Experienced Points: Has EA’s Origin Service Improved Any Over the Last Two Years?

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jul 29, 2014

Filed under: Column 143 comments

Don’t let it be said that I never have anything nice to say about large corporations. On the other hand, if you wanted to claim that I rarely have nice things to say about large corporations, then I can’t really argue with that. Well the stars have aligned and it’s time for my rare non-bellyaching post, where I talk about something positive EA is doing.


Taking two years to figure out something they should have known on launch day, when the launch day in question was about six years later than it should have been, is perhaps not THAT impressive. EA is basically groping their way through this, gradually discovering things their customers have been screaming at them for years.

I realize the PC isn’t a priority for EA, but I don’t understand why they’re being so half-hearted about it. You should either show up to a battle with a plan to win, or you concede the territory. If you don’t want the territory, don’t waste resources by sending some piddly force that’s going to get demolished. Why bother building Origin at all if you’re not going to try and use it to compete with Steam?

Still, I feel the need to recognize growth and improvement when it happens. I’m actually cheering for Origin in my own contrarian way.

UPlay can still die in a fire on Cancer World, though.


From The Archives:

143 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Has EA’s Origin Service Improved Any Over the Last Two Years?

  1. Cybron says:

    The things you point out mostly make me think “Wow, Origin might actually be a viable platform. And if it wasn’t owned by EA, I might actually give them my money!”

  2. HeroOfHyla says:

    That refund policy is absolutely astonishing. Even GoG only offers refunds if you haven’t installed the game or if the game won’t run on your system.

    1. ET says:

      I hope Origin’s refund policy incentivises other companies to do the same. Demos are fairly rare these days, so I want a way to find out if I like a game before I lock in my money. :)

    2. Irridium says:

      True, but EA’s policy is only for EA published games I believe, whereas GoG’s policy is for all games on the site.

      Would be nice if either of them would combine the two.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        At the risk of sounding somewhat desensitized I can sort of see where the “no returns” policy comes from and I would normally laugh at the idea because an extensive return system would be very open to abuse. On the other hand who can tell what’s next? A digital rental platform? I mean, 15-17 years ago the teenage me would never imagine being able to buy quality, barely 2 year old (sometimes even less) games for what probably amounts to his allowance at the time.

        1. Irridium says:

          According to EA and GoG, their return systems aren’t abused at all. With GoG it’d probably be a bit hard, but EA’s it’s “buy it and if for whatever reason you don’t want it, return it no questions asked”. Assuming it’s within 7 days of installation, at least. So while it is open, it doesn’t seem like people are abusing it. If they were I doubt it’d still be up.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            It probably depends on how you define abuse. I’m pretty sure there is some exploiting of the system going on and what they mean by saying it is not abused is actually “more than we expected”. EA in particular probably decided that at this point they need some good publicity more than what money they may loose on people “renting out” their games. That’s assuming my understanding of how their policy works is correct.

        2. Starker says:

          I would imagine that the kind of people who would go through the trouble of abusing the system prefer to just pirate the games.

    3. houser2112 says:

      How is it even possible for GoG to know whether or not you’ve installed a game? The beauty of their system is that it’s all on your end. They can know that you’ve downloaded it; is that what you meant?

      1. Irridium says:

        They trust you’re telling the truth. That’s the long and short of it, really.

        And according to them nobody seems to be abusing it.

        1. KMJX says:

          Actually they can “tell” by checking whether you’ve downloaded it. You need to check the fine print on that return policy.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Phah,so soon after you praise them,the link you gave for old games 404d.It says its no longer available.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I can open the link just fine. I don’t know what issue you might be having.

      1. evileeyore says:

        He’s probably on a PC.


      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Probably a country thing.Tried it from a different computer,and its the same.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ah yes,the refund.Now that is positively amazing.And to think that ea of all people would implement such a thing.The only more shocking news wouldve been if it were ubisoft.

    But…Still not worth it for me,seeing how Im not that interested in the new ea games,and the old ones I like I can get from gog.

    Still,its nice to have some actual competition forming.Maybe next we shall see steam actually implement some quality control.Or maybe origin will beat them in that race.Exciting for the right reasons,for a change.

    1. Groboclown says:

      I’m just going to stay a pessimist about this. Yes, they’re doing this to try to earn some good will and to be a market differentiator, but I’m still trying to find their angle.

      Maybe it’s to gain data in their “pirate problem” argument (to battle the various arguments of people bootleg to see if it will work, or to get a free demo to see if they like it). Or maybe it’s for better win-loss sales data. I’m sure they have some statisticians that are salivating over this new data, though.

      1. krellen says:

        It’s entirely possible they’re doing it because European law requires them to and putting in a region-lock to make the deal Europe-only would cost too much, both in development time and in public relations.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Doesn’t explain very well why they have a better refund policy than GoG – you know, the digital download service that’s *based* in Europe.

          I mean EA could always pull a Valve in the EU market if they weren’t going to just abide by the bare minimum that GoG does. But not only do they meet GoG’s refund policy, they go over it.

          1. MadTinkerer says:

            It’s because they own the publishing rights on the distribution platform. It’s a trivial internal decision for EA to offer refunds. Valve can totally do the same thing once they convince every single publisher, including all of the Indies, to agree on a refund policy.

            In short, EA are able to do what Valve can’t because EA eat up companies and IPs to make things easier for EA and Valve don’t.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              That’s….a really good point.

              Does Origin have any games that aren’t directly controlled by EA? If so, how many? If not, then it’s really not all that surprising they can offer refunds, and it’s cool that they do, but I still think I prefer the Steam model.

              1. Bryan says:

                Well, yes, it explains why they can do it. It just doesn’t explain why they suddenly decided they actually want to… :-)

                Though I guess if you assume that it was the easiest way to make the EU stuff work, then I suppose that’s enough of a reason. Maybe. Still seems just *weird* coming from EA though.


  5. Dreadjaws says:

    I have actually been surprised by this development. I know it’s right to say they should have figured this out years ago, but you have to realize: this is EA we’re talking about. It’s astonishing they’ve figured it out at all.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t keep making stupid mistakes. I have no doubt The Sims 4 will be Origin exclusive (it’s on preorder already, but nowhere to see on Steam), and they’re already making excuses no one believes for ripping content from the main game so they can sell as DLC.

    That being said, they do seem to be paying more attention to the Origin Store. The game can be preoreded for $45 in Origin, while it’s at $60 on places like Amazon.

    Edit: Wait, actually, the version on Amazon is the Limited Edition, which has less content than the one offered on the Origin Store. That edition goes for $35 on Origin. Unbelievable!

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Umm… I just realized Origin is opening the Mexican store for me. Maybe that’s the reason for the low prices.

      Why does it do that? I’m not in Mexico. Well, it’s better than before, when it somehow thought I was in Europe, and prices were even more expensive than Amazon.

      1. Humanoid says:

        Buying from Origin Mexico has been the go-to method of getting cheap(er) Origin-exclusive games for a while now. With most browsers you can use a simple extension to defeat the geolocation and get the same game as anyone else.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:


          Seriously,we need to get our shit straight with digital distribution because 30% or more price differential for something that doesnt physically exist is stupid on so many levels.

          But Im not hoping that it will happen any time soon.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            Tell it to the Ozzies. Heck, it’s ridiculous Steam offers the same game for the “same price” in dollars and Euros, but suddenly charges double in AUD. According to Steam, USD60 = €60 = AUD120. In real terms, that should be more like USD60 = €42 = AUD85. GOG offers different prices in different regions, as far as possible, and when not possible/allowed, they reimburse you with coupons for games to make up the difference. Not perfect (I own too many codes already :p) but at least something. As it is, I often feel ripped off by Steam even when I’m paying peanuts, because it’s still twice the amount of peanuts someone else is paying. Ridiculous.

            1. Humanoid says:

              To clarify the above though, Steam doesn’t actually do AUD. They charge Australian customers in USD, but a higher USD amount than in the US.

              As far as I understand it, Valve does have a European presence and are therefore obliged to charge VAT, partly explaining the higher prices. (The specific rate varies depending on country, but 20% is about average, so if the EU price is ~20% more expensive, then that’s the ‘fair’ price) On the other hand, Valve do *not* have a presence in Australia, so the excuse of extra taxes doesn’t wash: it’s pure extra profit.

