form of providing free downloads)?
As for making backups, the backups are worthless if they’re still DRM-locked. This is very much true for Steam. It has to be. If you could restore from backup and play without contacting the DRM server, you have a giant hole for copyright infringement. This is the crux of the DRM problem: either your DRM is toothless or it infringes on legal, ethical use. There are no other options.
Well then, let’s say you’re right and you do risk losing your game library overnight. Still, the point rests that a distribution model which allows developers to bypass the publishers would enormously benefit the industry from all points of view. See those links I posted.
The distribution model is fine, the DRM (and a few other bits, like compulsory updates) are not.
If developers merely distributed their products online, that’d be great for both them and their consumers. But as they have chosen to include draconic DRM in that bundle, they gain while the customer loses. Personal backups mean nothing if you still need to ring the server to get to ok to play.
Basically, I don’t want the publishers to get any advantages if those mean I have to suffer such drawbacks. If I’m to pay them money, I want value in return. Online service DRM is not value to me, so I won’t buy. And that can’t be good for the publishers either (I have no illusions that I’m important to them in any way, but it’s still not ‘good’ if they lose even just one customer).
The thing that annoyed me the most about Origin is the utterly awefull way PR was handled following the Origin-Battlefield3-debacle.
I followed things just from the perspective of Mass Effect 3. Now we only need to take a quick look at their past exploits to know that EA/BioWare’s marketing department is hilariously bad at their job. But this was a new low for me.
Basically they decided that the best course of action was complete and total silence. Accompanied by closing any thread on their forums about the topic of Origin under lame and crappy pretenses. My favorite was the time they closed the thread about running Origin in a sandbox so that you could still buy the game, without fear of Origin doing anything it shouldn’t do. Ayup; a gesture from the community going “Okay guys, here’s how we can still buy the game and work around the DRM” was shot down. Classy.
A short while ago we finally got the news we already knew – that ME3 would require Origin, which was accompanied by a small FAQ which was supposed to adress any concerns people might have. Naturally said FAQ managed to not adress any concern whatsoever. Way to go.
I believe the more bigger shame in all of it is how they claim they would be willing to put their games on Steam but blame it on disagreement over a “Steam policy”, apparently because they’d rather sell DLC from outside of Steam.
http://forum.ea.com/eaforum/posts/list/7468888.page (which also links to this:
“Any retailer can sell our games, but we take direct responsibility for providing patches, updates, additional content and other services for the individuals and communities that play our games.”
Don’t know about you, but smells like bullshit to me. I don’t see how this benefits them at all beyond trying to weasel out of from having to give a cut to Valve from the sales. It’s like they’re burning bridges just on principle. They could just offer a better price at Origin to give themselves the edge and make the Steam price higher to compensate for the loss, but guess making sense just isn’t what EA does best.
Yeah, wouldn’t it make more sense for EA to sell ME3 on other digital distributions (like Steam) but then just lower the price by 10 dollars on Origin to make that seem more attractive? And they could add some extra fluff there to make it even more interesting. Like extra weapons, extra character skins, whatever.
“I don't see how this benefits them at all beyond trying to weasel out of from having to give a cut to Valve from the sales”
Yup. EA going all “Boohoo. Valve is mean” is utterly nonsense to my knowledge. It’s excactly as you said.
For customers this is really annoying. Why? Well let’s compare buying and installing DLC for New Vegas and ME2.
NV: I go the steam store page and I see the price of the DLC in euos). I purchace the DLC buy paying the exact ammount of money it costs and steam then automatically downloads the DLC for me together with the main game. Done.
ME2: I go the store page for the Me2 DLC and see some weird price in funny money. I see a link where I can buy “BioWare points”; I follow it and I’m suddenly at a Dragon Age page which confusing to say the least. Now I want to buy the Genesis DLC which costs 320 goobledogock points. Guess which ammount of points you cannot select to purchase? Ayup, you guessed it.
After being overcharged for to many points, you can finally purchased your DLC. Now you get to download a seperate executable that you have to run. Wee! Now let’s repeat to process for every single individual DLC you wnat.
EA doesn’t even need to stop selling their DLC through their own sites with their stupid-ass “Bioware points”. They can still do that, it’s just Valve/Steam wants them to be on Steam IN ADDITION to the sites.
