Home Editorial Origins of Misunderstanding: Is EA’s storefront so evil?

Look, I love Steam as much as the next guy. Hell, I probably love it a little bit more than the next guy having spent a few hundred dollars in digital doodads since its launch. As far as online platforms goes, it’s far and away the best.

But Steam won’t be #1 forever. It won’t exist forever.

Just like every online giant, competitors will appear. And while EA Origin may ultimately fail in the same way Games for Windows Live failed at toppling Valve’s monolithic structure, we as gamers need to recognize that ultimately, something will. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Does anyone actually want a monopoly?

The fact of the matter is that as much as we love Steam and want to trust Valve, leaving their platform to exist in a nearly unchallenged monopoly for more than a decade isn’t ultimately going to be good for gaming. Yes, they’ve been benevolent kings so far, but how long will that last? And where will you, the gamer go, if Valve changes its tune, or you find issue with one of their practices? As of now, you don’t have a lot of viable options. Unless you actually like GFWL.

Competition breeds innovation, yes, but it also creates a social safety net. As it stands, Steam is surely “too big to fail” for many PC players who have stored dozens (if not hundreds) of games in Valve’s digital space. What would you do if you were banned from Steam ? Or Valve went out of business and took its virtual content with it? Or if the company introduced something like a “Steam Gold” premium membership you couldn’t afford? For most of us, our entire basket of electronic eggs would be cracked, fried, and served in a heaping pile directly into Gabe Newell’s coffers. And while I find all of these scenarios currently unlikely, one of them will eventually happen.


The next best thing all over again

EA Origin, along with other download-only gaming storefronts, may not be comparable… yet. They don’t have the robust infrastructure, the fully integrated achievements and stat tracking – all the bells and whistles Valve has tacked on over the years. But neither did Steam when it launched. Anyone around for Half-Life 2’s hotly contested digital release will remember the fire and brimstone being rained down on Valve for introducing always-on DRM to the PC gaming world. Back then, Steam had almost no upsides and a few humungous downsides, including the games didn’t fucking work half the time.

Personally, I have had absolutely zero problems with Origin. I downloaded the software and installed it, agreeing to its very Steam-like End User License Agreement. I purchased Battlefield 3 Limited Edition on Amazon, granting me an Origin download code, which I redeemed for the game with no issues. When I ran the game for the first time, the file executed flawlessly, throwing me instantly into the campaign. Yes, the game has frozen a few times since then, but anyone who uses Half-Life 2 or even Team Fortress 2 as their benchmarks for software stability can’t really complain here. Overall, my experience has been quite pleasant.


Ulterior motives and hidden machinations?

If there’s supposed to be a part where Origin deletes all my personal information and Tweets my porn collection to all my friends, sorry, it just didn’t happen. Origin itself runs quietly in the background, using up less RAM than does Steam, and let’s me play Battlefield 3, which is all I wanted from it.

“But WiNG,” you might squeal, “Origin is spyware! It just has to be, because Electronic Arts is evil!”

While a few initial reports from my fatherland, Germany, may have fanned the fanboy flames in this regard, continued testing has repeatedly shown that EA’s Origin isn’t spyware, at least not any more so than Valve’s client is. The data it collects isn’t personally identifiable, isn’t reported to EA, and isn’t considerably different from the stuff Steam does to your computer. If there’s some NSA-level security breach Origin is capable of, it hasn’t been found yet, which should speak volumes considering just how many computer-savvy hackers out there hate EA.

It’s only fair to conclude that until proven otherwise, Origin is a benign digital storefront.


Let’s go back to the beginning

Is EA Origin better than Valve’s Steam? No.

At least, not yet. But neither is it spyware, and neither is it wrong for a company to want to opt out of feeding into Valve’s near monopoly on the PC digital storefront market. If we want the industry to move forward, part of that is going to be accepting competition among the big publishing players. You shouldn’t be surprised to see other companies do the same, though their success will depend as much on their implementation and game libraries as did Steam’s.