              Origin, on the other hand, does have an Australian presence, and therefore charges 10% GST. So effectively, if Steam and Origin are asking the same amount for a game in Australia, Origin is notionally cheaper because an eleventh of that sales total doesn’t leave the country. I might not like paying taxes, but I’d rather that over paying Valve for nothing.

              Anyway, to get an idea of how bad it can be, Steamprices can be illuminating. At worst, you have these ridiculous examples such as Lord of the Rings: War in the North: (prices all converted to USD for comparison) $20 in the US, ~$25-$26 in the EU (a buck or two over once taxes are removed), and $74 in Australia. That’s almost *quadruple* the price. But to be fair, the average price difference is closer to 50% (being that AAA RRP in the US is $60, as compared to $90).

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Thats just insane.

                Also,I never understood why vat means that the price in eu will be 20% higher than in us.Usa has sales taxes too,right?So shouldnt the price be in eu be higher by the difference between the two,and not the whole 20%?

                1. Humanoid says:

                  No, because by law you must list tax-inclusive prices in the EU (and Australia), whereas US prices are typically listed excluding tax.

                  In the US, Steam apparently only charges sales tax for customers in Washington State, where Valve’s HQ is, due to how US tax law works: sales tax is a state tax, whereas almost everywhere else in the world, it’s a national tax. Only transactions that occur wholly within the state (both seller and buyer) are therefore taxable. So for the 49 other states, Steam games attract no taxes at all.

                  Amazon behaves similarly, Amazon.com displays prices before tax, adding sales tax amount when you checkout to an address where they’ve been forced to charge the tax. As an Australian buying from them, I pay the displayed price only. Buying from Amazon.co.uk, the prices include 20% VAT, and as an Australian buying from them, that tax is removed during checkout, I pay only 5/6ths of the displayed price.

                  1. Chargone says:

                    Meanwhile, in New Zealand, we (so far as i can tell) get billed for the US price in US dollars, then pay currency conversion fees. For digital goods, that’s it.
                    ‘Course, for anything physical we then have insane shipping fees. books, for example, are Cheaper to get from the UK than the US, and show up in a fraction of the time, despite everything saying the reverse should be true, because the Royal Mail is not Completly Insane and actually behaves like a proper postal service.
                    That said, if the total cost/value/whatever of what you order is high enough there are customs and import duties too, but no Consumer is going to hit that cap on various media baring truely exceptional circumstances.

                    1. Humanoid says:

                      As far as I can tell, Kiwis gets to pay the Australian price (and both countries are charged in USD, Steam supports neither the AUD nor the NZD). A hint will be if they’re asking for more than $60 for new AAA games (or just use the LotR:WitN example above).

                      Here in Australia, the currency conversion fee and the international transaction fee can be defeated by having certain credit cards that don’t charge those fees (the ones I know of and have being a 28 Degrees card and a Bankwest Zero Platinum card). No idea if equivalent cards are available in NZ, but it’s worth a look, over the last few years they have saved me thousands of dollars (won’t be surprising if you consider I’ve imported stuff like complete road bikes), with no downside considering they have no annual fee either.

                      A general tip is that if you are able to avoid those fees, it’s always better to buy in the seller’s native currency. Many UK online retailers have the option of charging in AUD, but using a ‘fair’ conversion rate as comparison, there’s a silent markup of up to 5% or so using their conversion instead of the credit card’s. Heck, it means that even with say a 3% conversion fee, you may well be better off charging in pound sterling anyway.

                      P.S. Shipping from the US has gone up a fair bit in the last year or so, mainly because of USPS changes, yes – this mainly affects smaller sellers. Big companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have their own deals though and shipping from them is still more or less the same as from the UK. I do find shipping from Europe in general is about a week faster on average though, say 2 weeks vs 3 weeks.

                2. Zak McKracken says:

                  Having imported stuff from the US before: The customs duty for bringing goods above a certain value into Germany as a private person are equal to the VAT. I think for commercial goods those rates always apply, so if the price before taxes in the EU and the US is the same, you’ll also pay the same amount of tax/customs whether ordering from inside the EU or from the US, which will be 19% (in Germany) higher than the US price.

                  … given currency development in recent years, it can still save you loads of money to order from the US, though. Many companies won’t adapt their prices to currency exchange rates, in order to have reasonably constant prices relative to their target demographic’s income.

                  Which makes it that much weirder that it’s currently cheaper to order electronics from Germany if you’re living in the UK.

        2. I thought piracy had been the go-to method for getting cheap(er) Origin-exclusive games for a while now.
          Not that I’d know, I don’t acquire many games, even fewer before Steam came to Linux.

          1. KMJX says:

            For your interest, and to help your wallet get a little lighter, GoG just got started with its Linux support too.

      2. Alexander The 1st says:

        As I recall, Origin recently was trying to balance their Indian market prices when they increased those to ridiculous prices to meet the $60 USD mostly everywhere else.

        So it’s possible that they’re trying to adjust for the lower prices, while also refining their location detection for their stores.

        Which from what you’ve said, seems to be encountering a few bugs.

  6. Chris Robertson says:

    On the subject of game sales and if they are actually a good thing (for the developer OR the store), I have no first hand knowledge, but I have read a dissenting opinion.

    Is this data point salient for the games market as a whole? I certainly have no idea. I just found it to be an interesting read and figured I would share it. This seemed like a roughly relevant place.

    As for myself, I’m still stuck where Shamus was in 2006. If I can’t properly own it, I don’t want it.

    1. Nidokoenig says:

      The main issue with that example is that it’s a sim, which tends to draw an older audience that has a better money to free time ratio than the youngsters who throw all their money at Steam, and probably isn’t going to bother waiting for a sale if they actually want something. Besides which, sims have a reputation for rarely if ever going on sale, so why bother waiting?

      Besides which, the 50% discount seems to have brought in an audience more than half the number of full price customers, and 75% off an audience about the size of the original full price customers. So unless he thinks half of the 50%s would have eventually bought it at full price or a quarter of the 75%s done so, he still made money he wouldn’t have made otherwise.

      Conspicuously missing is any mention of whether full price sales spiked immediately after discounts, which is a known phenomenon that Valve have talked about: Putting your game in a bunch of people’s hands for cheap means they play it and talk about it, so any money “lost” in offering a discount is part of your advertising budget and should be analysed with that in mind.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But what does it mean to properly own a digital property?Have a copy on a physical medium?Be able to access it at any time?

      Sure,there is a chance that my steam games will become unavailable because steam goes down,but a lot of my games became unavailable because the discs they were on deteriorated.Or because my newest machine became unable to run them(praise be to gog).

      Stuff degrade over time,thats the fact of life.You only get to choose the manner in which your stuff will deteriorate,and who will maintain them:You,or someone else.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        The (arguably theoretical) distinction I make is this: Is the availablility of the game to me in my own or someone else’s hands?

        If I own the game, I may lose it because the disc fails at some point or the hard drive it’s on crashes, but I can prevent these things by having back-ups. I might fail to do so, but that’s my own choice about how to treat my property.
        If these things are out of my hands (as they are with Steam as long as I don’t lose the login and password), I don’t need to worry about backups. I am, however, at the mercy of Valve and/or whoever operates the game’s servers to keep allowing me to play it. If they lose interest and shut down or if something happens to my account (as has in the past with BattleNet…) and someone decides I’m not getting reinstated, or if some mod simply decides that I’ve violated any of the ToS (which really no-one reads, do they?), then it’s over.

        Valve holds in their hands the ability (and right!) to revoke every single one of their users’ game licences, and the users need to trust them not to misuse that while at the same time the users aren’t trusted enough to allow them to use play games without asking for permission every single time.
        .. also, I really hate the spying aspect of it: It’s nobody’s business how much I play and when. And there is one game right now I very rarely play because then a number of other people will notice and maybe I sometimes just want to play alone without having to explain to person x and y why I don’t want to play with them today

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Except,with majority of games,you cant make backups.The disc you get is what you have.If it breaks or you lose it,tough luck,buy a new one(though sometimes you can get a new one if you still have a receipt,but rarely).

          I also find it amusing how people trust government to not screw them over with big stuff like their housing,yet they constantly say how politicians are corrupt.But when it comes to small stuff,like a video game,then they dont trust a company to keep a contract.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Some old floppy games had the manual state outright that making backups of the disks would be a good idea. Once the technology became available, I carried that attitude forward to the CD-ROM era, even if the stance of the video game companies had taken a complete 180 in the intervening years.