They’re just being all pissy. If they really cared about their customers, they’d just put the DLC on Steam like they do with Sims 3. It gives the customer more options to buy their stuff.
But then they can’t, to quote Raygereio, force you to buy their overpriced Goobledogock Points that you will never, ever fully use.
Man, I like that term. Goobledogock Points. I move this is now the official term for Bioware Points.
From a business standpoint, the games industry has a long-running habit of complete insanity. I’m not sure why, exactly. Some companies manage to do well enough (Valve, obviously) but oh-so-many seem to go out of their way to annoy the customer base, make stupid distribution decisions, and otherwise screw the pooch.
I guess that it comes from a two sources. First, many game companies started with one huge hit, made a ton of money, and oodles of profit. They never started out with business sense to begin with, and once they got big they didn’t know how to use their newfound wealth effectively. Sometimes they expanded too fast (see Ion Storm) and killed whole division. The huge megapublishers, meanwhile, had no understanding of the market, very little of marketing, and often very little contact with customers. Thus, many of them died, and thsoe who survived were equally split between those who backed away and offered basic and efficient services (JoWood), and those who were too evil and cruel to die (EA).
Imo, the reason is that accountants/economists have too much say and meddle in stuff they shouldn’t touch (but everyone knows how games work, right?). Not just in game design, everywhere. In large corporations, there are too many accountants/economists. Why? Because they are usually at the top and the ones who are to decide if money may be spent on something. Often without knowing enough about the subject.
Also, accountants and economists like to hire other accountants and economists. They are like self-replicating bacteria!
In engineering, there are those accountants/economists who go by the job description of “controller”. Their only job is to save money and control spending and their success is measured by how much money they saved/didn’t spend. Now, just like the self-replicating bacteria, at one point there are too many of them and so they either kill their host or kill each other. The controllers that don’t control enough will be fired.
This leads to them trying to save/not spend money where not saving/actually spending the money would make much more sense in a long-term context.
They slow down new developments, limit or even decrease product reliability and safety, often decrease work conditions and god help you if you are a supplier and one of them decides that cutting cost by 30% is a good idea because then you’ll have to hire your own controller that tells you how to save so much money (or find someone new to produce for, which often isn’t very easy since many of the contracts are given out/controlled by guesswho).
Yup. Very visible in my job as well. Mobile security, our company markets itself
Yup. Very visible in my job as well. Mobile security, our company markets itself as the biggest, with the best quality for a slightly higher price.
Problem is, accountants and comptrollers have cut away so much, our service is, by now, actually substandard (with patrols having 10.5 hours of controls + 1 hour of legally required break + 3 hours of driving to be done on a 12 hour shift – that’s not including interventions…). Now clients are abandoning ship and direction and management are wondering where they went wrong. We all know where and why, but…
Not to be too political (and feel free to remove this post if it is) but this is largely what is wrong with the market today: making a profit isn’t enough, you have to make the biggest possible profit. Meaning profit trumps any other concern, be it safety (when not in the Western world), humanity, long-term client trust, quality,… * sigh*
Yep, this problem is endemic to business in the free market these days. Long term vision and investment are sacrificed on the altar of short term profits.
Part of it is the problems of any large company: Brilliance tends to be individual, not collective, but large companies tend to be managed by collectives. I credit Valve’s intelligence in part to Gabe Newell’s leadership. Job was similarly instrumental in Apple’s resurgence. As you grow, you have multiple layers and committees working on things. Each person wants to add their stamp to each project, damaging the central vision. A foolish desire to be all things to all people further waters down the result.
Large companies tend to become irrationally risk adverse. They do things that are safe, or at least feel safe. Lowering the cost of your older games? You might make less money! Offering things for bargain basement rates? You might not only make less money, but the cheap stuff might detract from sales of the new expensive stuff! Making the DRM less onerous for your paying customers? But pirates might get it! Spending a bunch of money improving your platform? It’s already losing money, we might be throwing good money after bad!
I think part of the problem is reliance on big hit products. The movie industry is the same way. Spend millions, and just hope the movie isn’t a flop.
This makes the entire management chain insane. They know they are risking everything and don’t know how to guarantee success. So they micromanage, they get cautious, they play politics. Everything except just concentrate on the quality of the product.