It’s part of the natural business cycle. And eventually, one of Valve’s competitors will succeed at dethroning the company, either by beating Valve at its own game, or by rendering Steam obsolete with something new, better, and leaps beyond what we can imagine today.

Until that time comes, it’s up to you to decide what games you’ll play on which platforms. But I hope you can open your mind, give Origin a chance, and meet me on the battlefield.

Receive Top Tier Tactics updates

Enter your e-mail for a FREE daily digest!

Gaming strategy and humor, right in your inbox.

50 replies to this post
  1. Origin burned our crops, poisoned our water, kidnapped our children, stole our women, and took our porn!
    Origin, for all the bad reputation it’s gotten, doesn’t seem evil. I wouldn’t be surprised though if steam got replaced by origin.
    Well, I would be. But still.
    Also, Wing has a porn collection?
    Knew it. It’s always the quiet ones.

      • Touché.
        I dunno. I always picture you as a quiet person, my mind is wonky like that. Makes me wonder, are you a quiet person IRL? Talk softly carry a big stick?
        Hey look a rainbow made of Johnny Depp.

  2. Love to know where this monopoly of which you speak is.

    Gamer’s Gate

    3 competitors to Steam that all existed prior to Origin. I’ve used 2 of them to purchase games in the recent past and 1 of them is now my primary source of games, supplanting Steam.

    • Steam doesn’t need to own 100% of the market to be a monopoly, the same way Microsoft didn’t need to own 100% of the browser market to get in trouble for monopolistic practices.

      • And yet Origin is supposed to alter this how?

        Refine your article. Either you’re cheering up Origin or you’re concerned about Steam having a monopoly. The latter is equally addressed by the services I’ve mentioned. The former, well, that’s something else entirely. But the two don’t conflate how you think they do.

  3. Steam has about at least 75% of recent games.
    Origin has ONLY those made by EA.

    Also, since when is your fatherland Germany? Or am I misunderstanding the article there?

  4. Wouldn’t adding a fee be illegal since the content was already purchased? Wouldn’t the out of business scenario mean that steam would only be the launch and everyone would just need to download games from torrents?

    Dethroning Steam would be similar to dethroning Windows. You wrote all your applications for that OS and everything works with it. You won’t switch to another OS since it’s more labor. Steam has lots of games you bought, and you don’t want to rebuy them.

  5. The whole “monopoly” argument just irks me. Do we want one? No, but we don’t have one! There are plenty of other DD programs that do not do the egregious business practices EA has put forth. The fact that we’re just supposed to accept this as “friendly competition” when they themselves are looking to literally toss out Steam is just ridiculous.

    I will never touch Origin, not after I saw exactly what EA is trying at. It’s literally an anti-VALVe program, and does not at all furnish good will of PC gamers. This sort of completely DRM driven service is not one anyone should support. I’ll be off with D2D, GoG, and OnLive.

  6. People don’t like Origin for a very simple reason. It is run by EA Games and no gamer trusts them. There would not be any real problem if this was done by some other company *well except some of the other big ones, I wouldn’t want to see one by Activision either….*.

  7. But what I like about Valve is that they DO add little bells and whistles to Steam, all the time. It’s iterative design, which is the reason that they’ve been ahead for so long.

    For example, I feel like the only thing that could supplant them at the moment is cloud gaming, like OnLive. If there was mass adoption and internet infrastructure problems weren’t an issue, it could be huge. The thing is, Valve are going to do that too. Gabe Newell was talked about thin client architecture in an interview with PCG, and they could totally pull it off.

  8. One word: Yes.
    I am fine with their approach to the topic, despite the fact that they are obviously just trying to bash off Steam.
    But: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/12/05/ea-origin-bans-update-edition/
    Censoring obvious trolls or heavy swearing on the forums is “fine”, but just look at what they’re doing.
    Somebody using a light swear and your username in the same post? Say goodbye to those 100$ you spent on their overpriced games!

    And, of course, the data scamming without asking. Hell, I agreed for steam to give Valve my hardware information to feed Gabe, but without even asking?
    Inb4 they will autoban you for saying “Steam sucks Origin is better” on the chat program of your choice (including WoW) because you used a swear word and Origin within 20 yards of each other.