          2. Chris Robertson says:

            I feel very much like Zak above. I own it if the availability of the game is in my hands. Does the game require activation? I don’t own it. Sure the majority of the games don’t allow backups. By my choices, I don’t play those (my brother bought me StarCraft II, so we could play together, so that is an exception).

            I have not played (and likely never will play) Portal. From the videos I have watched, it looks fun, but I can’t own it, so I don’t want it. Tom Frances (author of Gunpoint, which I do own) recently released Floating Point for free. On Steam. I recognize that I am not a rational animal*, but I can’t own it, so I don’t want it.

            I have purchased a number of Humble Bundles (for PC, Android and eBook). I can (and have) downloaded the game files (or APKs, or EPubs).

            It’s a choice I make. It’s not right for everyone, but it’s right (and it works) for me.

            *What is the difference between being gifted a copy of SCII from a relative and being gifted a copy of a game by the author? I suppose rationalizing it (ha!) one was a choice thrust upon me, the other would require action on my part.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              By activation,you mean online activation,not cd keys and keeping the disc inserted,right?

              Also,lets be fair,for almost every game,you dont own more than the right to play them.For true ownership,youd have to have the right to copy them and sell them,which only the publisher retains most of the time.

              But I get what you are saying.

              However,what is your stance on multiplayer games and game rentals?

              1. Humanoid says:

                I remember renting PC games from the local video store back in the 90s. God, without that being a thing, I might have never played such games as HoMM2 and Broken Sword. That’s kind of a tangent though.

                The right to copy and sell is *claimed* by the publisher, but it doesn’t mean they actually have those rights, even if it’s in a EULA or whatever agreement, being that actual laws trump what you can arbitrarily and unilaterally insert in a contract. So while they’ve always claimed that you couldn’t resell a game or whatever, that was an unenforceable condition.

                The publishers’ “solution” then was to enforce their claim by making it physically impossible to sell your games, regardless of the actual legal status. There are intermittent noises, mostly from the EU, about fixing this situation of denying a customer’s rights by stealth, and EA’s move with their refund policy is hopefully by but the first step along this path.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Reselling is not the same thing as copying and selling multiple copies.Just how you can legally sell a dvd youve purchased,but will be punished for selling copies of that movie that youve ripped from said dvd.

                  1. Humanoid says:

                    Yeah, ended up just talking about reselling there, because it’s probably the more emotive issue. Copying is simpler, the right to make backups shouldn’t be a complex issue at all.

                    I got confused because I missed the ‘and’ in your statement. They’re separate rights, the right to resell, and the right to make backups. Ownership does NOT imply the right to sell copies. That’s why counterfeiting is a thing.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Uuu,counterfeiting is such a nice example.I was usually using bootlegging as a physical analog of piracy,but this is even better.Thank you.

                      Anyway,there are plenty of other stuff that you arent allowed to do with stuff that fall under intellectual property protection.Tampering with the code and using it in your own projects is one of them*.You arent allowed to give the game to your friends to play it simultaneously as you are,because that still counts as illegal distribution.You cant even rent intellectual property without permission(and in the case of games,these days you practically cannot rent them at all).Etc,etc.

                      So unless you buy the rights to intellectual property,you never truly own it.You own just a copy of it,a right to use it only in a limited number of ways.

                      Now dont get me wrong,Im not saying that this is a bad thing.Some of these limitations(like making and selling your own copies)are reasonable,but some(like making backups)are not.

                      *And because this blog is known for it,here is a terrible car analogy:
                      You can freely dismantle your car then try to build your own based on how the original parts fit in.You can also sell the parts left and right.

              2. Chris Robertson says:

                You are spot on with your interpretation of my intended meaning of activation.

                Multiplayer is fine (and quite fun) as long as I don’t have to connect to the net (LAN play or split screen). Again, SC II is an exception, as it was gifted to me. We usually play while in the same room anyway.

                Renting is not something I’ve ever tried on the games side (or given much thought to). With the games I am willing to play, if I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay full price I could just wait a bit and buy them used. If I liked it, great. If not, take it back to the shop and trade it in for credit towards something else.

          3. Zak McKracken says:

            1: Can’t make backups? Why wouldn’t I be able to do that?
            2: I trust the government to a certain point. The rest of the way I demand that government be transparent about what they’re doing. Also, it really helps to have a look which way the incentives go. I don’t think that politicians are corrupt by default, but depending on circumstances most people will fall over or not. There are a few politicians who’ve shown spine, and I respect them. If I could assemble my dream ministerial cabinet, it’d have people from almost all parties, of completely different persuasions, but the one common property of a history of having had the decency to defend what they think is right for society over their own carreer. But what does that have to do with Games?
            3: Companies and keeping contracts: Read the fine print, most companies are not breaking contracts at all if they simply choose to terminate your licence for whatever reason. They only choose to do so only if and when it makes economic sense for them. EA has a history of shutting down licence servers for some less popular games because they (correctly!) calculated that the outcry from a few people whose games became worthless 6 months after purchase was going to cost them less than having to maintain the servers … I have no intention to submit myself to that sort of thing, and “oh, only buy popular games then” sounds way too cynical. “Don’t be a minority” is not a valid answer to a complaint about someone abusing minorities.
            4: oh, and on top of that, companies can terminate individual licences (and Valve can terminate any Steam Account) whenever they feel you’re violating their ToS. No Court involved, no proof needed. If someone on their end is convinced, it’s game over. I almost “lost” Starcraft II because I hadn’t given them my real name. Why on earth would they need to have my real name? It’s none of their effing business unless they want to sell my data for extra profit. In which case they should buy it from me first, because it’s mine. Instead they’ve devised a system where they can extort it from me, by holding my game (which was still a gift!) hostage.

            … I know I’m properly ranting now but I hope you still understand the point: If I buy an online-only game, I buy only a non-binding and unenforceable agreement that I’ll have a chance to play it, too.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              1: Because most games have copy protection so that you cant copy them.

              2: Yes,and we expect that same transparency from companies,dont we?But still,people trust them less,yet the governments that we trust more did much shittier things.But I guess funded by taxes makes them more trustworthy?

              3: We arent talking constant individual authentication servers ea and ubisoft like to employ.We are talking digital stores,the likes of steam,that most assuredly wont go down before your physical copy wears off.Because as long as that stands,every single game bought there will remain available.

              4: Its not extortion,its protection.The same reason some stores wont let you actually take the thing you bought before they have the money in their hands.Or do you consider that extortion as well?I mean its your money,so why should you be giving it to them first?

              And whats the difference between being banned because you abused TOS and,for example being tossed out of a restaurant mid meal because of rude behavior?Or do you consider food in restaurants merely rented as well?

              “I know I'm properly ranting now but I hope you still understand the point: If I buy an online-only game, I buy only a non-binding and unenforceable agreement that I'll have a chance to play it, too.”

              Except thats not true.Well,not true in the cases of mere digital purchase,like steam.It is true in the case where the game needs to constantly call home,like with plenty of ubisoft/ea games,with no offline mode.

              1. KMJX says:

                You might want to re-read his fourth point.

                His post was a pain to read, because of the huge unstructured text block, but I believe he was kinda clear in what he meant.

                Might not agree with all of it, but someone selling a product, then ask for your name before letting you use said product and lock you out of it without refund when you don’t provide your real name (which in this case is not required by law, and a requirement to provide it is not mentioned prior to purchase) is bullshit.

                EULAs and TOS that are not provided before purchase of a product/service are not legally enforceable in the EU for a reason.

                If you read the above text or parts of it, you are contractually bound to give me all your moneys.

                1. Humanoid says:

                  It wasn’t even a purchase, it was a gift. You give someone a gift, and they in turn have to provide their personal details to a third party. Which is even more twisted.

                  But yeah, the protection angle doesn’t work, because the transaction is done, they’re not tyre-kickers who are just browsing with no commitment to buying.

                  (And the restaurant doesn’t require you to regurgitate the food you’ve already eaten, that’s yours to keep even if you get kicked out :P)

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    “It wasn't even a purchase, it was a gift. You give someone a gift, and they in turn have to provide their personal details to a third party. Which is even more twisted.”

                    Funny thing,just a few days back my mother decided to give someone coffee in bean form.But before she did that,she actually called to check if the person had means to grind the coffee themselves.So dont call a company twisted for someone else not checking if the gift will be ok with the one they are giving it to.