They can’t really do anything about quality, since they aren’t the audience and don’t understand what their customers are looking for. They aren’t the developers and don’t understand what it takes to produce a quality product. They are just managers, accountants and marketers, and all they can do is make a mess.
You really need to touch on the subject of the lesser digital distribution services. Tell the people of the relative benefits you can find by using Gamersgate, Impulse (I WON’T call it Gamestop, it is stupid and they don’t exist in my country) and Good Old Games.
And are you one day going to call up on the devs that just rely on Steam for DRM and make their own physical copies of their games completely and utterly pointless? (Supreme Commander 2, I’m looking at you).
EDIT: Oh, come on! Moderation again? Shamus, can you please tell me why am I showing flags for your anti-spam to come up and ask me to spread wide? I take it personally when softwares accuse me of being a spambot (or worse, a flamebaiter troll)
I think I’ve only ever had a single comment not up for moderation, and that was the time I told someone I’ve never had a comment not up for moderation.
Does Shamus know the exact metrics by which it chooses the ones it blocks? Is it necessarily something in our comments, or could it be flagging our name/email as “suspicious”?
Huh… for me it was the opposite. I’ve never had a comment up for moderation until recently, then I got this one shortly after another one I did a couple of days back.
and Stardock. If that still exists. I remember it being pretty painless.
Stardock’s platform was Impulse. Before they sold it to GameStop because it was making too much money.
Actually, it was (or at least they claim it was, but then again they’re not much to use corporate talk) because they felt it was intruding or at least interfering in the “game development” side of their business with, well, the business side of business.
In my reasoning, I think it was at least partly responsible with how Elemental turned out to be. They had too many pre-sales, they were worrying too much about the platform and then they just figured they had to launch the game. It is a pity, I really like many of the ideas behind it (especially the part of a civ-like game where you could personally customize your unities and cities like in Galactic Civilizations).
Maybe they just weren’t as big and organized as Valve to deal with the multitasking of dealing with their sale platform well enough. Heck, even their great games have to go through some pretty rough post-launch nursing until they’re properly on their both feet while even when Valve just shit a title up (L4D2) it is still a very polished thing.
But I really, really hate that they just up and sold it to Gamestop. WHY? I feel bad just having to see their logo every time I launch Impulse, and the software itself looks much more fiddly and badly managed. More than once it couldn’t even display a game I found at good price and tried to buy.
Probably the best thing they could do is find someone (a single guy) with business experience and offer to manage the platform still under Stardock, but maybe they didn’t have the proper contacts? ( I know they at least have close bonds with Chris Tylor, but… considering Age of Empires Online maybe it was for the best).
Don’t leave out Direct2Drive, very good promo’s occasionally and some nice gems in there. Not available worldwide, though.
As in, not available in my country, so I left it out. At least none of the games I’ve ever tried buying in it (when I saw a good deal).
Thanks, Shamus, for reminding me I’ve got to get Origin so I can play Mass Effect 3…
The thing is, they have got a fantastic opportunity right here, right now, to make up for all of Origin’s bad press. (Two if you count Battlefield 3, but that’s history already.) An awful lot of people, myself included, will be using Origin for the very first time on March 6. If on that day, it is easy for me to install my copy of Mass Effect 3 and Origin is sufficiently unobtrusive, I will start to change my opinion. On the other hand, if Origin is slow and has a poor interface and pops up/interrupts me constantly, I’m going to dislike it more than ever, and I’ll be honest: I would then start looking into alternate methods, such as downloading a crack that doesn’t require Origin.
This is very similar to the opportunity Valve had when Half-Life 2 came out. They forced everyone to play the highly-anticipated game on Steam, and then somehow, people just kept using it. Only EA has the chance to do even better than Valve (words I have never said before and I doubt I will ever say again) by doing it right the first time (first-ish time, anyway)–rather than a buggy service that people see no purpose for, they could theoretically offer a not-too-buggy service that people already appreciate the use of (because they already use Steam).
Who wants to bet they won’t take advantage of this opportunity, though? Seriously, do companies like EA hate money or something? I know they make money hand over fist already, but don’t they realize they could be even more ludicrously rich if they just spruced up their image and had more concern for their customers?!
No Shamus are you stupid you totally do not understand business! Look here I am an expert in business and I will tell you how to start a business the right way!