  9. I’d rather have my games on one account. Steam doesn’t scan my PC and doesn’t come from the people who gave me Securom. I hope there’s a non-orgin version of ME3. :D

  10. I know this is dated but I had to register just to say this:

    The biggest difference between Steam and Origin is this: In order for a content provider to publish something on Steam they have to agree to publish that content on Steam, all of it, and forever. This is what makes steam so great; Every game you ever purchased on Steam will be accessible so long as Steam exists. Origin, on the other hand, reserves the right to take down their servers and content at any time. Heck, even for Battlefield 3 they only give you TWO YEARS access to the game downloader. This is why Origin in evil.

  11. Considering that it’s taken well over 24 hours to download 26 MB (yeah megabytes)… yeah it’s that Origin really is that bad.

    There’s a 12 page forum thread where EA basically tells everyone that it’s their ISP. Yeah it’s our ISP that works great fine for every thing that is not Origin. Never mind the fact that I downloaded TF2 (which weighs in on the gigabyte scale) on steam in less than an hour.

    Warn your friends. EA Origin is garbage.

    • Honestly, if any of your friends is even considering using Origin without being forced to, you should get new friends.

  12. I have had problems with origins and steam however steam has always seemed to have better prices in for more options

  13. Sooooooo…after the SimCity debacle, is this even a debatable topic? EA/Origin are destroying this amazing franchise as we speak. Steam does not use always-on DRM for their games. I can play HL2, L4D2, Portal2, and most of my non-Valve Steam-purchased games even when I am offline. If I have to take a long flight, for example, I just have to install whatever Steam games I want while at home and on the Internet, launch them once, and I am good-to-go in Offline Mode. How on Earth would EA/Origin even think a game like SimCity, which I would always play while on a train/plane, should require always-on DRM for single player?

    My only gripe with Steam is that Steam Friends goes down too often, making it hard to get L4D2 games going; but at least it doesn’t kick you out of the game when it happens. It happens a couple of times a week and they should make it more reliable. Otherwise, it is simply awesome in every way and encourages me to pay a fair price for games, and gets more money into the hands of developers.

    Long live Steam! Origin will be a minor player in comparison unless EA changes its evil ways. Ultimately, i believe they’ll have to but the damage has been done to their brand.

  14. Yeah, As much as I love your review man. I don’t buy it. I have way too many games that I purchased on steam. There is no way I’m moving over to origin.

    Me and like a lot of my friends have at least 100 games in our libraries. Origin could succeed. But if Valve starts mass producing games like Half life 3, Portal 3, or anything like that. Then Origin has a probability to flop.

    Not only that. Steam is working with people to help them make MODS. The modding community is the best thing about gaming in my opinion. When Steam launched workshop, that completely revolutionized EVERY DAMN THING. The Skyrim Modding community is there, and they are bringing a lot of fine jewels to steam.

    Now, could Origin succeed? Yes. Will it? Maybe in the next 20 years. But that also means that they have to find a way so that people aren’t losing money. Or better yet, being able to have both open at the same time.

    I for one will keep supporting Valve and everything they do. They are a company that deserves gamers support. Where as EA has a bad reputation following them which is why I don’t want to waste money into Origin. Besides that, Valve is always doing neat things that I like to see. I see game making tools that they just released. Its amazing lol.

  15. If there’s one thing I dislike about the privacy debate is the mentality that it’s OK to collect personally non-identifiable information. The fact of the matter is that the number associated with your system is still you. A rose is a rose. The “non-identifying” information is a pretext for soon to be more blatant forms of information collection and privacy violation.

  16. What happened to the days where you could just buy a retail copy, enter the product code into a text box at the install screen and bingo your game installed. EA/Origin and steam both force me to do something I don’t want to do, I hate both of them equally.

    • I was wondering the same thing recently.

      See, albeit that I live in the first world country (which is NOT the US, fyi) I live a fair distance away from the big cities and my internet is rather crap. At times, it just commits seppuku and reaches speed which you’d expect in the 80s. If I have to use this internet to be in constant communication with a server WHILE PLAYING SP, tough luck, I’m just locked out at times.