                    “But yeah, the protection angle doesn't work, because the transaction is done, they're not tyre-kickers who are just browsing with no commitment to buying.”

                    Its not the protection of them,its the protection of you.People expect blizzard to protect their accounts from theft and fraud,and in order to do that,they think they need your real personal information.Whether they are correct or not is completely irrelevant.

                    “(And the restaurant doesn't require you to regurgitate the food you've already eaten, that's yours to keep even if you get kicked out :P)”

                    You wont be keeping it for long:P

                    1. Zak McKracken says:

                      again, announcing bad behaviour doesn’t make it less bad.

                      See, some people have trust in companies to behave well, and this is one of the cases that very much undermined my trust, and also confirmed all my suspicions and fears, which up to that oint had only been suspicions and fears.

                      The thing that triggered the problems wasn’t, by the way, my unwillingness to provide my real name but the game insisting that the key wasn’t genuine. A purely technical fault.

                      In your coffee beans analogy, the “means” would be the computer plus internet connection, both of which were present. And the willingness to create an account, which was … barely but present. None of the latter two would have been a strict requirement had Blizzard not stepped out of their way to make it so. At least for me, that made the game worse than it could have been, it gave their support the chance to boss me around, to spoil my friend’s experience of gifting me something, and to keep me on the edge for two weeks. Of course they can do it if they want, but:
                      – That doesn’t make their behaviour any nicer
                      – the thing I’ve been trying to say all along: I’d like it better if they didn’t do that, therefore I don’t buy* that sort of game** any more. I still hope that this is somehow understandeable.

                      *as mentioned, you can’t buy them, but you know
                      ** “that sort of game” as in my original post: I want to “own” it and not be regularly required to ask for some company’s permission.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Im not really sure,since it was long ago that I made my blizzard account,but I think you are warned in advance that their policy requires you to provide actual information(name,cell phone,billing address).

                  Even if you buy a physical copy,its the fault of the store,not blizzard,for not warning you about this,and its the store that should give you the refund.Now I dont know about your stores,but the last time I was with a friend when he was buying a game in a store,the clerk was obligated to check that he understood that the game requires constant online connection,even if played in single player.

                  Granted,I would prefer if this stuff was printed on the box itself(requires internet connection often is,but is misleading because it encompasses one time activation and constant connection as well).

                  1. KMJX says:

                    The earlier boxes for many online games didn’t specify that a subscription was required to play.
                    These days most if not all of them do.
                    Blizzards even have the “Battle.net account required” line on them, but they don’t tell you they want your IRL personally identifying information for that. Not even in their online store.

                    On the protection part… it’s actually for their own protection: to avoid being sued for neglecting user security on the surface, but most importantly to protect themselves in case of chargeback and other frauds, that’s why they are so touchy when you don’t provide real information.

                    I don’t like providing my IRL identification to companies I know barely anything about. I don’t even like giving out my E-Mail because it so often ends up being transferred to a third party without my knowledge.
                    I understand the need for them though, so I’ll just check the Privacy Policy thoroughly, and will abstain from giving information where I can expect it being forwarded to a third party.

                    When it comes to IRL ID I won’t give it out unless I trust the recipient not to abuse it, even though no company is legally allowed to transfer such data without explicit consent of its owner.

                  2. Zak McKracken says:

                    Putting up a warning sign that you’re going to behave like a jerk because you can doesn’t mean that your subsequent behaviour is any less jerk-ish.

                    Also, the game was a gift. If you gave a present to someone and a while later they call you, have just spent days arguing with support, are super-angry and ask you to dig the receipt out of the garbage and send them a scan … would you think that was a good choice for a gift? More than angry, I felt bad for the guy who had meant so well.

                    Also, whenever some service wants me to give my real name although I know it is of no use to them except if they sell it, I always give a fake name. Pro-tip: If you change that name from case to case, you can later find out who sold/leaked your data by looking at how your spam mail addresses you. At least half of the places who wanted my real name have (willingly or not) passed that on to spammers. Glad I didn’t give them the real one.

                    ArenaNet actually recommends doing this for minors playing Guild Wars 2.

              2. Zak McKracken says:

                Sorry for the post being “a pain to read” … I often don’t take enough time for these, and it devolved into a rant anyway, so let’s try again:

                1: The games I do want to own are the ones whare I am both allowed and able to make a backup. Actually, many of the ToS forbidding people from making backups are invalid, and many of the copy protection things are ineffective, but ideally I’d like none of them to be a problem. GOG and the humble Indie bundles let me do that.

                2: Let’s just skip the politics, shall we? I’ll reduce it to the point that if there is dissent between two parties that it should not be solved by any of the two stakeholders, i.e. if some company alleges that I violated their ToS, I don’t want the person who makes the claim be the same person who decides whether to revoke all my game licences. That’s potentially a lot of money!

                3: What we are talking about is probably a bit nebulous, and I’ll admit that my target shifted a bit during my post. Still: That Steam won’t go down is only a function of its past success and the fact that Valve isn’t publicly traded. If either wasn’t true, there’d be no guarantee, and there have been other online “stores” that have closed in the past, and some took a few customers’ games down with them.

                4: But they had the money in their hands! What role does my name play in this regard? Has anyone in a store ever asked you, after paying, for a copy of your ID, “for security reasons”? The problem here is that from the view of the store, the deal is never completely sealed, and they can just terminate it whenever they want. I.e.: They didn’t really sell the game, and that’s a grand deception. Whether you play it or not is still in their hands. This is talking about always-online games like Starcraft.

                5: The restaurant analogy doesn’t quite hold:
                a: In a restaurant, I should behave according to social norms. Some can be tricky at times, but not so opaque as any game store’s ToS.
                b: If you get throuwn out of a restaurant, you usually can’t finish the meal, but you usually haven’t paid up front, and you can avoid that place in the future, or even sue them should you think it necessary. Should Valve decide to cancel your Steam account, you loos _all_ of your games, for which you may have paid a lot. There are few to no alternatives to Steam, and just go and try to sue them (especially from outside the US…). I’m not supposing they would misuse their powers willingly, but they’re a large company, and if something goes wrong but is of no consequence for them, they won’t bother.

                The thing it boils down to is this: Whether you buy a game (read: acquire a non-binding temporary licence agreement), with any sort of online-DRM, you don’t really buy the game, and you’re dependent on a third party to do something they may or may not have incentive to keep doing, in order to enjoy the game. This may or may not go well, but I’m uncomfortable with the thought.

                Aaaand: My point still stands: online-only games are (of course!) dependent on the online component, which is these days usually run by some company, and therefore you are (of course!) at that company’s mercy to let you play. I very much long for the golden days when everyone could launch a Counterstrike server. That should be a thing again.

                1. Zak McKracken says:

                  Dangit, my posts have too many words…
                  I’ll just shut up now, ’nuff said

                  1. MichaelGC says:

                    I like words! :D

          4. Zak McKracken says:

            I just found the much much simpler answer:
            Me: “The (arguably theoretical) distinction I make is this: Is the availablility of the game to me in my own or someone else's hands?”
            Daemian: “Except,with majority of games,you cant make backups.”

            Correct. Therefore, you or I don’t actually own most games that we thought at the time we had bought.

            Which is the very fact I lament. I understand that others are fine with it, but I am not.

  7. Groboclown says:

    Seeing that their catalog goes all the way back to the Ultima titles explains some of their reasons for take-down notices on the Ultima IV et al sites. Though that was years ago, so it’s most likely not directly related.

  8. MadTinkerer says:

    “Has EA's Origin Service Improved Any Over the Last Two Years?”

    The answer is: It’s still called Origin. And yes, I will not sign up for it until they change the name, no matter how good it otherwise is.

    EDIT: “Why bother building Origin at all if you're not going to try and use it to compete with Steam?”

    The point isn’t to compete with Steam but to have something similar to Steam that they control. They see more value in controlling the distribution than offering a competing service. Steam cannot compete with them on games that are exclusive to Origin. That’s the entire point: no more, no less.

    1. Humanoid says:

      And Origin can’t compete with games that are exclusive on Steam. I dislike EA as much as anyone, but it annoys me even more when the gaming public raise a stink about say, BF4 Origin exclusivity, while conveniently forgetting about Half-Life 2.