Say you want to open a new convenience store your first move is to make everything more expensive than the competition so that everyone knows you are better! You should also cavity search every fourth customer to eliminate shoplifting completely and you should hire professionals for this at thrice the standard fee so that people will understand you are better! You should also follow random customers in the store and call them criminal scum and take random items from their basket and/or cart if they look too foreign for the time of the day!
You should also keep your store closed during business hours on occasion with a big sign saying you are conducting anti-shoplifting checks!
And never clean the store because that’s just too expensive, also remember to insult and underpay your suppliers, that’s only common sense!
And naturally the best way to prevent shoplifting is to direct all cameras at the checkout, where the customers will be standing when they pay, and tell everyone who is proven to NOT be a shoplifter to stop being such a disgusting criminal.
Geez it’s like you people didn’t go to Pyotrs Avdance’d Clase off Buisnes for ten years, what next you’ll put up “buy one get one for free” sales and be helpful and polite to your customers?
You forgot one rule:
Your terms and conditions also entitle you to check in at the house of your consumers at any time as you please to make sure they aren’t using your products in a way that isn’t sanctioned by you. The people checking up on people’s homes will also be entitled to make sure you don’t have any stolen products in your home.
Also kinda reminds me of a restaurant owner featured on Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, too. His food was now better after the show, his restaurant had all the resources necessary to succeed, but the owner wouldn’t lower the ridiculous prices because it would make the food seem “lower class.” The restaurant closed.
What is the “pyotrs” in this comment, by the way? (I can understand the rest of it, but this part isn’t clicking.)
Pyotr is a shady slav- I mean reputable and not at all suspicious western gentleman whose service is of high quality as is evident in how he use’s apostrophe’s correctly in the name of hi’s busine’ss.
If you know what I mean.
Just tried right now–I was able to activate my Mass Effect 2 Steam CD key on Origin, but not my ME1 CD key. I was also able to add Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to my Origin account, despite having bought them on Steam. It would be nice to have a more comprehensive system, but Steam is REALLY inconsistent about letting you register a CD key with Steam and have it show up properly (as in, a real game that you can download and patch through Steam, rather than a shortcut to an executable) so this is just an issue of Origin and Steam BOTH needing to improve.
So far as I’m aware, actually activating a steam license by CD key is only for full Steamworks titles.
Yeah, the coverage for games which aren’t Steamworks titles by nature is a bit iffy, but it’s something they never had to provide. There’s also a list of all the games you can register on Steam somewhere.
I registered a fairly beat-up copy of Prey I found for cheap, so even if the disc finally gives out I still have a Steam copy, and Prey was only available on Steam way after release.
“If anything, Origin just makes Steam look that much more attractive.”
Basically: this. So far everything EA has done with the service, especially calling it “Origin”, has just convinced me to stick with Steam. And Desura. And GoG.com. And Impulse. And Mojang’s thingamajig which will eventually be more than just a “Minecraft account”. Oh yeah, and I’ve bought a bunch of games on PSN and Wiiware and iTunes.
So it’s not like I’m just invested in one service. But, like GFWL, Origin has the faint smell of Marketing Clowns trying to beat the competition by trying to clone the competition’s product/service… while failing to understand what makes the product/service excellent in the first place.
I ask because I don’t know:
Is this a logical extent of EA culture and mindset? “Make it and they will come” seemed to work for many of their games, so doesn’t it make sense from their perspective to do this for a game service?
It only applies to their high value titles. They have released an awful lot of high value titles this year and made them Origin-exclusive to boost their own sales and DRM platform.
For anything else than their own high value titles I don’t really see a future for Origin. Many people were ready to accept Origin for those games but I agree with Shamus, especially in one point: EA has to sweeten the deal to make people use it for anything else than DRM on those high value titles.
I bought BF3 (well, an overseas retail copy from a country where games are cheaper) and I don’t plan to use Origin for anything else. Their prices are simply too high and tbh I don’t really play or plan to play many other EA games.
It’s the kind of stereotypical corporate arrogance so I don’t see why not. They’ve already got the annual sports games, Sims and what else which keep selling like candy. People just keep buying them, even if they’re just the equivalent of a roster update or horse armor. When you have businessmen making business, it’s kind of an inevitability to exploit what you can. And it tends to go in their heads.
Comparing the Sims 3 expansion packs to horse armor seems awfully adecuate.