      Somebody who’s a REALLY good talker should convince all the big companies to release their next game without any sort of DRM. Maybe the classical translation wheel in the box, who remembers those things…

      Not only could they chop off about a third of the selling price from money saved alone, I predict that their sales would be much, much higher. The constant bullshit has come to a point where it’s literally easier to download and crack a game than to use a bought license.

      Then again, we’re also living in an age where DLC is not a question of if, but only of how much. That concept is supposed to allow ADDING content to a finished game, not to REMOVE content from the game and offer it day 1 so that you need to give off another 10$ to play the game YOU PAID FOR. I remember back in the day when DLC came on physical media, was called an addon, and actually added stuff to the game. Zoo Simulator’s addon back then added fucking DINOSAURS to the game! So what I’m asking is, can missions which Evil Association cut out of the finished game to then sell for more profit really compare to dinosaurs?

      Not much reason to still hold up hope for humanity, is there.

  17. Valve is privately held, and can make decisions for the long-term good of the industry. EA is a publicly traded company run by a bunch of Jews.

    • Comments were fine until you decided to be racist to Jews
      Who knew the holocaust 2 would be started by an angry gamer

  18. Steam is and will always be the king. This article is trash. Valve actually listens to what their customers have to say. They improve their client on a weekly basis and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t know where else you can buy games at 75 – 90% off. Their summer sale is crazy. EA cant compete with that.

  19. If every publisher will create their own store then the games wil be FRAGMENTED! Imagine opening multiple accounts just to buy certain games.

  20. One thing you neglect to emphasize is that it causes HIGH LOAD because of all the scanning and monitoring that it does, even when MINIMISED.

  21. Origin is better than Steam.

    Steam took 10 years to get where it is now, and origin is already way ahead of where Steam was at the same time.

    Origin has much better support, ie, chat, phone, and email

    Steam only has forum support, and half the time your’re lucky to even get a response.

    Steam has a choke hold on pc gaming, forcing the client to run in the background, Origin is a download manager. Origin doesn’t have to run in order to play your games.

    Steam is filled with fan boys, bromances, and ponies. The steam crowd disgusts me…

    • Origin is constantly running in the background, just like Steam. And Origin is download manager? Origin is required to play games, since it uses itself to start games. I find it strange as a Steam user to know more about Origin than the fanboys themselves! At least Steam has some sort of community, on Origin its a ghost town, and they’ve only finally shed some light on themselves because of the Humble Bundle. Also, every single game I’d want is on Steam, while even some of the more popular games are non-existent on Origin, with the exception of a couple (shitty) EA games. And the steam crowd is awesome! I mean sure, there are some weird people on steam, but if Origin had more than 100,000 frequent users, weird shit would happen in that community too. Your argument is invalid…

  22. Steam is older and more developed whereas Origin isn’t. Steam will most likely be better for a long time due to its community and the company in which it is owned. Think about it, your going to have a better relationship with your local hobbies shop than Hobbyking etc. Its less about the Client and more the big PLC or LTD behind it. Thanks

  23. Dude, lol. Steam was already far and well established at the time this author wrote this article. I wonder what his motives and intentions were behind it because obviously steam was king. Steam will always be king in digital distribution for the PC and now with the addition of big screen mode you will be able to play on your tv

  24. EA is the IBM Global Services of gaming. At this point, the only area in which they do not fail epically is brand management. Consumer expectations and perceptions are outrageously skewed relative to EA’s capability. Their Soccer games may be good enough for fans, but The Sims and SimCity, Battlefield, and other franchises are declining. Bland new franchises such as Dragon Age receive oddly positive reviews. Is there some sort of conspiracy here, or has everyone just stopped caring?

Leave a Reply

Newest Articles

Disciple of the Ring
8 5400

Since I began playing Magic: the Gathering nearly 20 years ago, I've been drawn to blue/red decks. Maybe it's just that I've always favored instants...