      I treat Steam and Origin the same these days, and have more or less the same opinion about their respective parent companies.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        The difference here though is Half Life 2 came out when Steam’s primary purpose was an automatic patch updater, whereas Origin is 100% about controlling distribution.

        I’m not saying it’s necessarily immoral for companies to use control of distribution as a marketing tool, especially when there’s competition keeping things fair. But Steam is a development platform first, and Origin is a distribution method first.

        A symptom of this is Minecraft not being on Steam. The reason why Minecraft is not on Steam is less because Mojang don’t want Valve to have control of their distribution, it’s because Mojang want to have complete control over the development environment. In their relatively rare case, Mojang see Steamworks as something they can do better, and care less about the distribution method. Minecraft is the ultimate viral game so the internet itself essentially became the distribution method.

        Mojang don’t hate Valve, Notch said he wanted to be Valve. But Minecraft doesn’t include a distribution method for anything but Minecraft (despite the fact that Mojang publish other games) and is instead a strong development environment for Mojang developing Vanilla and 3rd parties modding Vanilla for their purposes… Hmmmm…

        1. Humanoid says:

          We’ll find out when Half-Life 3 is released then. :P

        2. Shirdal says:

          Steam and Steamworks are not the same thing. Steam is a distribution and social platform. Steamworks is an API that provides developers with networking features to integrate into their games, and likely requires Steam to operate (although according to the Valve developers wiki, using Steamworks doesn’t require the game to be sold on the Steam store).

      2. Kian says:

        My annoyance at exclusive titles has to do with EA selling, for example, Mass Effect 1&2 on steam, and 3 only on Origin. So they removed an option I was comfortable with (getting the games of a given franchise on Steam) and replaced it with an inferior option. Same happened with a lot of games once they started Origin. They worsened their user’s experience.

        Half-Life was never on any other platform to begin with.

      3. I can see your position. As a Linux person I am currently very pro-Valve just because right now they are THE force backing games on my platform and the result has been like 100* as many games available as before.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          GOG isn ow Linux-also. Go forth and enjoy DRM-free gaming! :p

          1. Purple Library Guy says:

            This is a Good Thing and I’m happy about it, but a year ago GOG’s official position was they had no plans for Linux. There is no way that would have changed if it weren’t for Valve getting behind Linux gaming and pushing hard.
            There is a distinction between building a wagon & getting it moving, and concluding that thing rolling by is a bandwagon & jumping on. So GOG coming to Linux is worthy, I’ll give them a tip of my hat and maybe buy a couple games. But mostly it makes me still more impressed with Valve.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “The answer is: It's still called Origin. And yes, I will not sign up for it until they change the name, no matter how good it otherwise is.”

      This still continues to baffle me.

      1. Ciennas says:

        They explained it before when I asked it: Origin was a company/group that that MT liked, and then EA bought them out and stripmined them to nothing, and have regurgitated the name onto this digital storefront that for the last two years has constantly proven how horrible EA has been to everyone who has ever worked for them.

        Sentimentality and love for the fallen.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes,and that is exactly what baffles me.Boycotting ea I get,because even if they changed the name of the service,it would still be the same company that did a bunch of nasties.But just because they are using a certain name for the service,no matter how far removed from the original name,that Im absolutely perplexed by.

          1. Ciennas says:

            Probably a feeling not unlike that of rubbing salt in old wounds.

            I felt similarly irritated and chafed with a recent installment in a sci-fi series that had changed hands authorially- the writer loathed one of the characters and by god so should everyone else.

            ulgh. thankfully, they were held in check by cooler heads, or I’d have very little to do with the franchise anymore.

  9. tmtvl says:

    Is Origin out on Linux? If not, I don’t care at all, and even then…

    The only EA games I would care to play are Mass Effect 1 and Mirror’s Edge.

  10. Silfir says:

    The day before I heard they were giving away Sims 2, if you’d asked me whether I was planning on using Origin, basically, ever, I’d have said “No way in hell”. It’s installed now, and that might be all they had to do to get me to buy something on it one day. Quite a masterstroke.

  11. Dev Null says:

    I like your point about more options = better, and keeping em honest with competition. Do I intrinsically trust Valve more than EA? Yes. Do I trust Valve to be and remain “the good guys” out of the goodness of their collective hearts forevermore? Not so much.

    1. Shirdal says:

      Valve don’t really need to act out of the goodness of their hearts to become trustworthy, they never did. What they need is to act in their own interest, to make money, by appealing to their customers. EA is arguably trying to do that as well, but they have proven far less competent at it.

      As long as EA continue to behave the way they do, I cannot trust them, and by extension I cannot trust Origin. It’s all well and good that Origin is becoming a more worthwhile competitor to Steam, but a situation wherein EA screws their Origin customers is not that unthinkable to me. This will apply to any company that treats its audience with such obvious and active lack of respect and even contempt.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Valve’s own interest isn’t appealing to their customers. No company’s interest matches that of their customers.

        The buyer never wants to pay, the seller always wants to be paid more. What happens is that a compromise is found that both sides are content with.

        Valve’s interests do not match their customers, they are simply prepared to compromise to the point where enough of their customers don’t mind. There is no guarantee that they will continue to compromise that far in the future, and meanwhile they are establishing a system that requires their steam system to function.

        Yes, I agree that EA seems more likely to abuse such a position of power, but Valve and Steam are not guaranteed saints either.

        Steam was started by holding Half Life 2 hostage/exclusive, after all. If it ever was in Valve’s actual favour to become what EA has been recently, I don’t think they’d hesitate for too long.

        1. McNutcase says:

          Except that if they don’t act in the interests of their customers, they won’t have any customers. That’s something that corporations seem to have forgotten. They act as if customers are a functionally infinite fungible resource, which isn’t the case. They act like word of mouth doesn’t exist. If every time you went to a restaurant, the server extracted his own tip directly from your wallet, you’d stop going – and you’d tell people why. Pretty soon, “the restaurant where the server empties your wallet” would go out of business, despite making more on each meal than a normal restaurant.

          Valve is generally pretty good to its customers because happy people spend more money. It’s in their interests to act in their customers’ interests, even if that costs them money in the short term. They’ve figured out that you wind up way ahead by just shearing the sheep, rather than skinning it. Unfortunately, that outlook requires looking beyond the next quarter’s financial statement. That’s why publicly traded companies are terrible at thinking long-term, or even medium-term.

          1. Oligopolies and cartels and agreements not to compete on certain aspects are a thing. Corporations can and do fail to act in the interests of their customers and continue to have customers. So for instance, if every major company in an industry agrees informally to retain a certain level of mark-up they can keep the prices jacked up and all keep their customers. If any joker comes along and tries to compete on price, they buy ’em or make sure they can’t get distribution or something. Groceries were pretty much like this for a long time, not sure about now.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “No company's interest matches that of their customers.”

          That relies on the faulty premise that all companies exist primarily to make money.But what about non profit or humanitarian organizations?Heck,just one day before we got an article on this blog about a company whose main purpose was to bring its vision of a good game to fruition,to such a degree that its employees were working part time jobs for other people just so they could sustain themselves.

          Same principle applies to big companies,only on a bigger scale.Not all of them are in the business primarily for money.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            More people should know this. Most of all investors in and members of large companies, and I don’t mean their marketing department.

          2. But the same principle does not apply to big companies. Generally not even to big non-profits, which are increasingly more a sort of tax dodge than a genuine commitment to do X rather than make a profit. Big companies are very explicitly dedicated to making money, legally committed to making money. The key difference is the separation between those doing the stuff, who might be considered to have the customer-oriented mission, and those owning the firm. In large companies, those owning the firm become owners purely for the moneymaking potential of doing so. The executives of the firm may deviate from making the shareholders money, but generally only to make money personally for themselves. Executives at large corporations today are also usually not people expert in and dedicated to the particular thing the company is doing; they are expert at being executives and doing “business” in the abstract, at dealing with money.

            In the case of Rutskarn’s bunch, those making the game were the owners and executives of the firm. Both the decision makers and the owners were people expert in and dedicated to the actual project involved more than to money. Even there, the interests of the game makers weren’t necessarily exactly the same as those of potential customers. I mean, this is a risky game. Innovative, interesting, different, exploring alternative possibilities that it’s perfectly possible the gaming public might not respond to. It might turn out the areas they’re pushing the envelope in just aren’t fun. Or it might well turn out that the gaming public are tasteless philistines who just want more of the same. I’m thinking that even if “the customers” turn out to have wanted yet-another-inventory-management-kill-fest-hacky-stabby-thing, Rutskarn et al. will have no regrets in having tried something more innovative and artistically challenging. So there is some disconnect between the company’s intentions and the customers even here (personally, I think that’s a good thing in this case).