It’s probably a deep-seated psychological problem, but I’ve never regretted getting a Sims expansion, even when I didn’t care about the stuff they were pushing it with (I’ve bought exactly one pet, promptly before the owner died). Just adding a bunch more toys to the toybox seems to work well enough for me. And no, I’ve never liked the community stuff.
But yeah, fuck sports games! I don’t play them!
EA needs to stop going at alone on their Origin service. Amazon, maybe? I mean, they’re the only ones that met or beat Steam when they having their Winter sale. Right now, Amazon’s selling EA games for $6 freaking dollars with their current sale.
Feature parity with Steam. If they seriously want to compete, they need to beat/exceed the features on Steam right now. They have the money to do it, but they’re twiddling their thumbs at this rate.
Incentives. Why in the hell does GameStop have better pre-order DLC than Origin for games like Kingdoms of Amalur and Mass Effect 3? What the hell. You want all the pre-order DLC for Mass Effect 3? Origin Special Edition. Not from GameStop.
Region lockout. I’m in the military stationed overseas in Japan. Just by having an IP in Japan, I get redirected to the Japanese Origin store without any choice in the matter. Hulu, Steam, and Amazon all let me have the option to use the US website without hassle. Why don’t you give me this option, EA?
Engagement. EA actually has better customer service than Steam. But you wouldn’t know that at first glance. Get some folks on Twitter/Facebook and actively engage with people. Build up your reputation!
That’s all I have right now. Just got Bulletstorm for $2 from Amazon and contacted Origin to add it to my account. Came back to me in less than a couple of hours and now I just have to deal with GFWL. :(
Steam’s customer service has the advantage of being possible to find. When I wanted to contact EA I was just circle-redirected between three or four of their support pages.
Incentives. Why in the hell does GameStop have better pre-order DLC than Origin for games like Kingdoms of Amalur and Mass Effect 3? What the hell. You want all the pre-order DLC for Mass Effect 3? Origin Special Edition. Not from GameStop.
This annoyed me, my first assumption was I’d buy it on steam, but thinking of all the troubles with EA and steam I wasn’t confident, so then I thought of just preordering from Origin, I’ve used it in the past, for the few games I have it isn’t bad, but then I see the preorder deal for gamestop… I’m buying a physical copy now just because of the preorder bonuses, and having already only a single Impulse game that made little sense.
But they have to offer better services, not just the advantage of being able to use Origin, this is not a selling point yet, if ever.
I wouldn’t mind using it at all, but because of this mess I bought it neither at steam nor origin, customer loses, Origin loses, game better blow me away. lol
If Mass Effect 3 stays Origin only I must applaud EA for reverting me to a pirate.
I’ve bought all Bioware games ever made but if they don’t change Origin’s EULA, I’m not going to buy any game requiring it.
I’m perfectly willing to pay for Mass Effect 3 (as I did for the previous two Mass Effect games) but not at the price of giving EA unrestricted access to my computer. Access that they might have no current plans of using but that’s not to say they might not in the future or might get hacked.
Yeah, after seeing how Origin scans fucking everything I will not use it. I’m very interested in playing ME3, but if I do, it won’t be with Origin.
Good thing I wasn’t really interested in Battlefield 3.
GFWL did this for me. My Steam copy of Fable III refused to install a second time, due to GFWL refusing to accept my ‘CD code’. The microsoft people refused to help me because they wouldn’t support products bought on Steam. The next GFWL game I buy, I’ll ‘buy’ from Pirate Bay.
Every developer with their own market software that invades your computer is a go.
batman ac day 1: 13$
mw3 day 1 : 22$
ac:r day 1 : 18$
fifa 12 day 1 :19$
civ 5: day 1 12$
me 3: preorder will cost 20$
(the reason games are sold at such low prices is to compete with the maaaaassive piracy market here. also many people cannot afford 60$ a game.)
Awesome isn’t it?? :)
(piracy market is huuuuuuuuuuuuge here…. )
It’s almost a slap on the face for Electronic Arts to call this pile of code after one of the great computer game makers of the 80’s and 90’s. I still play Wing Commander II and Privateer on occasion, and while Ultima never got my attention, I’ve never been a big one for computer RPG, I know it’s many iterations are near and dear the hearts of many to this day.
