Is there an Origin/Steam Battle Brewing?

EA was actually relatively early to the digital download game, with their online store serving up games through the evolving EADM since 2007. Even back then EA pushed use of the service, but users balked because initially the EA specified that downloads were held for 6 months, or 2 years if you paid the extra ‘insurance’. Just before E3 last week EA launched their Origin digital download service, clearly aimed to take on market leader Steam.

This week EA has made moves that show it is ‘On Like Donkey Kong’ … or, more appropriately, ‘Off Like Crysis 2’!

That’s right – if you look closely at the image above, you will see that on the ‘Buy Now’ button it says ‘Only on Origin’ which is reflected on the game’s Origin page! This was pointed out in a Steam forum thread that noted that Crysis 2 was suddenly unavailable on Steam.

It has already been made clear that the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG ‘The Old Republic’ will be an Origin Exclusive, and the just released Alice: Madness Returns is also missing from Steam.

To an extent this makes sense. As noted in a report, EA definitely has large goals for Origin.

“For us it’s really about, we’re the worldwide leader in packaged goods publishing, we’d like to be the worldwide leader in digital publishing.

“And we think that EA has unique strengths there related to what we can do with our content, because we’re a content creator as well as a retailer in this business. But in general it’s not just a retail site, it’s a community, it’s a platform, it has traits much like you see with Steam or PSN or Xbox Live, but it’s unique to EA.

Yet as the Steam thread notes, Crysis 2 is certainly NOT ‘Only on Origin’! You can easily find it – and for cheaper than on Origin – at Amazon, Direct2Drive, GamersGate and Impulse.

So I guess the button should read ‘Only NOT on Steam’. It is like Sony Music Group removing their music from iTunes only as they try to establish an online store of their own – but not removing from Amazon MP3, etc.

While I understand that EA wants to carve out a chunk of the digital market, and as the largest publisher feels they can immediately establish dominance through brute force tactics, it will be interesting to see how gamers respond. EA has the worst reputation among gamers since they always seem to be first to introduce something that ‘costs more, does less’ – like increasing the price of PC games to equal console games in spite of not having the $10 console license fee per copy, Project $10, ugly DRM, exploitative DLC, and on and on.

As I have said before, I own a bunch of games from just about every service – from the biggies like Steam to the little guys like BeamDog, and also own about a dozen games on EA. So I welcome the competition and have no issue with EA expanding … but I DO have an issue when anyone engages in such blatantly anti-competitive practices, acting as publisher excluding content from a service that is competition with the same company acting as retailer. And while I will not outright ‘boycott’ Origin over this, I am going to be very careful with my purchases, for now only buying on sale and evaluating whether or not they continue to act in this exploitative manner going forward.

Categories: Gaming, Rants and Raves