            Valve may be unusual as large companies go due to its unusual structure and, I believe, ownership. In some ways Valve may be rather more like a small company than it is like a normal big company.

        3. Shirdal says:

          I see your point, but so long as a company’s interest is served by acting in the interest of their customers, then we have the foundation for a healthy relationship between the two. Whether the company is motivated by philosophy or by profit doesn’t matter to me in this regard, their actions do.

          It’s true that Valve can theoretically change their methods at any time, but I have so far not been given enough reason to believe that will happen. EA has already demonstrated that they are willing to act against their customers (Dungeon Siege is certainly one example of EA’s contempt for the customer).

          I am by no means a big fan of Valve and everything they do – I am very wary of VAC and their treatment of false positives, for example – but I still have a sufficient measure of trust in the way they handle Steam overall.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Dungeon Siege is certainly one example of EA's contempt for the customer)”

            You mean dungeon keeper?

            1. Shirdal says:

              Bah. Yes. Obviously, I mean Dungeon Keeper. My Bad.

        4. Ciennas says:

          Maybe I’m just wierd, but I would love to be able to buy games left and right willy nilly. Not only do I realize that paying people for their work is a good thing, but I totally support the model until the singularity renders it pointless.

          I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.

          The problem in this case comes from the seller being a crazy person- either too authoritarian or making demands too stringent for my tastes. like violating First Sale Doctrine. Or charging more than I can either afford or justify, especially as Spectacle (Single use shock and awe) take priority over Gameplay (A reason to ever play the game again.)

          But really, I would love to throw money at people. the reason the mobile phone app makers are absolutely laughing all the way to the bank is because they’ve priced themselves correctly.

          Rovio doesn’t complain of people pirating Angry Birds, and they’ve made millions.

          Triple A Gaming will choke on its own vomit before they’ll sell a game for less than $60 US plus full price DLC. So people do without buying a game, and put that money elsewhere- like eating.

          1. Zekiel says:

            Don’t understand this – I buy triple A games all the time for much less than $60 – I just have to wait a year or two after launch to do it. Of course the Massive Marketing Machine that is a major pillar of triple A gaming does keep screaming at me to buy it at launch, so there is some discomfort involved in having to deal with not playing the game everyone else is talking about. But still, I get to play triple-A games for trivial amounts of money eventually.

            Edit: Sorry, I realise that even significant discounts over time, there will still be people who struggle to afford $5 or $10 games – so it is not true that anyone can afford triple-A gaming, which may be what my original post implied. But at that point, gaming is just on a level with most other forms of entertainment.

  12. Mechaninja says:

    Shamus, we have nothing to argue about when you post reasonable comments like this. What’s the next EP title going to be, “It is safe to look up: the sky isn’t falling” ?


    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well technically that would be false,since the sky is perpetually falling.Its only remaining on the (relatively) same altitude because of the air pressure perpetually pushing it upwards.And thats all ignoring the forces of rotation,constant heating and cooling,etc.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        “the sky is perpetually falling. Its only remaining on the (relatively) same altitude because of the air pressure perpetually pushing it upwards.”

        Both technically and practically, even semantically, that means the sky (as a whole) is not falling, since as you say it is staying at constant altitude :)

  13. The Rocketeer says:

    It’s important that companies like EA get some kind of positive feedback when they do right- regardless of why they did it, or how long it took them. More often than that, the only feedback they end up hearing is outrage whenever they anger the crowd. Which is fine, too. But you have to have both, or a company can’t learn the right lessons from success and failure.

    And learning the wrong lessons is a huge problem in the industry! Money, as always, is the loudest voice, and the first opinion they’ll hear. But for a long time, especially before any sort of gaming press beyond publisher-conrolled magazines existed, all editorial could be reigned in with the industry’s tight controls on access and information, and there was very little opportunity for any kind of gaming community to develop or coalesce an opinion loud or solid enough to offer any counterpoint. The echo chamber of hype and adulation this created still hasn’t gone away, and the industry’s taking for granted this kind of domineering of the public conversation is a mighty reflex they still haven’t unlearned. It’s in fighting these tendencies that folks like Shamus and the handsome, sophisticated ladies and gentlemen like me and you that form this new community are so instrumental- providing and spreading necessary dissent that the old marketing machine can’t control, and the greatest victory is that they can’t attempt to guide this morass without acknowledging it exists, and can never succeed at that without understanding it. And that’s indispensible.

    But when a developer, publisher, or what have you gets nothing from their consumer base but scorn, their only lesson is to drown that out unless it affects their money in a way they could have seen on its own, and at best are only motivated to appease the crowd, rather than please it- to try and prevent the next shitstorm and maintain a relative, uneasy peace rather than to try and seek a validation they have no faith exists. It’s not as though earning a nod from a customary detractor will grow some black-souled suit’s ashen heart three sizes and Save Gaming, it’s an engineering principle: the possibility for direction and guidance may not be strong, at least at first, but it can only do more good than if there was no mechanism in place for it at all.

    I won’t work for someone who won’t pay me. But I also won’t work for someone that won’t fire me. The industry is like an ox. It has to be guided with both carrot and stick. If it only gets carrots, it will only get fat, slow, and lazy. If it only gets the stick, it will only know you as its adversary, and all your interactions will take on an adversarial, zero-sum character. I’m sure there are a lot of us around that believe that’s the case. But while the ox may be stronger than the farmer, and the farmer more clever than the ox, neither will have anything to eat without the other.

    I don’t think its cruel to whip the ox, and I don’t think its unreasonable for a beaten animal to lie down and stop pulling. I only want to see the farm thrive.

    1. krellen says:

      “But I also won't work for someone that won't fire me.”

      I would. Have you ever actually been fired?

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        You mean employment, not work. What I mean is that if success, critical or financial, is taken for granted, there isn’t any incentive to take risks or challenge the status quo. Many people at the top of the industry have zero disincentive for failure- no fear of “getting fired.” Folks like Kotick and Riccitielo see the gaming community as a resource to be harvested, because this has always worked well enough to keep them, personally, in the regatta.

        And that’s undeniably a huge problem. They don’t work for us, because they don’t think we can fire them. Proving them wrong is hard, but we make occasional, marginal progress.

        1. krellen says:

          Fear of being fired has never been a motivation to work for me.

          1. Daimbert says:

            If you knew that you wouldn’t get fired no matter what you did, it surely would be harder for you to drum up the motivation to do things that you don’t want to do — annoying tasks, work overtime, etc — than it would be if you know that this is indeed part of your job and you have to do it in order to keep it. About the only time that isn’t the case is if you really love your job and all of the aspects of it, and that’s pretty rare.

            Note that I’m not talking about cases of “I don’t HAVE to work overtime; they won’t fire me if I don’t” as you still have reasons to try to do your job the best you can, and also not talking about cases where there are other motivating reasons for doing the best job you can — more pay, more time off, love the product, etc, etc.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Getting fired is not the only penalty for not doing your job.In fact,its rarely used as a penalty for not doing your job,and more often happens due to other circumstances.

              1. Daimbert says:

                Note that here, at least, we have a distinction between “being fired” and “being laid off”. The former is indeed generally — or at least intended to be — a reflection of “You aren’t doing your job”, while the latter covers cases like “We don’t have enough work for you/can’t afford to pay you”. I also think that there you won’t get unemployment if it’s the former case — fired for cause — but you will if it’s the latter.

                At any rate, there are other ways to motivate people to do work, but being terminated is the ultimate one. And in both cases, knowing that you won’t lose your job no matter what you do does provide a disincentive to do extra or unpleasant work. Again, you can find ways to motivate that work anyway — bonuses, personal work ethic, etc — but the point would be that, yes, you have to.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “At any rate, there are other ways to motivate people to do work, but being terminated is the ultimate one.”

                  No,its not.I can slack off whole day if I want,because I have a secure job and Im well aware that I cant be fired(unless I really REALLY screw up).I see other people do it.But I dont,and neither does just as large group as the slackers.So the fear of losing a job is definitely not such a major motivation.