Nice read, Shamus. I could feel you wince every time you complimented Steam, I know you’re not a huge fan. :)
The fundamental issue is, the people in charge of these companies – EA, Activision, and probably Ubisoft as well – don’t play games. They don’t use their own services. So they have no idea whatsoever that their products are inferior. At a massive company like EA, this detachment probably pentrates down through several ranks of management.
I think this is a fundamental problem throughout American business culture: ‘management’ and ‘executives’ are detached from the actual company, and widely interchangeable – CEOs and top executives at large, publicly owned corporations are hired from the upper echelons of other companies, rather than promoted from within or from elsewhere in the same industry. I think you ran into this at your fast food job: the guys in the corporate skyscraper simply didn’t know how things actually operated at the ground level – in large part, because they had never been there except as an ‘observer’.
Just wanted to make sure this was not missed, because it’s important. Same thing happened to TSR. It’s just taking a lot longer because the science of making games has advanced.
What? Are you saying the CEO of McDonald’s doesn’t eat their shitty food, and somehow has money to eat at five star restaurants every day?
Can’t they make it illegal to do that? Maybe if every huge corporation CEO (and the board of directors!) had to use the products they make, we’d see a drastic increase in quality.
I’d like to think that if you enforced this, you’d see a lot of these corporations go out of business due to seppuku…
Discussions on digital distribution get me thinking.
Let’s say we’re all at Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo, comprising the team that’s developing the Next Gen console. I’m the boss and I come into the meeting one day and say:
“Let’s make something with no disc reader. It’ll have a good hard drive and a persistent net connection to our cloud. But all distribution will be via download. Marketing loves this, they say we’ll just put empty boxes with game codes in stores so games can still be gifted. We’ll advertise it as ‘never lose or scratch your game’ and ‘saves backed up forever’ and ‘easy access to player networks’. And we’ll capture all those sales that were being lost to used, rental, or borrowing.”
Now if you’re on the development team, do you object to this strategy? And if so, is your argument strong enough to overcome all that potential new revenue if it works?
The one strong counterargument is that some people are /still/ resistant to or unable to hook their machine up to the ‘net. None of my friends plug their consoles into the web, and half the time I can’t even get ‘net access on my PC (I’m a mariner, and am at sea half the year).
EDIT: Is it strong enough? I imaigne you’d need to do some studies to find out. A quick start would be to find out a) what percentage of XBOX and PS3 users actually hook up to the ‘net, and b) what percentage of them have good enough bandwidth to support such a platform.
Recent surveys of “have broadband internet at home” and “have a gaming console” put the first at around 65% and the second around 50%. (In the US.) Clearly there will be individuals in B but not A, but I bet there’s a decent correlation.
Being able to but not inclined is even less of a problem. You just make it part of the setup. There’d be pushback at first as there is with any change, but if the games are worth it and the setup routine is streamlined, I bet it’d become accepted procedure before long.
As for inconsistent connection, what if it was needed to purchase & install but not strictly required to play after that? That way if you’re out at sea (for example), you don’t buy games there anyway, right?
Maybe more than one generation of console away, but I’d put my money on that being the industry’s direction.
It’s still a step in the wrong direction as far as I’m concerned. Portable consoles and laptops, being able to be online “everywhere”, “always”, those were the codewords of yesteryear, weren’t they? Still not true.
I do’nt own a console, but many of my firends do…Being able to just plug your Xbox360 in my TV and play, move back to your place and plug it in, and so forth… Possible with discs, not so much with clouds.
Heck, I don’t have internet in half the places I set up my laptop! Not to mention that internet is still way more expensive all over the world (even Europe) than it is in the US. Blergh. Hate hate hate hate hate cloud solutions. Hate.
two-year-old data, but back then it was about 3/4 of the top-end consoles were net-connected at least sometimes.
I would point to the PSP Go
(posted Vita originally, what the heck brain)
Not to mention, if only EA learned from all the stuff revealed in this article on Steam:
I mean, assuming Gabe isn’t just fudging numbers here, gross revenue increases by a factor of 40 due to a sale? That’s HUGE.
I mean, I understand Valve is a private company, which means that they can do things faster without worrying about shareholders, and EA always has to worry about scaring shareholders with bold moves…
But if EA flashed these fancy numbers at their shareholders with pretty charts and graphs, EA should be able to proceed forward with dirt cheap prices. Meh.
