Experienced Points

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

Shamus Young | 29 Jul 2014 19:00
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origin takes jab at steam

4. Origin is more user and system-friendly.

The early days of Origin were rough. It devoured memory and CPU cycles and did a lot of sketchy stuff with regards to scanning the user's computer. The technology problems seem to have been ironed out (on my machine Origin uses slightly less memory than Steam) and they're much more transparent about what their software is doing on your machine.

Maybe you still find that to be a little creepy, but it's at least not more creepy than Steam.

5. You can return games.

Now we're getting serious. Here is one area where Origin is completely, unambiguously, and undeniably better than Steam for both developers and customers.

In the United States, It's been over a decade since anyone could even attempt to return a PC videogame and expect to get their money back. (And even with console titles, you can usually only get store credit.) You can return movies. You can return music. You can return books. But ages ago everyone decided that videogames weren't something that the consumer needed to be able to return. This is twisted, considering the price differential and the increased chances of the customer having a problem they can't solve. It's easy to end up with a game that won't run, either because I got the wrong version or because of plain old bugs, but I've never run into a book that was unreadable.

This is really good for developers as well. Most devs use some kind of third-party tools. Maybe your game is made with Unity, or the Unreal Engine, or some audio package, or a thousand other little things that your programmers didn't want to have to write from scratch. Which means it's possible for users to have catastrophic problems you can't solve. If a game crashes every time they run it, and if the crash comes from (say) the audio library you (the developer) are using, then you might not be able to fix it. As someone who aspires to ship a game someday, I'm incredibly uncomfortable with a setup like this: Someone might buy my game and - for reasons beyond my control - not be able to play it. And I would have no way to make it right, because I can't make Steam return their money.

This makes Origin really attractive both as a place to shop and a place to sell. Steam turns ten this year, and they still don't offer this most basic courtesy between buyer and seller.

Looking forward...

A year ago my Origin library consisted of Mass Effect 3. (Which I'm not really keen to play again.) Origin had nothing I wanted and no reason for me to care or log in. Now I have six games. While tiny compared to my 380 title Steam collection, it's a start. (I told you those Steam Sales were terrifying.) It's a place where I go to play and shop for games. If you've given the service a pass in the past, it might be worth having a look now, particularly to get your hands on the free games they give away.

Like I've said many times in the past, having lots of digital distribution platforms in good for everyone. Even if you don't use Origin, it offers a place where consumers can flee if Steam angers them. This threat can help keep selections broad and prices down.

EA has decided they want to be a contender, and Origin has begun fighting for market share. This is a good thing.

Shamus Young is a programmer, critic, comic, and crank. You can read more of his work at Twenty Sided.

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