                  EDIT:In fact,now that I think back,the one job that I did slack off at the most is the one where I knew positively that I was very close to being booted off.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Let me clarify: the threat of losing your job is one that will motivate most people to not slack off, excluding those who would rather not be working and want an excuse to do so. There is no other motivation that broad ranging. If it was the case that slacking off could lead to job loss, most of the people in your workplace would not slack off, as opposed to the amount that do it now.

                    I’m in and have been in a similar position to you, and know that other things can motivate as well. As I said. So, in your case … what IS motivating you? And the others? And how applicable is that in general, and would it be more motivating than knowing that your employment DOES depend on your doing your tasks and not slacking off?

                    1. krellen says:

                      My main motivation to not slack off is knowing that if I don’t do my job, I’m expecting someone else – someone I work with and probably know – to do it instead, and since I really dislike when people do that to me, I don’t do it to them.

                      People who have to be threatened to pull their weight should probably just stay out of the workforce. We, as a society, could actually afford to do that if our system wasn’t so fucked up.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      krellen is spot on there:Sense of responsibility that is present in most adults is the most present driving force.Heck,when my country was in a huge crisis some 20 years back,when salaries were late for months,people were still doing their jobs,practically for free.Sure,a few quit(and there were plenty of lay offs)and pursued more lucrative opportunities in the black market,but most remained to do their jobs because those were their jobs.

                    3. Shamus says:

                      My own take on it, in case anyone cares:

                      People are motivated to do their jobs if they feel a sense of loyalty, or connection, or trust. If I’m not getting paid [much] because our organization is on the skids, I might continue to work for very little because I’m loyal to the group. If I feel disrespected, mistrusted, or like my employer is exploiting me, then I might just be coming in every day to do the bare minimum required to keep my job.

                      The latter is still a terrible failure state for both parties, even if I’m getting some pay and they’re getting some work. This is another reason I think the perma-crunch approach to game development is so self-destructive. I’m willing to bet that a lot of people coming in for those 16 hour days are doing a lot less than 16 hours of useful work. Maybe even less than 8.

                      A lot of it – maybe all of it – depends on the character and attitudes of the people at the top. (Or at least, the perceived character.)

                2. Kian says:

                  Firing someone because they don’t do their jobs properly is rarely a solution to the problem of work not being done. In fact, firing someone means that now more work is not being done, and you have the extra work of hiring and training a replacement. Which is why companies don’t fire people for not doing their jobs, they fire them when they decide the work they’re doing is not useful anymore.

                  You can get away with a lot of slacking so long as what you do do is useful in some way. And then there’s politics and appearances, which can more easily keep you employed than be used to fire you. A manager might not want to fire someone that only shows up and slacks all day so as not to see his budget lowered.

                  In short, companies will never threaten you with being fired if you don’t do your job. At least, not beyond a certain scale, it might be different in really tiny companies. And in any case, if you’re the kind of worker that needs to be threatened, chances are that whether you shape up or not the guy employing you is already looking for a replacement.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    If the work isn’t getting done now but you’re still paying for someone to do it, you’re better off at least not paying for them to not do it or to do it wrong than you are leaving them in their position and paying them for that. And bigger companies are more likely to move someone out who isn’t performing because they’ll both have more people who can take over those things temporarily AND are more likely to be able to hire someone to fill the spot faster. In my experience, though, bigger companies are more likely to call it a lay-off and do a buy-out than they are to go through the firing process, at least in areas where you need to show cause to fire someone.

        2. Tizzy says:

          I imagine people like this have a higher set of standards. Whether you agree with their standards or not, merely not getting fired wouldn’t be satisfactory for them.

          I am not sure it’s how it works, or how it should work, anyway. Holywood has little tolerance for failure, and see how it stifles any kind of originality.

          1. Daimbert says:

            But if there were absolutely NO consequences for failing, all you’d get is overly original dreck that appeals to the people making it, and not necessarily to anyone else … and certainly not to most people. There’s a happy medium of enough tolerance of risk so that people will try new things but not so much tolerance that people are doing everything they want regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

        3. It turns out that most people are motivated by
          (although it helps if they’re paid enough to have some security)

    2. evileeyore says:

      “It's important that companies like EA get some kind of positive feedback when they do right…”

      The only ‘positive feedback’ large corporations care about is this one: Do our products sell very, very well.

      And somehow despite all the EA bad press people keep buying their product.

      1. Ciennas says:

        That would simply be lack of input. most people still don’t even know what DRM is, much less why people on PC’s keep getting up in arms about it.

        To most people not in the know, they’ll just suggest buying the console of your choice instead- until one of these blackouts hit the Xbox or Playstation or Wii version of the game, everybody will continue to consider it somebody else’s problem.

        Even though it is also their problem, as long as it continues to not interfere with their lives directly, they’ll pursue that route instead.

        Until somebody can come up with a Golden Standard PC, (A PC baseline not unlike the consoles), we’ll continue to have this problem.

        EDIT: More direct to your comment: I would love to see the breakdown of EA’s profits by source.

        1. evileeyore says:

          My geuss? The Sports lines roll in the “steady revenue” dough each year with the big name shooters seeing the “hookers and blow” money for the execs.

  14. Tom Davidson says:

    Hilariously, it now appears that the free copy of Sims 2 you can grab from Origin will infect your machine with SecuROM.

    1. Ciennas says:

      wait, what? I thought SecuROM died and they removed it from their catalog back in 2009.

      What the hell is it doing on any of their products from 2014? Didn’t they offer a free tool to remove that garbage?

      1. aldowyn says:

        lazy porting? the sims 2 originally came out in 2004.

        1. Ciennas says:

          But in the wake of Spore, they gave a tool to remove SecuROM from every single one of the products to date.

          Irritating that they wouldn’t remove the malware from that product, especially since they already know how the public reacted to it last time.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            And on top of that at this point it doesn’t even pretend to serve any useful purpose. I imagine it’s something of an oversight but one that probably shows their attention is still not on the fine details of the customer experience.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Unless of course Sony happened to want to get its claws into customer machines.

              Of course, the United States government getting mad at them when they did it with music cd’s a few years back demonstrates how many people they are willing to ignore in the name of profit.

  15. Lupis42 says:

    “EA is basically groping their way through this, gradually discovering things their customers have been screaming at them for years.”

    This is essentially inherent to any large or bureaucratic organization. Change, especially the kind of change that requires admitting mistakes more serious than “oops, I filled out my purchase reqs on form 423 instead of 423B and will need to redo them” takes forever to propagate, because a large number of people need to essentially change jobs (in the sense of learning new ways of doing day-to-day work, adapting to new incentive structures, and possibly have to deal with different co-workers up or downstream. Even if everyone’s on board with it as a good idea, it’s a huge process, and usually at least a few people are less than thrilled, which means they either have to be persuaded (expensive in time or energy or money) or ejected from the organization (expensive in money and morale).

    Big companies therefore typically learn and adapt in slow motion.

  16. Chris Davies says:

    Compared to the vast amount of money I’ve poured down Valve’s throat over the years, exactly half the games I “own” on Origin have been given to me for free by way of EA apologising for their incompetence.

    I remember how Valve lured me in to getting Steam by making it basically the only way you could download the Orange Box. They made great games available for a great price. In comparison, EA make terrible games available at rip off prices. I have absolutely no reason to even install Origin on my new laptop because I really don’t want to play any of those games.

    They could have the best business practices in the world, and the best software in the world. It still wouldn’t matter. They just don’t have anything I want to play, or at least nothing I want to play that I don’t already own on GoG.

    1. aldowyn says:

      and this is probably the only reason quite a few people DO have Origin, whether it’s for dead space, mass effect (*waves*), battlefield, or whatever.

  17. Spluckor says:

    You had me so excited when you mentioned Theme Hospital since it was the game Bullfrog made after my favorite game from the 90s, Theme Park. I was hoping that Theme Park would be on origin cause I would love to play it again.

    Sadly they don’t have it available right now, so I’m a sad panda again.

    1. Humanoid says:

      So why not buy it from GOG?

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Sometimes I wonder what, say, EA thinks of GOG nowadays. I imagine way back no one saw letting them sell the oldies as a possible issue. I can’t help but think some decision makers out there considered the whole thing something of a joke. It wasn’t like anyone else was going to go through all the hoops to make them working on present day system, and how many copies they could sell anyway? I mean, they’re pretty much abandonware, people are pirating them left and right and releasing them in working condition but DRM free will only make it easier.