Thanks for the link!
Seconded, really great read. Thanks!
Incredibly insightful, thanks!
(POST DELETED, MISPOST)
I think the crucial difference lie in the way the two companies are run. Valve is very fluid and nimble. It’s very easy for decisions to be made and ideas to be implemented because its structure is very simple and non-corporate. EA…not so much. If it’s anything like the structure I’ve become familiar with, even if you can get an audience with the people who can make things happen, which is not possible for about 95% of employees, you’re not even halfway there. You can’t change the carpet without 5 meetings over 12 months explaining the long-term benefits to shareholders and executives. I can’t imagine convincing the kind of people you would have to at EA that giving away a game for free would be a good idea. These people aren’t stupid, and they probably wouldn’t be slapping their foreheads and yelling “Why didn’t we think of this?!?” while reading this article.
“They must have unbelievable internal inertia to be this slow and unresponsive to market expectations.”
This is true, except for the “unbelievable” part. Flexibility and risk are the cost of the corporate structure EA has adapted. Any question that starts with “Why don’t they just…” in regards to big business can be answered by this. It’s not just a matter of convincing the right people that something is smart, but whether it’s worth taking the time to even consider. On top of a very busy work schedule (no matter what you’re told or shown in media, don’t ever believe that executives are just sitting in their offices playing darts) dozens of ideas are probably being juggled right now about Origin alone.
In short, it may be that they don’t care enough about Origin to spend any more time on it, or maybe they’ve decided it wouldn’t bring enough benefit to change (shareholders interested in safe, long-term profit tend to default to keeping things the way they are), or it could be that they’re getting to it. But I would bet a considerable sum that it isn’t because EA is run by drooling primates.
If every single game company tries to create their own download service (which looks like it might happen) then I will just go back to piracy. Steam got me to buy games. Mass Effect 3 requiring Origin is a good reason to go back to skipping the middleman again.
One example of digital distribution that has been done very well is Kobo, the Chapters e-reader and its accompanying support system. I wrote a thing about it. I swear I don’t work for the guys, I just really, really like it.
the link is incorrect. But the one at your name is Correct.
That is something which, in this specific case, I am not so sure of. The way these services work (and the way we all know EA works), if Origin would become a serious competition for Steam, we would effectively forced to maintain two accounts, one on either platform, to access all our games and would have to put up with both system’s drawbacks.
We’d probably see serious vendor/publisher-locking by EA, and personally I am already in the situation where a label “Origin only” would possibly determine the fate of a game for me (i.e. not bother at all), as I already have one download service with an account, a game collection etc.
Why would I ever want to have a second one, install a second client, create and manage a second account for the very same thing?
Because, one analogy that does not work here is that of the traditional retailer. Have to choose between a dozen shops for your product of choice, deciding between various models, prices etc. until you find the best deal to get, say, a fridge, is in no way comparable to buying a video game, as they are never interchangeable, so the only thing that distinguishes vendors is a) price and b) levels of convenience and c) additional services.
The only thing that Origin could do to surpass Steam in any of these areas would be to run completely DRM-free, even retroactively (i.e. games that currently have DRM in other places, bought on Origin come without). As we all know that this is not going to happen, for me Origin is entirely useless.
I don’t want the same thing twice where one would suffice and one of the two entities is possibly worse, and at best equal. Especially when having two of these produces but additional hassle at no benefit at all. A second fridge at least gives you more room to store fresh food.
The reason why you would still profit from a proper competition:
Steam would have a lot more pressure to improve if there were competition.
Imagine a world where everything can be bought at S-Mart. No reason to go to another small store where you’re not sure whether they’ll have what you look for, and you’re going to S-Mart anyway for that other thing. As soon as a critical mass of people does the same: Bling! Monopoly! That’s when S-Mart can start squeezing out their customers, as they have no choice anyway. As long as there’s competition, they’ll need to provide you with a reason to keep going there.
In the Video game (and movie, and music) world, that’s a bit different. One Game/Movie/Song/Album is available from one publisher. They make a price, they sell it through whatever channel they choose. If you want one specific movie, you can’t get it from another publisher, you have to take what the one publisher offers. That’s why Origin will find it’s users, one way or another. In the ideal world, there’d be distribution platforms (like Steam and Origin, or whatever) completely separate from the companies who make games, and with no “here only” offers. That’s when a competition on price, privacy and features could actually start. I don’t think that’ll ever happen.
