Recent revelations regarding Battlefield 3 have given us an indication of how EA plan to move forward with their new digital distribution network, Origin. With DICE confirming that all retail versions of the game will use Origin, the importance of the digital distribution network to EA is becoming increasingly obvious.
The first issue that will become apparent to some people with the tying of Battlefield 3 with Origin is the news that your profile name will be linked to your Origin username. This is going to be an issue which causes some friction within the community as not only will your name be tied, but you will only be allowed to have one profile for the game.
This is going to be a cause of frustration for many who will be playing for the long haul and will be looking forward to starting new profiles once they have reached the top ranks. There is always the possibility that you will be able to reset your ranking like the Prestige system in Call of Duty. That may go some way to softening the one profile limit.
There is another issue though, and that is for people who have already set up Origin accounts with a username they had no intention of playing online with. For instance, my Origin username is ChrisWales which is fine as it is, but I would much rather have had the chance to set up my Battlefield 3 profile with my old Battlefield 2 clan name, -=256=-Evo_Wales.
However, if we take a step back from Battlefield 3, we see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. If tying your Origin account name with the profile name used in future EA games continues, we will see a lot of the bloat of EA’s arcane account management system get cut away. It is so easy to rack up numerous personas and profile names with the various EA systems. On my account I have personas and profile names that come from EA forum logins, the old EA Download Manager, Command and Conquer usernames and profiles for games ranging from The Sims to Burnout: Paradise and Battlefield 2142.
If Origin is able to bring the variety of EA profiles and personas together it will be a great move, with different sign ins for Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, GamersGate and the numerous others, it will make things much easier if Origin helps EA simplify their account system.
Origin vs Steam
With games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Battlefield 3 featuring heavy Origin integration, we may finally see a true challenger to Steam appear. While there are other services that provide easy digital distribution, GamersGate and Good Old Games spring to mind, there are few programs which incorporate an online store with community features quite like Steam does. While Origin doesn’t currently have the community features of Steam, with the upcoming release of the two aforementioned blockbusters, we are bound to see a massive increase in users of Origin which will in turn force EA’s hand into further developing the platform.
A true competitor to Steam is essential in order to prevent stagnation. If we compare the digital distribution market to wrestling for a moment we can see Steam as taking the role of the WWE, dominant in what it does, but failing to fulfil its’ potential thanks to a lack of competition. If we were to see something akin to the Monday Night Wars where WCW and the WWE pushed each other to new heights, we will surely see both Origin and Steam making vast improvements to benefit the consumer.
Origin also has a lot of potential as a game store if EA use it right. The recent acquisition of PopCap was a very smart bit of business, many people who use Origin with Star Wars or Battlefield 3 won’t look at the shop section, they will just boot it up and play their games. If EA give everyone a trial of some PopCap games along with good sale offers they will be able to open people’s eyes to the Origin store.
With the extensive EA back catalogue the company is really missing a trick. What better way to make Origin stand out from the crowd than by putting games like the original Command and Conquer, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and Populous on there. If EA want to really make Origin a success, they need to put classic titles on it, either ones they developed internally or titles they now own the rights to.
The Months Ahead
By the end of this year Origin is going to see thousands of new users start using it thanks to Star Wars: The Old Republic and Battlefield 3. EA have the chance to make Origin a serious player in the digital distribution market, if they play their cards right they can start to chip away at the dominance that Steam has. More competition can only be a good thing for gamers.