        1. Humanoid says:

          I don’t think EA came on board until relatively late in the piece? That is, when GOG was already a reasonably influential market presence and had done deals with most major publishers. I remember the big fanfare of the big EA titles finally landing on GOG, Wing Commander, Ultima, etc. Now to get bloody Disney/LucasArts onboard, I find it amazing that there seems to be a policy of only selling their old games as remakes.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What Im sure a bunch of people would now like to know is:

    When are you going to write your “I am not Yahtzee” article about dark souls?

  19. Zak McKracken says:

    Nice to know that there’s finally some competition in that market but I’m still abstaining.
    Being forced to play single player games online is completely bonkers and can only be justified when assuming that every player pirated the game unless proven otherwise.
    I was gifted a copy of Starcraft II and had to go through an embarassingly convoluted process of proving that I actually owned it. I got lucky because the guy who gifted it to me still had the receipt almost a year later — otherwise, that would have been it — and even then the representative would not have been obliged to give me access to my game. If he’d been in a bad mood, that copy would have been worth exactly nothing.
    => I refuse to participate in this kind of system. Sell me a game and let me own it in the very real sense of being able to do with it as I please. Install it where I want, give it away or sell it if and when and how I want, play it how I want. And include the server component, as used to be customary back in the days… using the official servers has advantages but LAN has advantages over internet play and sometimes I might just be in the mood of doing something they wouldn’t let me do on official servers, and why shouldn’t I be allowed to as long as it’s on my own LAN?

    Anyone remember the old trick for coin-operated vending machines where you drill a hole in the coin, put a string through it, insert it in the slot and yank it out at just the right moment? That’s what Steam and Origin are doing. They’re selling temporary, non-binding licences to play, not games. But they’re charging games prices for it. Except for Blizzard who is doing both at the same time. I’ll never understand how they get away with this.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Haha, yeah, as terrible as the Steam/Origin/UPlay trinity are, at least once you jump the hoops, you can play without server lag in your single player games. The circular logic they employed to justify that would’ve been more infuriating if I was interested in any of their products.

  20. Reachforthesky says:

    Origin gotten quite a bit better, but for me at least there are still some pretty glaring issues.

    One thing that I found quite jarring was how much self-promotion is plastered all over the site. The home page literally contains nothing but EA titles. DLC, pre-orders, even games from 2009 all have a home on the front page whilst even the newest and most popular games from other publishers are nowhere to be found. This would be like the front page of Steam being filled with nothing but Dota 2, CS:GO, the latest TF2 update, and Portal 2. Look at the Steam “Games” tab and its Origin equivalent. On steam you get a drop-down bar listing genres of games, there isn’t even a spot for “Valve titles”. On Origin this tab gives you a list of EA subsidiaries, with one spot for, you know all the other games you might want to buy. Even on the page called “Browse all games” you have to scroll past rows and rows of EA titles, special additions, and DLCs, before you starting seeing anything by another publisher. This display isn’t ordered by sales numbers, date released, or aggregate reception, it’s ordered by what EA wants you to see first. This is something that should disturb customers and devs even if EA hadn’t already proven it would happily take advantage of this for shameless self-promotion.

    And that’s the other thing. I don’t have any illusions about Steam, or Valve in general. I don’t doubt that they want my money just as much as EA does, but at least Valve has shown that they will always use the “make the customer happy” method of getting to people’s wallets. EA has done the opposite, repeatedly showing that it’s more than willing to take shortcuts, push anti-consumer policies, and just overall be completely ruthless in the name of The Bottom Line. Origin may have improved, hell I’ll even say I’m seriously impressed by their return policy. But one or two genuinely great features doesn’t reverse the mountain of ill-will EA has earned from me over the past several years and continues to earn to this day. I’m not going to give control of the distribution of games to a seedy company that has already shown willingness to abuse that kind of power.

    1. Humanoid says:

      To be fair, Valve don’t have enough titles to fill your screen even if they wanted to do so. :P

    2. Abnaxis says:

      I still think Valve isn’t trying to be a “storefront” distribution platform–they’re trying to be a hosting service for developers to build their individual distribution on top of, then Valve takes a cut off. They’re shooting for applying YouTube model to games, rather than the Amazon Prime model.

      When looked at it this way, their policies make more sense to me, and it explains the distinction between Steam’s storefront and Origin’s. Valve doesn’t care who you buy games from, as long as Steam facilitates it, while EA wants to personally guide your Origin purchases to their high-margin products.

  21. straymute says:

    The weird thing is that EA could easily give Origin a fairly large boost with their own games, but chooses not to. For example there have been no NFL games on pc since 2007 and there are virtually no options for a modern golf or hockey game either. There are no UFC games on pc and barely any boxing offerings either.

    With a few ports EA could have the only real option for pc gamers in about 5 genres. Valve would have nothing that could compete on their service and there are millions of people interested in these titles.

    1. Ciennas says:

      That would probably have to do with preventing an even worse PR backlash than they currently deal with. It’s already a popular joke to make about the sports titles- you’re not paying for an actual new game, you’re paying full price for them to tweak a roster.

      Having it proven, like the offline mode of Sim City earlier this year, would just make them look really bad.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        That is still going on,only it is now exclusive to consoles.

        1. Ciennas says:

          Well, yeah. We know it, but can’t prove it, or at least, nobody’s gotten to do a reveal about that, because they’re staying strictly console exclusive.

          (Or if they have jumped to PC, I mysteriously haven’t been able to work up any interest in finding out.)

          If they tried to go to the PC market, some clever people would be able to prove that there is functionally zero change between titles year to year, including showing how the file structure is identical, or otherwise reusing assets.

          They were proven to have lied every single step of the way with their ‘always online forced multiplayer’ horse shit with the new Sim City- and it was a bad burn for them every step of the way.

          If I led EA, I’d keep a lid on our one big remaining cash cow, until we can come up with something better. I’d definitely remember what happened last time I baldfacedly lied about it on a system where the users have more power than the company wants to let them anywhere near.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            But they have.A bunch of console gamers and reviewers complain practically every year that almost nothing but the roster has been updated,with a few exceptions when they actually do something of note.The problem is,by next year,its usually a different bunch,because the ones that complained last year didnt want to get the new one.

            As flattering as that sounds,clever people are not exclusive to my pc master race,and you dont have to look at the game files in order to see the rehashing.

    2. Humanoid says:

      Be careful what you wish for, they’re even more cynical than that. They’ll happily sell a PC version of an EA Sports game, with the same name, the same box art, but an inferior version of the game compared to the consoles – and by inferior, I mean essentially the older version of the console release.

      Last time out, FIFA 14’s PC version was a port of the PS3/X360 version, strictly inferior to the new engine being used in the PS4/Xbone version. But in the past they’ve just had it as an older version of the console variant despite there being no change in console generation.

      1. Ciennas says:

        That’s really awful, but not inexplicable.

        They REALLY want people to sink money into those new consoles you just mentioned, where they have the support of the companies and a nice cozy built in antipiracy scheme that shouldn’t get mass consumer level broken for years, if ever. (To reiterate. Mass consumer level. PC’s are the wild west, consoles are carefully constructed suburbs.)

        And while we can prove their’s money to be made, they’d really prefer to make that money from the controlled environment, rather than deal with the wild west of smartasses who can do what they do but better and for less.

  22. Unbeliever says:


    I’m pretty sure if you did a Kickstart to create a game called “The Fires of Cancer World”, you could be a millionaire by, like, tomorrow…

  23. Corran says:

    Despite the 2012 comments on the forum that Shamus linked to in the article it seems like Origin is still scanning the entire pc.


    Until Origin will declare outright it will not go through my files I’m not ever installing it.

    I still want to play Mass Effect 3 (I liked 1 and 2) and Battlefield but there is no way I am doing that when EA decides it (and anyone who hacks Origin) should have access to any file on my pc whenever they please.

    In practice I really don’t care if they read my tax files but the principle of the matter is way too huge to let this slide.

  24. Neko says:

    I noticed a typo. You’ve got:

    In July they gave away free copies of The Sims 2 – including all DLC – for anyone willing to log in and claim it. Brilliant.

    But I’m fairly certain you meant to type:

    In July they gave away free copies of The Sims 2 – including all DRM – for anyone willing to log in and claim it. Brilliant.


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