Don’t like steam. If a game requires Steam, it has to be extra good before I buy it. If I’m considering two games, one which requires Steam (or any other similar online stuff), and the other don’t, I always go for the free game. Steam hasn’t received a single dollar from me.
I loved Portal. The Diablo series is my all time favourite. I have not bought Portal 2. I won’t buy Diablo III. That last decision actually hurts a bit, because I’d so much want to play it. But I DO NOT ACCEPT the online reuirements for playing a single player game.
I bought Dragon Age II. I created a new email account just for the sake of activating the game. Then I wrote EA an angre email, promised I’d never buy another EA game again, and threw away the password without waiting for the reply.
All of this probably makes me a bit strange, but I wish enough people would do the same thing so that we could all be free from having all this crap pushed down our throats.
But the real proble is this: It’s only a few of us older guys who gives a damned. The next generations will grow up with this crap being the normal state of affairs, and thus even fewer will care.
“But the real proble is this: It's only a few of us older guys who gives a damned. The next generations will grow up with this crap being the normal state of affairs, and thus even fewer will care.”
I don’t see that as a ‘proble’ at all. Steam is a great service. I understand why some people refuse to use it, and I’m not saying they’re wrong for doing so, but whenever I get a game that isn’t already tied to Steam I usually activate it via Steam if I can anyway. It provides cloud saving and seamless matchmaking, it regularly hosts exceedingly low prices for games, and it’s a great way for indie developers to become noticed.
I’m not stupid. I’m aware of the drawbacks. But for me the benefits outweigh them.
Having said all that, I’m in the same boat as you regarding Diablo 3. Online activation I can tolerate, but always-online DRM might be crossing my line.
Origin first impressions:
1) Okay, login works, can set up directories of install etc.. Fine, fine, nothing special.
2) I set the Origin language to English. In the client. Why does the “store tab” contain the Origin store website in swedish?! Okay, I understand you want to ip-match the language in a browser, okay, that is stupid but understandable. BUT I AM USING THE CLIENT NOW. THE CLIENT WHERE I SPECIFICALLY SELECTED “ENGLISH” AS THE LANGUAGE OF CHOICE. WHY THE HELL IS IT BILINGUAL ALL OF A SUDDEN?!
3) Can I see the prices in euros? Or in british pounds? How about usd? No? Greeeat, now I have to remember the kronor conversion/exchange rates as well.
4) Activated my ME2 game code (the disc game, already installed on my comp). Credit where credit is due, Origin immediately picked up that I already have the game installed, and didn’t “offer” to redownload it or anything. Steam didn’t have that, as far as I know.
5) On the games that are “ready to download”, there is no way to see how large the game file actually is without starting the download. So it’s always a gamble.. “Do I have enough time left today to dl this? Idk, let’s start and pray the filesize is small enough.”
On the whole.. So far I am somewhat annoyed. Navigating the storefront is a pain – simply due to unchangeable language. Not to mention all faq, help pages that one can find on, say, google, under origin’s domain, automatically redirect to local-area versions, and thus end up either again in swedish, or at a 404 due to nonexistent translated page.
every time I read posts like this I start asking myself if I will ever, ever return to computer gaming properly.
I took a break for RL reasons, then that got drawn out, but soon I will be in a position to play a lot more (and in possession of enough money to actually pay for it). But … please? A game that I can buy and just play? That won’t cost extra per month, that won’t give my personal details away, that I can still play if the internet provider screws up and I’m on mobile “broadband”, one that’ll let me have a LAN game?
I’m not even asking to let three people play together off one copy (Starcraft I — still my favourite multiplayer game), but …
[looks at the floor]
… I guess you just don’t love me any more. And I guess my devotion is fading, too. Well, it was good while it lasted.
… 25 years, and it just means nothing to you ;(
I’ve met someone, you know? Indie games… not as flashy, but not such a complicated diva. I guess we get along alright. Just good friends though, I don’t feel I’m ready for another dissappointment like this. Well, see ya. Hope you have fun with your money and your new friends. Maybe if you like to have a drink or something? You know, in the old place? Well, you know where to find me.
No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she needs to be available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.
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